How Are Your Slaves Today? Here’s How to Find Out - OZY | A Modern Media Company
Everything we consume, from electronic devices to seafood, comes from a complex supply chain that involves, usually at the bottom, slavery-like conditions.
SourceShutterstock, Composite by Ned Colin

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because accidentally doing wrong may actually be worse than deliberately not doing right.

By Pallabi Munsi

  • No matter how far you live from the people who produce the products you use finding out who they are is just a click away.
  • There’s $20 billion in supply chain value on the Slavery Footprint platform.

Gokulananda Nandan, a 34-year-old Spanish teacher in the north Indian city of Noida, has always cared about justice, fairness and the environment. He doesn’t own a car and relies mostly on public transportation. He opposes all forms of exploitation. And he’s a responsible buyer. Or so he thought.

But after a discussion with a colleague on modern-day slavery last year — currently, there are 27 million slaves in the world, more than ever before — Nandan decided to investigate his slavery footprint. What did he discover? That he has 18 slaves working for him.

Everything we consume, from electronic devices to seafood, comes from a complex supply chain that involves, usually at the bottom, slavery-like conditions. It’s likely that you too effectively have slaves working for you; you just don’t know it yet.

Our goal [was to] help individuals understand how their consumer lifestyles may be unwittingly contributing to the perpetuation of slavery.

Victoria Ward, board chair, Made in a Free World

Slavery Footprint helps you get real, by calculating just how many slaves you use to get what you consume.

The idea for the test came about on the other side of the world from Nandan, when employees of the U.S. State Department saw Call + Response, a 2008 documentary on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons reached out to the movie’s director, Justin Dillon, and asked him and his team at Made in a Free World — a company that works with individuals and businesses to raise awareness of modern-day slavery — to work on the test.

“Our goal [was to] help individuals understand how their consumer lifestyles may be unwittingly contributing to the perpetuation of slavery,” says Dr. Victoria Ward, a pediatrician on faculty at Stanford University and the board chair of Made in a Free World. “In our effort to disrupt the supply and demand dynamics of trafficking, we continually found that both companies and consumers were not aware of how their purchasing influenced the use of modern-day slaves deep within supply chains.” 

I Want FRDM from Made In A Free World on Vimeo.

And so the team came up with Slavery Footprint, an 11-step test with graphics and information from credible sources to educate users on how and why so many of the staples in our lives — the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the toiletries we use — contribute to modern-day slavery. 

Slavery Footprint asks questions about your lifestyle and consumer habits: How big is your house? What do your meals consist of? How many pairs of leather shoes do you own? So far, 50 million people have taken the test.

The test also has information on 400-plus products broken down by raw materials, from your morning coffee to the shrimp you put on your pasta. Then, on the basis of data vetted by the Trafficking in Persons Report, the Freedom House index and three other reports, each product is provided a score based on how many enslaved workers were used in the “gathering and combination” of the source materials.

In the nine years since the test was introduced, has it helped?

“It’s raised a lot of awareness and, most importantly, motivated consumers that their dollars are some of the loudest votes for supply chain transparency,” says Ward. “We see that consumers are ready to buy from slave-free companies.” 

This Is Jennifer from Made In A Free World on Vimeo.

Ward also believes that the work Made in a Free World has done with companies to help them evaluate their supply chain networks has helped. With both private companies and big public ones like Boeing and Virgin participating, there is more than $20 billion in supply chain value on a platform that ensures trafficking is top of mind in procurement decisions.

Almost a year has passed since Nandan took the test, and he remains uncertain about what effective changes he can make. But if taking the test makes you aware and helps you change your consumption patterns to reduce slavery, it’s helping much more than it’s hurting. 

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories