Welcome to my new counter-trafficking intitiative, slavefreetrade.org.
Intending to reduce trafficking by reducing demand for consumer products produced by slaves, slavefreetrade.org is a Geneva-based NGO aiming to promote a global slave-free product labelling and certification regime.
Businesses around the world are invariably using slaves; ervy product we consume carries the risk of slavery or exploitation. Sometimes this is present in supply chains inadvertently, and sometimes with knowledge. Very often, this takes the form of forced labour down deep in supply chains, down to 2nd-and 3rd-tier suppliers. Very often, the forced labour comes into the chain not through the principal firm that we know, such as the Samsungs and Apples and H&Ms, but through their middlemen who shift their own suppliers or are deceitful about their labour practices.
The only thing preventing business, however, from seeing down into their supply chains, is the lack of interest in seeing.They need to want to see.
Businesses that want to see into their supply chains can and do, and this is proven to be the case. Just look at the businesses where slavery in supply chains was exposed, you very quickly see the public relations disaster trigger close attention to supply chains. It is possible, and just needs the right motivation.
So, how do we make business take a good look at their supply chains? There are three main actions at work to force this: the legislative environment, the reputational risk context, and the broader legislative context.
On the first point, as more countries bring in legislation such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, the onus is on suppliers to prove their chain is clean, and on businesses to prove to government against technical criteria that their supply chains are slave-free. On the second point, legislation and treaties dealing with, for example, bribery, provide interesting context for businesses to want to ‘know their chain’ better.
Unfortunately we cannot leave it up to the specific and the broader legislative environment alone. The almighty dollar is the single-greatest motivator of business; shareholders demanding higher returns and greater savings leads to supply chain problems and failures of visibility and of oversight.
The power of the consumer – by no means the only power in the game but an important contributorin the equation – can be mobilised to help combat human trafficking and forced labour practices.
The mindful consumer, when comparing two cotton t-shirts, one with a certified ‘slave-free label’, and the other without, should have an easy choice. This consumer choice converts into dollars. Shareholders will be swayed, and businesses will start to care enough to look into, and clean up, their supply chains. And we have the evidence from other labelling programmes that mindful consumers exist and can make a difference; going right back to dolphin-friendly tuna, as well as Ethical Cotton, FairTrade, Bio, and Organic labelling etc.
One of the differences with slavefreetrade is that we are about moblising the consumer not to look after their own welfare in the first instance, like bio and organic, but rather to care about someone else.
So, here comes slavefreetrade.org. This is our label.
Pretty soon, this is what to start looking for in shops.
The game is to provide serious repuational risk for those businesses with slavery in their supply chains, and reward in the form of improved marginal sales for those that show they care.
Now, we need volunteers to help us with all the heavy lifting in this startup phase. If you are keen to volunteer your services, including especially helping us build our social media strategy, branding, labellling, and organisational design, we are keen to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also looking for seed funding, and will soon launch an Indiegogo campaign aimed at initial crowd-funding. Please watch our website for that campaign and, when it launches in the coming weeks, please give generously to contribute to perhaps the most significant demand-reduction initiative in the world.
Let’s give consumers the information they need to make an informed choice about the products they buy.And cut out modern day slavery in the process.
Let’s give slave-free trade a shot.