Monday, November 1, 2010

sweatshops and slave labor

For weeks now, I have been trying to find information on sweatshops, companies that sell products that were manufactured in sweatshops, and how I can avoid supporting these businesses. The problem is that there is not really any way to trace many products back to their particular point of origin. There is not a great way to avoid supporting sweatshops. And even if you know a particular company uses sweatshop labor, the ways to protest this fact are not clear-cut either.

Many of the things that we see on the shelves in stores are made from an array of previously manufactured items and raw materials. The varied places where these things originate from make it practically impossible to determine their exact point of origin. This fact makes it very difficult to avoid products that were made in sweatshops or similar, where humans suffer modern day slavery or severe exploitation. Sweatshops and slavery are so pervasive within the supply chain, it is almost impossible to avoid.

But say we know for sure that a company is using slave or sweatshop labor; what is the best way to show that company that we do not support their business practices? The answer usually lies in the boycott, but that may not be the best solution. If an individual person (or even a small group of people) boycotts a particular producer, store, or product, it does not make much of an impact and, according to some, can actually hurt the legitimate employers and producers in the same supply chain.

So what can we do? How can we send a message to a company that we do not approve of unscrupulous means of production? More so perhaps, how do we tell businesses we frequent that we support and encourage ethical business practices and honest means of production? Until businesses understand that it is important to consumers that their goods not be tainted by slavery and exploitation, companies may continue to emphasize lowering prices rather than behaving morally.

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