Whether you're sipping coffee and scrolling on your phone or doing your makeup on the train, we all have our morning routines. The hidden reality behind them is that, before we even hit 9am, every one of us has likely used a product that could’ve been produced by someone trapped in slavery.
In fact, Ethical Trading Initiative reports that “71% of [UK] companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage in their supply chains.” How is this possible?
There’s no doubt that this problem is deeply complex. Even if big corporations are auditing their ‘first tier’ suppliers – the factories that, for example, sew the garments or create the sweets – all the materials that they use go through a huge supply chain before even arriving at the factory. Even one t-shirt could include cotton from four different farms, so tracing supply chains to check for exploitation is notoriously difficult.
At International Justice Mission – the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation – we partner with justice systems to find out where slavery is taking place, rescue survivors and prosecute the criminals who are abusing them. Through our work with local police and governments, we've seen dramatic reduction in slavery in the places where we work. But we also come face to face with brutal reality of slavery in individual lives.
Ajay, a young teenager in India, spent four years enslaved in a factory, making high heels. He worked with scalding-hot machinery and breathed harsh chemicals 15 hours a day, seven days a week, - eating, sleeping and working in the same room.
‘I thought of running away,’ he recalls, ‘but others who had run away were brought back and beaten with iron rods and tortured with long needles.’ Ajay’s story is all too common. All over the world, millions of people are trapped and tortured, forced to produce things that we will buy.
In fact, an estimated 25 million people are in forced labour slavery as you are reading this. But we can do something about it.
IJM investigators discovered the conditions in the factory. We worked with local law enforcement to arrest the factory owners and free everyone being held there. IJM aftercare teams supported Ajay and helped him to reunite with his family - in freedom.
No one should have to suffer like this to bring us our shoes. That’s why here in the UK, IJM have launched the Make #SlaveFree Normal campaign – a movement of modern-day abolitionists determined to stand against slavery in supply chains.
We’re inviting people to take on three different challenges:
1. Buy ethically
You’re here on the KTO website, so you’re already well on your way to smashing this step! Other helpful resources are Ethical Consumer, Fashion Transparency Index, and the Good On You app which can all help you to see how brands rank in their commitment to upholding good labour practices.
2. Stop slavery at source
Slavery is illegal almost everywhere, but too often the laws against it are not enforced. Businesses have vast influence and play a key part in eradicating slavery in our supply chains, but ultimately, they cannot enforce the law. If we want to see the end of slavery in our lifetime, we need governments to take action. You can send rescue to people trapped in slavery.
3. Raise your voice
Nothing happens just because we’re aware of modern slavery, but nothing can happen until we are. Your voice matters. Use it to let people know that slavery still exists – and get in touch with brands you love to let them know that transparency and accountability matter to you.