Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Toolbox for Ethical Shopping Pt.2

Next month, the UN will celebrate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery.  This day was made to reflect on the horrors, and celebrate the demise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.  However, according to Compassion International, there are still an estimated 27 million slaves in the world right now - more than at any time in history.  Of these 27 million slaves, many of them are children, forced to work picking the cotton, cutting the pattern, or sewing the button onto the shirt you're wearing right now.  In fact, as high as 50% of the slaves in the world today are children under the age of 18.  That's right - over 13.5 million children, who should be in school, learning to read and write, playing with their friends, testing teachers limits and dreaming about becoming a famous (insert whatever your dream job as a child was here), are being forced to work long hours, endure beatings and horrific treatment, for inadequate or no pay.

Despite the fact that child labour is illegal in most countries, in many places it is a common occurrence.  India, Uzbekistan, China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Thailand, and Pakistan are all countries that are notorious for using children in their textile industries*.  Many of the stores in our local malls carry brands that are produced in one or many of these countries, so it's hard to know whether or not the pair of pants you're purchasing was made by a nine-year-old.  Fortunately for us, many consumers are becoming more aware of who their clothing was made by, and the conditions they were working in, and the multinational corporations are taking notice, and many (the smart ones) are putting measures in place to ensure that slave and child labour aren't being used in their supply chains.

To help you navigate these very murky waters, this is part two of seven of my research on the stores in my local mall, Coquitlam Centre.  If this is the first you've seen of this, you can find part 1 here:

To make things easy, every store that has great policies in place to prevent child and slave labour, as well as harsh treatment of production workers, is in green, those with some policies in place, but not enough to be completely certain no one is being harmed in the making of their products are in yellow, and those with no policies, or no information are in red.

Call it Spring
Call it Spring is owned by the ALDO group, which is a direct trade company.  See my review of ALDO in part one to see why Call it Spring is a safe place to shop!

Change is a lingerie store that owns its factories.  The company itself does all its manufacturing in China.  While it is encouraging that they themselves are involved in the manufacturing, the fact that there is no more information on the supply chain gives me pause.  One would hope that if this company own and operates its factories, there would be no abuse of employees, but it is hard to say for sure without a list of policies.

The Children's Place
The website insists that all vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, etc. follow their employment practices, which state that The Children's Place will knowingly only conduct business with companies whose workers are voluntarily at the workplace, are not at risk of physical harm, are fairly compensated, and are not exploited in any way. Neither child labour, nor forced labour, are permitted, and Children’s Place will “favour” companies that practice non-discriminatory employment.  These practices also mention fair payment and vacation time.  The documents also says that the company has the right to unannounced inspections of all manufacturing facilities, and the right to sever the relationship with any factories that do not comply with their employment practices.

Claires has adopted a statement in accordance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.  Their statement contains third party audits in their supply chain, as well as prohibition against indentured or forced labour.  Unfortunately, nothing is mentioned about Child labour, or any rights the workers possess.

Cleo is owned by the same company as Bootlegger.  Unfortunately, I can't find any information on all four of the websites this company runs about their supply chain.  

Daniadown quilts
This company is somewhere between and yellow and a red at their website says they manufacture the “majority” of their products.  Much like Change, if they own their own factories, one would hope they would closely monitor the conditions of the workplace, but there was no other information, so we cannot be sure.

DAVIDsTea offers a selection of Fair Trade teas! I sent an email to inquire about the rest of their tea selection.  They replied that they work closely with all their suppliers, who work with the tea estates to ensure that their tea meets their industry and ethical standards.  As the Fair Trade Certification process is quite pricey, it is not practical for some of the smaller farms, but they are working toward adding as many of their teas to they Fair Trade Certified collection as possible!

Dynamite Clothing
The website had no information whatsoever on their Supply Chain.

Eddie Bauer
Eddie Bauer has adopted a statement in accordance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.  Their statement contains a Workplace Code of Conduct (“Code”) and requires all manufacturers of their product to comply with the Code.  This Code states that manufacturers will not used forced labor of any kind, will not not use child labor, refrain from harassment, abuse and discrimination, as and will provide a safe working environment, allow workers freedom of association and collective bargaining, pays wages for all time worked, at minimum wage or higher, and pay overtime. Eddie Bauer has a third party audit done at the commencement of production, in all their new factories, and unannounced audits by a third party periodically afterwards.

Like most Cell Phone providers, Fido carries many different brands of technology. While their website offers no information on the production of those brands, tantalum, a mineral used in the production of most laptops, cellphones, tablets, etc. is notorious for the use of slaves in the mining process.  Because of this, one would have to research each brand individually.  I have yet to do this for any but Apple, which has the green light.  A couple years ago, the company released a statement saying that no slavery was used in their tantalum mines. I personally would stick to purchasing the Apple products to be on the safe side if you're making a purchase through Fido.

Flip Flop Shop
The Flip Flop Shop does not have it's own brand of shoes, but carries multiple different brands.  Once again, this makes more work for us.  One would have to research the brand of shoe they were hoping to buy to be sure.  I've done the legwork on three of them for you.  
Quicksilver offers no information on their supply chain on their website.
Sanuk completed Ethical Supply Chain audits for all factories and key suppliers since 2009.  They also provided training for over 400 representatives from Deckers suppliers in Ethical Supply Chain capability building courses since 2010.  Their Ethical Supply Chain (ESC) Program "strives to ensure that the factories which manufacture our products conform to fair labor standards. Those standards expressly preclude child labor, forced labor and human trafficking." They ale have an audit team, which regularly checks up on their partner's factories to ensure compliance with their labour standards.  The company has a few "zero tolerance"issues, which the violation of will lead to a supplier failing the audit and corrective measures will need to be taken.  Those "zero tolerance issues include child and forced labour.
     Olukai offers no other information on their website other than that their shoes are manufactured in Asia and Mexico

Foot Locker
FootLocker is somewhere between a green and a yellow as they have adopted a statement in accordance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which says that Foot Locker has the right to make unannounced inspections of their suppliers' facilities, either by the Foot Locker team or a third party, to ensure the factory complies with their Global Sourcing Guidelines and "other requirements."  However, I couldn't find what these requirements might be!

Future Shop
Future Shop is in the same boat as Fido.  They carry multiple different technology brands, and one has to be aware that this industry is ripe with slave labour. Once again, I would ere on the side of caution and stick with Apple.

I hope this information equips you to make informed choices about your purchases, so that we can avoid benefiting companies that allow nine-year-olds to miss out on their education to sew the buttons on our shirts for little or no monetary compensation, and support those companies that are doing their best to ensure that the employees in their factories are treated fairly and with dignity.  If you have any more information, or have a chance to do some research on individual brands of technology, please feel free to comment with your findings!  Check back next week for part 3 of this series.                    

*SOMO, Child Labour Fact Sheet.  Find it here:

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