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Abercrombie & Fitch, Carter’s, Forever 21, Quiksilver, and Walmart are among the brands fueling modern-day slavery through negligence, according to a new report from Not for Sale, a California-based nonprofit working to abolish human trafficking and forced labor across the globe. Funded in whole by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Apparel Industry Trends: From Farm to Factory uses publicly available and self-reported data to rank 300 apparel brands, including the above-mentioned companies, on their efforts to address child and forced labor in their supply chains. Finding out if your purchase has links to human-rights abuses isn’t an easy thing to do: Modern-day slavery, a reality faced by 300 million people worldwide, is used throughout an increasingly complex and opaque system that produces many of the clothing products sold in the United States.
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The silver lining? As U.S. sales for fair-trade-certified products rose 75 percent in 2011, a growing number of people want to know the impact behind their purchases. To arm shoppers with knowledge about companies’ labor standards and production practices, Not for Sale makes it rankings available both online and through the Free2Work smartphone app. “To create true breakthrough in the fight against slavery, we need systemic change,” says David Batstone, president and co-founder of Not For Sale. “Free2Work and the Apparel Industry Trends report equip everyone to advocate for that change and make it a part of their everyday life.”
Not for Sale makes it rankings available both online and through the Free2Work smartphone app.
Apparel Industry Trends debuted earlier this month in Ankara, Turkey, at “Human Trafficking & Global Supply Chains,” a United Nations General Assembly expert group meeting that included corporate, government, labor union, and non-governmental organization leaders from across the globe. As the first comprehensive report on forced and child labor in international supply chains, the paper breaks down the corporate-social responsibility practices of 50 apparel companies, using an A-to-F grading system to assess their commitments to traceability and transparency, monitoring and training, and workers’ rights.
Because each ranking refers to the health of individual pieces of a company rather than the system as a whole, however, Not for Sale cautions consumers to evaluate them within this broader context. Gap, for instance, scores an “A” in policies against child and forced labor but a “D” in its support of workers’ rights. Similarly, Adidas receives an overall “B” grade, even though campaigning is currently underway over its alleged refusal to pay over a million dollars in wages owed to Indonesian workers.
Still, the report provides a snapshot of companies that are ahead of the curve in their use of best practices and those that are lagging behind. “A” companies like Maggie’s Organics, Patagonia, and Timberland perform well in multiple categories, while Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, Carter’s Forever 21, Lacoste, Skechers, and Walmart receive consistent “D”s and “F”s across the board.