Are we addicted to slavery through our consumerism? You may not know this, but the food we eat, the coffee you drink, the clothes you wear, the technology we use, they all may be made as a result of slave labor. Things that we take for granted are often given to us due to the large amount of slaves being forced to work around the world. On one hand, we all want cheaper products and to get a bargain. We go to Walmart to get the lowest prices on food items. We think to ourselves, “well, I am saving money by buying cheaper items, making it so I have more money to do good with”. The reality is that there is a large disconnect for the every day consumer (specifically the American consumer) between the items we buy and the suffering of people being trafficked across the world. No one wants to wear clothes that are tainted by the suffering of large groups of people. No one wants to walk on shoes that represent the crushing of dreams for children in India. We don’t want to drink our coffee in the morning that is provided by the turmoil of farm workers in Central America. We choose to remain ignorant that our shopping habits may be perpetrating slavery around the world. Why do we do this? Because we want to be able to buy whatever we want, save all the money we have, and live a pretty awesome life without thinking of the slaves around the world who are providing us with that life.
The reality is that most people do not know that this system exists. Most consumers go through their everyday life not knowing to even think about the type of food or items they buy. Even some companies who are selling these slave produced goods are blind to the fact that their items come from slave labor. So what must be done to open the eyes of the everyday consumer and the companies who are just looking for cheap materials?
For the companies, it is important for these companies to be transparent about where their products are made, as well as require any partnering organizations to do the same. The reality is that it is cheaper to make something in a foreign country like China who is known to exploit slave labor. These companies doing business with other organizations must be transparent with the public about their partners, but also require their partners to live under the same value that slave labor is not an option. Places like California require all companies of significance size to disclose to the public how and where their products are made. There still does not exist any laws requiring companies to make a products in a certain way, but the need to publicize their transactions is a foundation for holding businesses accountable.
So as an everyday consumer, what can you do? How can you help fight slavery around the world. First, I encourage you to go to http://slaveryfootprint.org/ and fill out the entire survey to find out how your actions actually are impacting the world around you. You will be surprised by the number of slaves that indirectly work to keep your consumerist life at its prime. In addition, you can install a couple apps to help you in your shopping habits. The first app I recommend is an app called “Good Guide”. This app allows you to scan bar codes at stores and/or input items and the app will give you scores for the item. First, it will give you a score for health, environment, and society. These scores correlate to how healthy the item is for your body, how environmentally cautious and secure the company is, and if the item is exploiting anyone in the process of it being made. It will give you a description of the ratings, and it can also provide you with alternative products. If you find that the society score is really low, you can look for alternative products that will better serve the world we live.
Having this kind of mindset in shopping and living is difficult. It takes effort and a lot of will power. You will lose money, you will find yourself taking more time shopping, and you will save lives. Is it worth it for you?