According to a new report by the nonprofit, KnowTheChain, the vast majority of footwear and apparel is still produced using slave labor.
As detailed by Fast Company, the report found that there are an “estimated 24.9 million… victims of forced labor” around the world, and the majority of them work in the “$3 trillion apparel and footwear industry.”
As the article explains, “today’s slave labor doesn’t look the way it did a hundred years ago. Instead, it involves poor people in developing countries” becoming entrapped or enslaved by factories and recruitment agencies. These suppliers will “withhold a worker’s passport or other official documents until [a] fee is paid,” and like all successful criminal enterprises, there’s interest charged on that fee. In the worst cases, “a worker may never make enough money to pay [the fee] back, rendering them a lifelong slave.”
Proving that public shaming works, the report found that companies who’ve been dragged over labor and supply chain issues in the past, like Nike, Adidas and Puma, are doing better — particularly Adidas, who scored a 92 out of 100, while Nike and Puma were given a 63 and a 61, respectively.
Luxury brands, however, scored the worst of all. Salvatore Ferragamo got a 13 out of 100, LVMH got a 14, Hermes a 17, and Prada was given an “abysmally low score of 5.” And all of the above produce the bulk of their goods in European factories, proving that modern enslavement isn’t only happening in the places like India or Taiwan.
So how do we stop it? The story says it starts by “supporting brands that are known to have better practices.”
You can read more about it at Fast Company.