Slavery and What We Buy

Some of the products we buy today may have been produced through the use of slave labour.

How does slavery occur in the supply chain?

There is evidence of slavery in different stages of the supply chain from the production of raw materials, for example cocoa and cotton farming, to manufacturing goods such as hand-knotted rugs and even at the final stage, when the product reaches the market.

How does the supply chain work?

Typically the final product you purchase has passed through a long chain of producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers who have all participated in its production, delivery and sale.
It can therefore be very difficult to track a component of an end product back to a particular producer, for example cotton in a T-shirt back to a particular cotton farm.
For this reason it is not always possible to certify that a product has or has not been produced using slavery.
However the way in which companies operate can affect the likelihood of slavery being a part of the final product. If a brand gives its supplier a large order with a short turnaround time beyond the suppliers’ capacity, this could increase the risk of slavery as the supplier may subcontract work to factories or workers that are not regulated by the same standards as the supplier.
Company buyers may negotiate such low prices that suppliers are forced to push down the price it pays for the materials it needs, which can have a knock-on effect on those involved in the production of raw materials, increasing the likelihood of the use of forced labour.
Companies should ensure that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is respected across its whole supply chain to ensure that it is not inadvertently supporting slavery. For example, extreme poverty can lead workers into situations in which they find themselves enslaved and the government may not be properly enforcing labour laws and inspecting workplaces.

Ricardo’s story

Ricardo was made to live in the back of a locked removal van and forced to work on a farm picking tomatoes in Florida. He was forced into debt as his ‘employer’ charged punitive costs for food, rent etc. After more than a year he managed to escape through the ventilation hatch of the truck.
Florida tomatoes are bought by restaurant and fast-food chains. Anti-Slavery International supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ campaign, which succeeded in Burger King signing an agreement with them to ensure workers’ rights are respected. The agreement includes a zero-tolerance guideline for suppliers regarding certain unlawful activities such as forced labour.

Core labour standards

Labour standards are developed, agreed and enforced by the International Labour Organization, which is a part of the United Nations. Human rights groups such as Anti-Slavery International call on governments to apply these standards. These standards are binding on governments and seek to eliminate forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment, while ensuring respect for the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Companies’ codes of conduct and schemes should meet these standards.
Transnational corporations hold considerable power and it is vital that they are held to account for the way their workers, whether employed directly or indirectly, are treated. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called upon countries to recognise that they have a duty to protect against human rights abuses committed by companies. Companies also have a responsibility to put in place systems that ensure they are respecting human rights. Finally, victims need better and easier ways in which they can access justice. Anti-Slavery International supports this approach by providing companies with information to improve their systems so that they can identify, prevent and eradicate slavery.

What can you do?

Ask questions when you shop. Does your local retailer stock fair trade products? Use your consumer power to show you care — buy fair trade marked products and Rugmark carpets, a certification scheme for rugs and carpets made without illegal child labour. In supermarkets, look out for the Fairtrade Mark. This is the best available guarantee that a product has not been produced using slave labour because goods can only be Fairtrade certified if they have complied with Fairtrade standards, which incorporate international human rights standards. For retail chains, write a letter to the company headquarters asking what measures the company is taking to identify, prevent and end the use of forced labour and slavery from their supply chain. Ask if the company is a member of the ETI and ask the company to explain how it is involved.

Why not boycott?

In certain situations boycotting specific goods or countries can actually make the situation worse and undermine the economy of an already poor country. A boycott could hurt those in slavery-like conditions as well as those employers who are not exploiting their workers, and worsen the poverty that is one of the root causes of the problem. Support fair and ethical trade initiatives instead and use consumer power to encourage retailers and companies to move to the Fairtrade scheme.

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Justicia para Armando, no podemos aceptar ni la indiferencia ni el olvido

A cuatro años del homicidio de nuestro compañero Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco”, la Red de Periodistas de Juárez denuncia que aún no hay ningún avance en las investigaciones en manos de las autoridades para saber quién y por qué lo mató.
El presidente Felipe Calderón mintió abiertamente al señalar, en septiembre de 2010, que el caso estaba resuelto porque ya había un detenido. Dos años después de ese falso anuncio, el crimen no sólo sigue sin ser esclarecido –y el presunto sin recibir cargos por este hecho-, sino que la impunidad que lo rodea, tal como advertimos, fungió de corolario para la brutal ola de violencia que, como nunca, ha cobrado la vida de los periodistas mexicanos.
Para nosotros en Ciudad Juárez es claro: con la omisión a la hora de esclarecer el crimen de Armando Rodríguez y de todos los colegas que han sido asesinados, el Estado mexicano está enviando el criminal mensaje de que, en este país, cegar una vida y silenciar así la libertad de prensa y de expresión, no tiene absolutamente ninguna consecuencia.
Los periodistas seguimos esperando la justicia. Pero no podemos aceptar ni la indiferencia ni el olvido.
La Red de Periodistas de Juárez repudia la nula eficacia de las autoridades de procuración de justicia y reitera su exigencia a los gobiernos, federal y estatal, y a sus fiscalías para que hagan justicia para nuestro compañero Armando Rodríguez, reportero de El Diario de Juárez, asesinado el 13 de noviembre del 2008.
Red de Periodistas de Juárez



