Ever thought about how many children, sometimes even 10 years old, contributed to your delicious caramel Frappuccino and chocolate bar, while they are being exploited extensively? Sadly, there are 152 million child labourers all over the world, which 72.5 million of them in very hazardous circumstances. You’ve undoubtedly thought about it, but these are caramel Frappuccino and chocolate strips you can buy anywhere in the world. The label on your chocolate bar doesn’t say: ” Hi, I was made by an 8-year-old boy who has to work two months to get your tasty bar.’’ It is often hard to prove whether there is actually exploitation. The picture below I have taken in a shop in Thailand a week ago. I was quite shocked when this young girl suddenly stood before me and had to help me at the cashier.
Fortunately, there is a rise of conscious consumers and ethical companies that together combat exploitation of (child) labours and polluting environment nowadays. I have started to wonder whether my products are made in a fair way. In various industries such as garments, coffee, electronics and cocoa, there are companies that realize their commercial success depends on their ability to meet customer and environmental concerns and human rights. These companies participate in ” ethical sourcing ”.
”Ethical sourcing is to produce and deliver products
in an ethical and sustainable way.”
OK, first what is ethical sourcing exactly? The main goal of ethical sourcing is to produce and deliver products as well as service in an ethical and sustainable way. That means that companies must ensure that their workers receive fair wages and that human rights are respected. Factories must also be clean and safe. Just think of the terrible disaster in 2013 by clothing factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where more than 1100 people died when the building collapsed. You would just have this on your conscience? Yet, there are multinationals that work neatly on ethical sourcing. But there are some that keep up appearances and pretend to be ethical. A practice often called ‘’greenwashing’’. To three of them, I want to pay attention and explain why you better should boycott them.
You are wondering why Starbucks is in this list? They claim to be ethical, right? I will explain you why this is not true: Starbucks claims to produce certified coffee and that is obviously a good sign. They create their own farming program called Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) to control if their coffee beans are ethically produced and traded. Only what is so unfortunate that Starbucks only purchase 4% of certified coffee beans in total. The 25 times you bought a Starbucks coffee, of these was one coffee really ethical sourced. You can already guess how those 96% of the coffee beans are produced. In addition, according to Starbucks’s report 95.3% of coffee beans are ethical sourced. But they only use their own intern C.A.F.E. system and they are rather weak. Thus, the sustainable and ethically responsible image they emit is actually very skewed. It would be much fairer to consumers, but especially the workers, if their total production of coffee beans is 100% certified and controlled by third-parties.
Now I have already stopped drinking Starbucks coffee, because the prices have risen so badly. For a coffee there, you have two elsewhere.
To be honest, I really appreciate my Apple products and have been a loyal customer for years. Simply because I love its design and the user-friendly software. However, Apple goes against some of my principles. To go more in depth in the production process of Apple, I come across a number of issues that go against human rights and ethical sourcing. I want to show you why Apple is not so ethical in its production process. Investigative journalists have explored where some Apple parts came from. They traced that cobalt, a metal used in special batteries, is won by child labourers, sometimes not even seven years old. These children work in illegal mines in Congo. In addition to child labor, adults also work in these mines, but that does not make the situation less bad, because the working conditions in the mines are very bad and unsafe. The mining sector is doing everything it can to make the working conditions better and to work more ethically. Unfortunately, Apple thinks that saving costs is more important than pursuing human rights.
However, are you already able to say goodbye to your unethical familiar products?
Now you will be completely surprised why I want to announce this shoe brand. TOMS model is that if you buy shoes, then TOMS also donates a pair to a poor child who really need them. The brand has donated already more than 10 million pairs of new shoes. So, at first sight it looks like a very ethical and smart model. But let’s take a closer look at the company. It is already ineffective for two reasons. First, young children grow rapidly through their shoe size so TOMS has to deliver a lot of shoes per year. Secondly, the brand has less opportunity for local sellers to develop their entrepreneurial skills themselves. ‘’Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’’ However, if we go a step further and focus on the supply chain of TOMS, there are things that stand out.
TOMS buys its shoes at Chinese and Ethiopian factories. The conditions there are controlled by independent parties. However, the factories purchase the cotton from cotton farms without checking the working conditions and whether there is no child labor. On that you have to wonder how ethical such a supply chain of a company is. Moreover, both the sales shoes and the donation shoes are purchased at a very low price, and sold for an average of 60 dollars. The company therefore makes a lot of profit.
Fortunately, there are many companies that actually comply with Ethical Sourcing. After the catastrophe of Rana Plaza, Primark became a member of the independent Ethical Trading Initiative and the International Labor Organization, a body of the United Nations. Actually, this should have happened much earlier, I think, but it is at least an improvement. Other examples of companies are Levi’s, Tony Chocolonely chocolate brand and Lush.
What I actually want to make clear to you is that you become more aware of where your products and services come from, in this case your caramel Frappuccino. Besides focusing only on the business model of companies, there is a whole supply chain behind that does not always strive for human rights or a better environment.
I do not want to urge you to boycott companies, but keep in mind that companies can use the label ‘’Ethical Sourced’’ to create a pretended ethically responsible image. I also realize that no company is perfect, but companies that keep up appearances deserve to be put in a bad light.
Ultimately it is you who decides.
- Apple supplier in China denies labour abuse charges (January 17, 2018) CBS news. Retrieved from: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/apple-supplier-in-china-denies-labor-abuse-charges/
- From the Sweat of our Children. (2014, April 24). The World Counts. Retrieved from: http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Child-Labor-Facts-and-Statistics
- Millions of children across the globe are engaged in child labour. (2017). Retrieved from: https://www.alliance87.org/2017ge/childlabour#!section=3
- Richey, L., A. and Ponte, S. (2015). New Actors and Alliances in Development: Toms Shoes (pp.78-80). Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.th/books?id=f6rDCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=toms+shoes+produced+china+labours&source=bl&ots=hDH7SUZ2VJ&sig=sr9fq_9k2_41U5WNGp9Z1scn4uE&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjlvaWuvcbZAhUHoZQKHVleB_IQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=toms%20shoes%20produced%20china%20labours&f=false
- Schultz, H. (2013) Starbucks Global Responsibility Report, Goals and Progress 2013. Retrieved from Starbucks: http://globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/98e5a8e6c7b1435ab67f2368b1c7447a.pdf
- Turak, N. (2018, February 22). Apple’s potential mining play is about more than money, industry experts say. Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/apples-potential-cobalt-mining-play-is-about-more-than-money-experts.html