It is a scary thought that in this day and age, child labour and slave labour is still being used. As terrifying as that is, we sort of know and understand that it still happens in “less developed” parts of the world. However, if we were to know that an item that we use was made by children or through slave labour, we wouldn’t buy it right? Wrong. The range of companies on the big markets that use child and slave labour is absolutely frightening. Of course, they also say they “don’t know” or that “there’s nothing they can do”. Yeah, whatever. So, let’s take a look at the brands you should avoid as much as possible. Oh and one other problem is that one company often manufactures multiple products under different names, so you may not even be aware that you are still shopping from this company. For instance, Proctor & Gamble (they don’t use child labour, they just test on animals in horrifying ways…) produce Andrex and Febreze. So, I’ll also add a number of the products you should avoid.
Philip Morris has actually admitted that 72 children work on the tobacco forms from which Philip Morris buys its plants. The youngest of these was just 10 years old. The problem is that they only admitted this when they were forced to by the Human Rights Watch. Philip Morris only took a very small part of the blame as well. The details on these 72 children (be aware that evidence has been found for just 72 children, that doesn’t mean there aren’t actually more) are horrifying. They have neck and stomach rashes, their passports were confiscated, essentially enslaving them, and they were force to work overtime without receiving additional pay. Philip Morris is yet to live up to their promise of changing these situations.
Philip Morris also makes Basic, Marlboro, Cambridge, Benson & Hedges, Commander, Chesterfield, English Ovals, Dave’s, L&M, Lark, Parliament, Merit, Saratoga, Players and Virginia Slims. Don’t light any of those up in other words!
Ah, the one place all of us women run to when we want to seduce our significant others or new mates. Well don’t, basically. Yeah, they say that they only use “fair trade cotton”, but that is like saying a meal is “gourmet”, it actually means jack shit. Victoria’s Secret uses cotton grown in Burkina Faso. Here, it has been a known fact that there is not enough labour available to run the farms, so they turn to children instead. So yeah, it’s fair trade because it comes from Africa, but it actually means that you are buying fabrics that are made from cotton picked by a little 13 year old girl who sleeps under a piece of plastic, getting shouted at to get up and go to work. Oh and who gets beaten with sticks if she’s not quick enough. This is no something that is a debate, it is a known fact. Burkina Faso quite readily admits these practices go on. And Victoria’s Secret readily admits they get their cotton from Burkina Faso. But when asked about his, the shrug and change the subject. Because Victoria’s Secret was eventually forced to make a statement, they said they would investigate it. The result? The “fair trade” label has been removed.
Chinese Factories and KYE
Remember I said above that we sort of know that child labour happens in under developed countries? So it probably won’t surprise you when I say there are lots of Chinese factories that use slave and child labour. After all, the Chinese are not particularly big on human rights. What will surprise you, perhaps, is the amount of well-known brands that use KYE and other Chinese factories to create their branded products. In these factories, employees are housed in dorms, 14 to a room. Instead of a shower, they are issued a plastic bucket and a sponge. They work 15 hour shifts with no weekend breaks at all. There is no air conditioning in boiling hot environments. They are not allowed to speak to each other. They have to take part in military drills and women are subjected to sexual harassment. And in return, they receive $0.65 per hour. So, who uses these factories?
Toys ‘R’ Us, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Aeropostale
Each of these say they have stringent contracts in place to ensure that the cotton they receive uses “legally qualified workers”. They are lying. They buy their cotton from Uzbekistan, where the government removes children from school and sends them to work. So yeah, they are “legally qualified”, but not by any humane standards. Nothing at all is being done about this, besides a statement that “they would look into it”. Profit before people, clearly.
Hershey has been using child labour in their cocoa farms for ever. It is only since the Rainforest Alliance told them they would air a video that showed the child labour and the conditions in which they have to work that they made a real change to produce ethically sourced chocolate. However, there are still thousands upon thousands of children that harvest cocoa beans for Hershey’s in West Africa today. The only product you can buy from Hershey’s chocolate that doesn’t use child labour, in fact, is Bliss Chocolates. But why not just boycott the lot?
Apple has recently admitted that they use child labour. They couldn’t do anything else by admit it when eleven 15 year old kids were working in the factories that Apple uses. These are some of the KYE factories described earlier. However, the same practices go on in the other factories that supply Apple with products. Apple has promises that they have looked into this and that these practices really aren’t happening anymore. Well, don’t believe them since only last week 62 employees at an Apple and Nokia factory were poisoned by n-hexane. Naturally, Apple is yet to comment on this one.
This one really breaks my heart because I freaking love Primark. But yeah, I should’ve known that offering products as cheaply as this can only come from unethical practices. In fact, a documentary from the BBC has proven that 11 year old children sew the products that are sold in the Secret Possessions Range of Primark. Primark places huge pressures on their suppliers to provide items quickly and cheaply and this has led to absolutely shameful abuse of children and slave labourers. Naturally, Primark has said they have now stopped using the Indian suppliers that use slave labour. However, as we have seen above, it remains to be seen whether this is actually true, or whether they have just moved the problem elsewhere.
Nike has been using child labour for years and years. In fact, when I was just 18 (and that is some time ago…) I went on a demonstration against Nike. It seems nothing has changed since then. They now use factories where human rights are broken on an almost daily basis. People are kicked and slapped and verbally abused. This is particularly true for the Converse factories in Indonesia, which really pains me because I freaking love Converse shoes… Women and children at the factories in Pou Chen make only $0.50 per hour. Nike has some stringent standards, but at least 75% of the suppliers they use don’t meet these standards, as admitted by Nike. Why have standards at all then? 12 of the factories they use don’t even allow Nike inspectors access to the plant. 97 factories are said to be “improving”, but only in as such that they now pay minimum wage. And six factories haven’t even been inspected by Nike. Yeah, fantastic standards there… Here are some interesting statistics for you. Producing a pair of top end Nike’s (or Converse) costs between $0.88 and $3. Add to this the shipping and tax payments, and it will basically cost between $4 and $6. And these are the shoes that you will pay between $40 and $185 for!
So there you go, some of the biggest companies in the world use child labour and slave labour. They don’t care about the way staff are treated and the profits they make through these practices are ginormous. Will you continue to play a part in this?