Forced Labor and the First Edition of Global Slavery Index

Tim Fernholz (Quartz) has written an interesting post entitled, There Could Be Slaves in the Supply Chain of Your Chocolate, Smartphone and Sushi. According to the first edition of Global Slavery Index, it is estimated that there are 30 million slaves in the world. The index, from the Walk Free Foundation, indicates “the largest form of forced labor is in private industry, where about two-thirds of people working in slave conditions – usually forced or bonded labor – are found.” Andrew Forrest of Fortescue Metals Group is funding this new campaign that measures where global slavery exists. “The goal of Forrest’s group, inspired by Bill Gates’ data-centric philanthropy, is to make slavery easy to quantify, and thereby pressure international companies not to put up with it.” Sourcing materials to distant locations, due to global trade growth, has led some companies with weak supply-chain policies to use forced labor. Here are a few (directly quoted) examples:

  • This summer, an Australian man imprisoned in China reported that prisoners were making headphones for global airlines like Qantas and British Airways.
  • Companies like Apple, Boeing and Intel—among thousands of others—have been under pressure to document that the tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold you they use aren’t being mined by slaves in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a civil war has led armed groups seeking funding to force civilians to work.
  • Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading supplier of cocoa—some 40% of the global supply—and much of it is grown and harvested by some children engaged in forced labor.
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