There are lots of products that can be made or harvested with modern slavery—most people are aware of coffee and chocolate but bricks, fruits and vegetables, the cotton in your clothing, and even parts of your electronics can be made with slave labor.
Most people are already aware of the benefits of shopping ethically—it’s better for people, it’s better for the environment, it’s better for everyone. Sometimes, it can be difficult to coordinate your want to shop ethically with what’s on your shopping list or within your budget. It’s important to know what things typically are produced with this kind of labor so you can find alternatives. Every dollar you spend, whether you know it or not, counts as a vote for a particular company or brand.
Shop Local or Grow your Own
Food production enslaves millions across the globe so being cognizant of the problems is the first step. It is a common myth that Fairtrade food and produce is more expensive but that is usually not true. Because many companies work directly with the farmers, they are cutting out the middleman and able to sell more directly to consumers in a way the benefits the farmers. But if you aren’t able to find satisfactory information on some brands or products, there are other options to cleaning up your slavery footprint.
What better way to know your food isn’t produced with forced labor than growing and picking it yourself? You can also visit farmer’s markets, co-ops, or stores that source from local farmers to support smaller supply chains and re-invest in your community!
Buy it used
While Fairtrade foods are usually priced relatively close to other options—clothing can be a whole different story. Many are aware of the “fast fashion” movement of buying cheap clothes that have a very short life but don’t know the impacts that fast fashion has, not only on the producers of these garments but also on the environment. Many of these clothes are cheap but cheaply made and do not tend to last long.
Garment workers are notorious for working for extremely low wages and dangerous working conditions.
Buying clothes made by formerly enslaved artisans is a great way to support survivors of the human trafficking industry but since these clothes are produced with fair wages, they cost more. Companies that support artisans in this way make sure to pay them a fair and livable wage Sometimes it isn’t in your budget to spend the amount of money for a survivor-made blouse or pair of jeans—and that’s okay. Buying second-hand, used clothing helps clean up your personal slavery footprint and carbon footprint!
When you have the ability to spend more money on pieces of clothing, you will often see the phrase “Buy Quality over Quantity.” While the upfront cost of sustainable and fairtrade clothing can feel a little expensive, it is better for all parties involved in the long run.
Supporting & Sharing
Some have a passion for helping but might not have the funds to donate or support organizations fighting against modern slavery. There are still things you can do without putting a dent in your wallet that will make a big impact in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.
Stay connected with organizations doing this meaningful work, follow them on social media, and share their mission and work with your friends and family. It doesn’t cost anything to like a page on Facebook or retweet a message—and maybe that will encourage someone in your network to learn more!
If you want to be a little more hands-on, find the organizations in your area doing this work and volunteer your time. There is a place for everyone in the fight against modern slavery.
Staying up to date and aware
The first step to making a difference in your personal slavery footprint is just being aware of the issue! Staying up to date and aware of the current climate around human trafficking in your country is also an easy thing to do that is relatively low cost. Stay connected with human trafficking and modern slavery organizations, especially the ones in your area, for important updates.
Staying up-to-date on policies in your local, state, or national government is extremely important in the fight against modern slavery. It’s important to know what practices are currently allowed in your state or country, who is trying to change them, and how you can help. Choosing your representatives is a critical part of the anti-human trafficking agenda. Your representative chooses what policies are approved or ignored--you want to make sure the representative representing you, represents the same ideas as you. If they don’t, you need to make sure they are well aware of the support their constituents have for creating better, and safer laws for those who have experienced trafficking. These include calling, sending emails or letters to your representative’s office, signing petitions, and amplifying the work that is being done by organizations with your network to increase their support.
Voting with your dollar
You may not be aware of this, but your dollar counts as a vote. For every dollar you spend at a company, you are telling them you support the business and the business practices. When you are able, find companies that you support and buy from them. Just because you might not be able to support the anti-human trafficking industry directly, doesn’t mean you have to give money to companies that are not looking into creating more transparent supply chains and paying their workers a livable wage.
Looking to help the fight against modern day enslavement in these unprecedented times? The Polaris Project can show how.
Read Rev. Damon Lynch and Dion Brown's op-ed on the deportation of Amadou Sow.