The Importance of Ethical Consumerism
Happy February, Legacy Makers! We hope you've learned a lot during our “Planet Month”, and are ready to learn more about sustainability. This month, we are publishing a series of blog posts related to people and how we can help each other around the world in order to create and foster a safe and healthy environment for all. This blog post addresses child labour - the definition, roots, effects, and how to help.
In order to get started, here are some fast facts about child labour around the world:
152 million children are victims of child labour globally, of which 48% of child labourers work in unsanitary and/or life threatening conditions.
Almost half of the victims of child labour are between 5 and 11 years old.
71% of child labourers are involved in agricultural work.
17% of child labourers are involved in services such as sex trafficking and tourism, domestic labour, food services and housekeeping.
12% of child labourers work in industrial operations, including factories, sweatshops, and brick-making, amongst others.
What is Child Labour?
Before addressing such a complex topic, it is important to define what child labour really is. The International Labour Organization defines child labour as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.” Child labour involves work that is dangerous for children, and prevents or limits them from attending school. It can be characterized in many different ways, some of which can be incredibly severe, such as slavery or exposure to health and safety hazards and illnesses.
What Causes Child Labour?
The causes of child labour lie in a spectrum of issues deeply rooted in the socioeconomic cultures of various countries. One of the main drivers of child labour is poverty. Children are often forced to work to support their families who see child labour as their only option for survival. In addition, a lack of resources, such as access to education and government support, contribute heavily to the problem. These causes are often supplemented by local customs and traditions, many of which limit the potential and growth of children. Aside from local causes of child labour, international companies and their subsidiaries can directly or indirectly cause child labour through weak control over their supply chain and poor labour policies.
How Does Child Labour Affect Us?
Child labour may seem like an issue far removed from us in the western world, but our consumption patterns have a direct impact child labour in many regions around the world. Just in Canada, the goods imported by over 1,200 companies have a high risk of being produced through forced labour or child labour. These imports include commodities such as palm oil, clothing, and coffee, and have experienced a staggering increase of 31% over the last five years. Increasing globalization has caused a substantial gap between the consumer and the producer, and little is known about how and where a product was made.
What Can We Do to Help?
Here are a few steps you can take to help eliminate child labour:
Demand transparency in global supply chains. Reach out to the politicians within your community. Write a letter to your local Member of Parliament and discuss your concerns regarding companies that engage in child labour. Join child labour organizations around the world and help them call for legislation that requires companies to be more transparent in their operations.
Use ethically sourced and fair trade products. For starters, be aware of what you consume. Try and research how the products you purchase are made and where they are made. Read about how your favourite brands produce their merchandise. Products that carry the Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, or UTZ seal signify that child labour has been eliminated in the production process. For more information on the Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certifications, visit the links at the end of this article.
Hold companies accountable. Ask the difficult questions. Ask companies what steps they are taking to ensure child labour is eliminated from their supply chain. Make sure they get the message that this is an issue their customers care about - loud and clear.
Educate yourself and others. Follow organizations that fight against child labour on social media and keep up with current news. Subscribe to news regarding child labour and/or blogs that highlight the issue. Educate yourself and raise awareness by sharing information with family, friends and coworkers.
Donate or volunteer. Donate to not-for-profit organizations that are actively fighting against child labour. Better yet, sign up to be a volunteer/e-volunteer and make direct contributions to the cause. However, it is important to understand the effects of charities on third-world countries and be aware of exactly what steps they are taking to directly help the cause. For a list of UN agencies, Programmes, NGOs and Foundations fighting against all forms of slavery, visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/UNVTFCFS/Pages/SlaveryList.aspx.