Child labour affects millions of children worldwide. The problem is not limited to one country or region, and it can be exacerbated by the choices you make when purchasing everyday products. If you’re interested in child labour, see any of the resources below or attend one of our training sessions on child labour.

RESEARCH:
THE COMPANY

Find out which brands are investing in social sustainability. You can go on their website and look for their sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Check if they address child labour in these reports.

Usually, if companies are not talking about it, they are not doing it. Remember that sustainability is more than environmental issues so look out for anything related to ‘human rights’, ‘fair wages’ or anything that relates to people affected by their business. Remember that materials such as organic cotton are better for the environment, but that doesn’t mean that child labour is not involved in its production. If not, reach out to them and ask – why not?

Before you buy from a brand, simply use a search engine to search ‘Brand child labour’. Check if the brand has been involved with child labour previously and what they did about it. Do some research and ask yourself: have they really changed their practice?

Remember that cutting ties with a factory does not solve child labour, it can actually make it worse!

RESEARCH:
THE GOOD

Find out which brands are investing in social sustainability. You can go on their website and look for their sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Check if they address child labour in these reports.

It’s a good idea to know where goods are sourced and manufactured. Child labour occurs in all countries and in nearly all goods.

Does that country have a track record of child labour in that specific good? Check out the US Department of Labour’s List of Goods produced by child labour and forced labour for more information on which goods are produced with child and forced labour.

Remember that child labour occurs in the production, collection and mining of raw materials, not just in the manufacturing. Try to think about all the ingredients or components of a product, and where those ingredients are sourced from.

CHECK:
THE TAGS

Checking the tags before you buy items is the best way to tackle child labour, as a consumer.

Tags will show you where the product was manufactured. However, brands tend not to put where they have sourced their raw materials on the tag.

Do your research on raw materials and goods using child labour in which countries. Look at the composition of the product, what is it made from/with? Does that raw material involve child labour?

Check the company’s website to see if they list their raw materials suppliers. Try to only buy from companies who are transparent not just about their manufacturers, but also about their raw material suppliers.

There is no legal requirement to put the origin of a good on a label. If a company doesn’t print it – it’s usually a bad sign. It could mean that they don’t know where it was produced but it mostly means they are not prioritising their accountability and traceability. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t say where it’s from!

KNOW:
THE LAW

Check if the company has a Modern Slavery Statement. By UK law, all companies who turnover more than £36 million per year should have a Modern Slavery Statement and release it every year (6 months after their tax year end). Child labour should be included in a Modern Slavery Statement as it is under the same remit.

An analysis of modern slavery statements by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in November 2018 found that 73% of FTSE 100 companies were ‘failing to report sufficient measures to demonstrate effectiveness in preventing modern slavery’.

You should be able to see an annual Modern Slavery Statement on a company’s website. Use this database to check which companies have submitted a Modern Slavery Statement from 2015-2020:

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

DO:
THE ‘OBVIOUS’

Similar recommendations exist for consumers wanting to reduce both environmental and social impact.

The ‘obvious’ recommendation is that buying something for a cheap price means that someone or something has been exploited in the supply chain.

The mark up price (the amount the company adds to the cost price) can be from 90% to around 2000%. This means that if you buy a product costing £7.99 with a mark up of 90%, the product only cost the company 79p to buy, including transport, raw materials, construction and of course – labour.

This is economically, environmentally and socially unsustainable.

The best and easiest way to avoid child labour is to avoid buying inexpensive goods frequently.

DON’T:
BLAME OR SHAME

Child labour is a complex social phenomenon. It is not specific to one good or country nor is it a ‘new’ social issue. Child labour has been around for hundreds of years and exists in countries of all economic statuses.

There is not one person or entity who is ‘responsible’ for child labour. It is a multi-stakeholder issue. Therefore watch out for companies trying to blame their suppliers or lack of enforcement. Be aware of governments trying to blame families or consumers blaming brands.

We all have to take responsibility as we become global citizens, in the same way that we are starting to take responsibility for climate change. Blame does not help child labour, it hinders it. It is important to remember there is not one cause of child labour. Therefore try to avoid referring to ‘poverty’ being the cause, using one very complex social issue as the cause of another means that the real causes can be overlooked, or not studied at all.

When thinking about child labour ask the following questions in this order:

‘Why is child labour happening?’
‘Who is responsible?’
‘How do I solve it?’

It is fundamental that you research why child labour happens before you try to find a solution.

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