Lydia Cacho has been described as “an extremely gifted and inspirational speaker, with a love of the creative potential of human beings to create a culture of non-violence and restorative justice around the world”.
With over 15 years of International experience as a Trainers trainer and inspirational speaker, in Mexico and beyond, including Central and South America, The United Kingdom, The United States, Spain and Sweden all the way to South East Asia. Lydia is now much in demand for training days, conferences and seminars around the world, presenting the results of her work in an inspiring, practical and often uplifting way.
Attendants to her conferences and workshops have commented on her imaginative and encouraging style of speaking and teaching, which allows professionals and students of all ages to understand how Human Rights violations come to be. She helps them to express their creativity and make significant gains in accomplishment on issues such as injustice, gender violence and how to approach it in a comprehensive way, also Peace education and conflict negotiation within groups of professionals.
She has received notable recognition for traveling around the world investigating crimes and developing new social tools to confront complex problems and searching for real solutions, using her grassroots experience as an author, an international reporter of Human Rights, and as a well recognized founder of shelters for women and children victims of gender violence including sexual violence and Human Trafficking. Her approach to teaching new skills to confront Human Trafficking and slavery around the world has gained her several awards and international prizes.
Lydia´s knowledge of different Law systems, psychology and pedagogy has led her to develop an inspirational teaching system using all personal resources including creative writing, group speaking and listening, music, thinking skills, collaboration, new approach interaction and much more.
Lydia has received a vast amount of press coverage for his innovative perspective on how to tackle gender violence around the world, and has featured on the BBC, CNN, ABC, in The New York Times, The Washington Post The Guardian, The Independent, El Mundo, El Pais, Das Spiegel, and many others. She was recognized as one of the 150 most influential women in the world by Newsweek Magazine and recognized as an International Hero against Human Trafficking by the U.S Department of Justice and CNN international. She is the creator of the program “Yo no estoy en venta” a trainers training comprehensive program to educate children and teenagers to prevent sex trafficking in Mexico. Her program has trained more than 15,000 students in one year and will be launched in several states all over Mexico.
Cacho is quite critical of the Mexican justice system and of the flaws in the international laws against Human Trafficking; nevertheless she has demonstrated how victims can become survivors and how civil society can transform the system to promote Human Rights. She works with evidence and demonstrates pursuing the truth is needed around the world to stop gender-based violence. Thanks to her work she achieved the first life sentence (113 years) for an international child pornography producer and sex trafficker of children operating in Mexico. It was the first sentence of its kind in Latin America. She walks the talk.
Her ample knowledge has led her to write eight books, from poetry to fiction, and a Manual to prevent child abuse, essays on gender issues and love, and her international best sellers on Sex Trafficking, Human Slavery and Child Pornography. Her books have been translated into French, English, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, German, Swedish, and Turkish; and have been published from Mexico to Spain, Argentina, Colombia and Central America.
A sampling of Ms. Cacho’s awards include: Human Rights Watch, Ginetta Sagan Amnesty Award; OXFAM award; IWMF award; CNN Hero; UNESCO- Guillermo Cano freedom of expression award; The Wallemberg Medal; The Tucholsky Award; PEN Canada Award; UNANIMA, World Press International Hero 2010 (for the International Press Institute in Vienna), among others.

Some reviews on Lydia Cacho’s work:
‘Lydia Cacho inspires, encourages, protects, empowers. She has modeled what investigative journalism should be for generations to come. She has attacked and shaken a Mexican elite who thought their power allowed them to act in all impunity. And she has stood for women’s rights when many of us would have retreated. She does not. I suspect she never will. Lydia is never scared to uncover the truly ugly: that hatred which runs deep in all societies, that which rapes, abuses, maims and kills millions of girls and women. Her voice, modest for herself, is strident for others, the small, the forgotten, the victims. For that, she has faced violence, abuse, imprisonment and death. Her countless international awards for investigative journalism, human rights, anti-corruption, women’s rights, and personal courage testify to Lydia’s exceptional display of courage and determination.’ Agnes Callamard, Director, Article 19 London.
‘Independent and critical journalism has become a high risk profession, but Lydia has spent seven years living under impending threats from the people in power that she has so bravely identified in her books… The work that Lydia Cacho does is as indispensable as the air we breathe’ English PEN
‘Lydia Cacho is an extraordinarily brave writer who, despite having been subject to repeated attacks and threats, never fails to give a voice to those unable or unwilling to speak out for themselves. Whether victims of domestic violence, child prostitution, sex trafficking, organized crime, or corruption, or fellow journalists reluctant to publish their findings for fear of the possible repercussions, Cacho tells their stories with power and compassion. This willingness, or compulsion, to tackle the thorniest of issues, led to Cacho being named the winner of the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage in 2010. She is an inspirational journalist and campaigner who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Speech, certainly casts an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze, not only upon her native Mexico, but on the world.’
Gillian Slovo, President of English PEN
Ms. Karla Peralta
[email protected]