Ban On Slave Labor Is Not Enough

Yesterday President Obama signed into law a ban on products produced using slave labor.  You may find it interesting that we have never had such a law in the US, but for the past 85 years a simple loophole in a tariff law allowed such products to be imported if "consumptive demand" existed.  Basically, if more demand existed for a product than could be responsibly produced then values be damned, slave labor is fine.

While closing this loophole is a step in the right direction and will help prevent some products from being sold in the US, the sad reality is most slave produced products will still come into the US undetected.  The supply chain these products flow through is long and complicated and as a result companies will continue to invoke plausible deniability until we as consumers demand more from them.  Look no further than Rip Curl recently being exposed as having some products manufactured by slave labor in North Korea of all places.  The company's response "This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorised subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorised factory, in an unauthorised country, without our knowledge or consent".  In essence they threw their hands up and said - we didn't know.

At GoodWell we don't believe it is acceptable behavior for companies to benefit from long complex supply chains which seek out the lowest cost of labor possible, without taking responsibility for those supply chains from top to bottom.  So while a law banning imports which are knowingly produced with slave labor can be celebrated as bringing the US up from the dark ages, much more needs to be done and it starts with you and me.  We have to demand more from the companies we spend our dollars with.  The GoodWell certification standard provides a simple framework to eliminate these injustices, but it is the GoodWell consumers who must demand it.  We need to add your voice to ours if we are going to make a difference.  Please consider becoming a Founding Member today.

Oliver Russell