(Note: this post on modern slavery and ethical consumerism was originally published on June 2, 2013. It has been edited and updated for clarity.)
Have you ever calculated your “slavery footprint”? When we use the term “slavery”, most Americans tend to think of something from a school textbook about the Civil War era. Sadly, slavery is alive and well in the modern world, and it’s lurking in places you might not think to look for it.
While slavery is technically illegal across the globe, that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. In 2013 the SumAll Foundation, a data partner for nonprofits, reported that there were over 27 million slaves in the modern world. In 2020, that number is up to 40 million, according to Anti-Slavery International. A lot of people immediately connect modern slavery with sex trafficking, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. In 2013 a New York Times piece pointed out that first-world consumerism is a driving force behind much of the modern slave trade.
For example, think of the clothes you wear. Do you know where they came from and how they were made? There’s a very good chance they were manufactured in a third-world sweatshop. The workers may even be children pulled out of school to go to work). What about your food? Workers often labor in unsafe conditions for little money to deliver items like coffee and fruit to your table.