Modern slavery is a growing problem in Norway and the rest of the world. For many people it may seem difficult to deal with. Slavery is found in various industries that produce goods and services sold in Norway. A number of organisations, companies and brands have taken on the responsibility of ensuring workers rights. Mike Gidney, executive director of The Fair Trade Foundation, says:
By acquiring knowledge and making choices that contribute to a fairer production of goods and services, we as consumers can help end slavery. On this page you will find an overview of some of the most vulnerable industries, followed by specific tips on how we can help slavery by trading with dealers who promote ethical and sustainable products and services.
Everyone wear clothes, which makes the clothing industry the world's third largest industry, after cars and electronics. This affects both the people who grow cotton and produce clothes, but also the environment. How often do you think about the people who sewed your clothes and how your buying habits affect the lives of other people?
As consumers, we want products at a cheap price and we enjoy great deals. The desire for cheap products affects the supply chains. The price of clothing has had a minimal increase in recent decades, and it is only possible to maintain because of the slavery and exploitation that is happening in the supply chain. Those who are most affected in the supply chain are those who produce the clothes in large factories abroad, or in the cotton farms in, for example, Uzbekistan. Large clothing companies have begun to address the problem and to improve the conditions of their workers. This is an important start, but there is still a long way to go.
As consumers, we can make thoughtful choices when we buy new clothes, and demand change by influencing the clothing industry in a more ethical direction, moving away from fast fashion. Several clothing brands specialise in making products that are both Fair Trade and organic. Here you will find a list of brands that produce fair clothing and where to buy them:
FAIRTRADE AND ORGANIC COTTON:
Fair and Square: men, women & children // Libe: men & women // Mido: men & women – also available in a store in Stavanger // Know the Origin: men & women // KONTRAST Project: women // MUD Jeans: men & women
Read more about fair fashion here:
Forced labour is often used to exploit people in slavery. It may be difficult to recognise because it often looks like ordinary work. We usually find forced labour in professions such as housekeepers, au pairs, restaurants, car washes, construction work and agriculture. There are cases where men, women and children perform these services.
It can be challenging to identify the extent of the problem as social dumping and forced labour can be similar. Victims of forced labor differ from social dumping in that they are under the control of others and lack the freedom to escape, they do not "just" have poorer payment and working conditions (KOM).
As a consumer, you are able to contribute in tackling slavery by avoiding using cheap services that seem too good to be true, and report to the police (or Arbeidstilsynet in Norway) if you suspect forced labour. You can ensure that you are not washing you car in places where you are uncertain of the working condition of the employees, or not hire artisans who cannot guarantee ethical working conditions. According to surveys, only 26% of the Norwegian population has ever considered whether the company they buy services from has irresponsible working conditions. This shows that we as consumers have great potential to put pressure on companies by demanding information and ethical working condition for all employees (Ethical Trade Initiative).
There are simple sign we as consumers can look for when purchasing services:
Payment options: if there are no opportunities to pay by card or print a receipt, it may be a sign of undeclared work, which may allow for forced labour.
Clothing and equipment: if workers do not have the right work clothes or equipment to protect themselves from toxic chemicals, heights etc. it may be a sign of concern
Company guidelines: if the company does not have ethical guidelines to refer to, the likelihood is that they have something to hide.
Read more here:
A lot of girls and women use make-up and skin care products on a daily basis, making it a billion dollar industry. Unfortunately, the production of minerals and ingredients used in makeup, jewelry and skin care products are often embossed by slavery and child labour, as well as being an environmental threat. A mineral that has received much attention is “mica”, which gives glitter to makeup and car paint. 25% of the mica production in the world takes place in two of India's poorest states, Bihar og Jharkand, where mica mines are largely staffed by child slaves.
Several cosmetics groups have tried to do something about their supply chains in order to get rid of the challenges in the production of mica, however, this has proved difficult due to corruption, amongst other things. Fortunately, there are cosmetic brands that are fair trade branded, who produce their products without slave produced minerals. You can influence the industry by purchasing these fair trade products instead. Slavery with children and adults has also been revealed in the extraction of minerals used in jewelry. This is particularly found in gold mines in Ghana, Peru, the Philippines and diamond mining in the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone.
Attempts have been made to increase fair trading with diamonds in The Kimberlley Process, but there is still a long way to go. However, within the production of gold and silver, the process has come a bit further with fair trade marked gold products. You can influence the industry by choosing jewelry made with fair trade branded gold and silver.
There are several make-up and skin care brands that specialise in making products that are both fair trade and environmentally friendly. Below you will find a small list of such brands and where to buy them.
Cosmetics and skin care:
According to The Global Slavery Index, an estimated 16 million people are victims of forced labour, of which 11,3% are working within the agriculture and fishing industries. For these, the reality is usually minimal wages, lack of work contracts and lack of access to water in a burning heat. Children, adults and whole families are fooled into working in large factories and plantations, to pay off debt imposed by their employer. While some are forced into forced labour, others are born into slavery and work to pay off family debt that has existed for ages.
Norway imports food from all over the world and several cases of slavery in company supply chains have been discovered. In October 2017, a group of migrants working for a tomato plantation with slave like conditions were discovered. These tomatoes were sold in Norwegian stores. Coffee and chocolate are other typical examples of goods that have been produced using slave labour. More consumers are demanding information about the products’ supply chains. This have led companies to provide information about their supply chains. This allows the consumers to trace the products to ensure there is no slavery in it.
As consumers, we can tackle slavery in the food industry by purchasing local products, products from the farmer, or products labeled fair trade or direct trade. The fair trade certification is intended to guarantee that workers receive fair payment, that they are not subjected to forced labour or violence and that environmentally friendly working methods are used. Direct trade is a trading model which aims to ensure a direct contact between eg. the coffee maker and the buyer, enabling Norwegian retailers to ensure purchases from non-slavery manufacturers.
Look for fair trade brands the next time you go out to buy food. The following brands indicate that the product is manufactured according to ethical requirements:
The food brand "Nyt Norge", which is food produced in Norway according to Norwegian standards for Health, Environment and Safety (HSE)
Buy local food and feel free to buy straight from the farmer
The production of electronics is permeated with slavery. A lot of the products we use on a daily basis are likely to, at one point, have been in contact with slavery. Although multinational companies have clear ethical, internal guidelines against slavery and forced labour, it is still a major problem at the bottom of the supply chains, especially in Asia and Africa. Smartphones, tablets, game consoles and pacemakers use tin and tantalum, rare metals that in many parts of the world give rise to production conflicts.
It has also been revealed that militant, violent groups in Congo control coal mines, which contain large amounts of tantalum, a substance found in smartphones. Workers, both adults and children, experience hard days in poor conditions and are paid only a few dollars a day to extract minerals used in our phones. In 2014, the global human rights organisation, Verité, uncovered slavery conditions in one-third of foreign workers in the electronics production in Malaysia. A country where electronics make up the main industry, and where 40% are foreign workers. The survey found that the employees were illegally withheld from their passports and were given fees that took 3 years to repay, without the opportunity to terminate the employment before the contract expired.
According to a 2016 report by the organisation End Slavery Now, there are no electronics companies that have fair trade or slave free products on the market. However, there are some companies that want to use minerals mined without conflict - a step in the right direction. Most notable is probably the Dutch FairPhone, the world's first ethical smartphone.
In general, it is seen that the endurance of unethical extraction of minerals is driven by the market's urgent need for large quantities of brand new products, such as after the launch of new models. If you swear by a certain brand, a good alternative would be to go for used products, which through the right supplier work just as well as the new ones.