We all buy slaves.
The clothes we wear. The food we eat. The products we use. Each of these and much more often fuel modern-day slavery.
Instead of buying humans from other continents and bringing them to our nation as our ancestors did centuries before, we have opted to bringing our chains to their homelands. Major companies like Walmart, Nike, Folgers, Forever 21 and Old Navy have exported our so-called past ways to third world countries. These corporations and many others force workers, often kidnapped children, into harsh working conditions for dismal pay.
We as consumers, in turn, buy their products for unbelievably inexpensive prices. We refer to them as “deals” and call people who capitalize on those deals, “bargain shoppers.” We celebrate with our friends, stating, “These deals are too good to be true!”
The reality is they are too good to be true. The products we so frugally buy may cost us nearly nothing because they’re costing the people who make them nearly everything, namely their human dignity.
We all buy slaves and we need to stop.
Why Should You Care?
I often hear that it’s too difficult or inconvenient to shop ethically. However, Jesus never said following Him would be easy or convenient. Instead, He said the road was costly and difficult. In the Old Testament, God proclaimed that He wanted “to see a mighty flood of justice” (Amos 5:24). Proverbs 31 encourages us to a similar lifestyle:
Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
and to defend the needy and the poor.
As Christians, the bottom line is that there is no excuse. We are to stand for justice and to care for the least, the last and the lost because our God does.
Which One Are You?
As my wife and I have been studying, thinking through and trying to make adjustments in our own purchasing, we’ve come across three types of people:
- The uninformed. Many people simply don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. They assume that the ridiculously inexpensive products they found at Walmart in no way feed off of slavery.
- The unwilling (uncaring). Some people flat-out don’t care. They’re willing to crush anyone else if it saves them a dollar.
- The unable. Others realistically are in no way able shop in an entirely ethical manner.
What Can You Do?
When we look at the state of 21st century slave labor and the part that each of us plays, it can be overwhelming, even defeating. We can be left thinking, “What could I possibly do to make any significant impact?” The truth is that the end of slavery begins with us. Here are a couple suggestions for shopping in an ethical manner:
- Take one step at a time. Begin eliminating the use of slavery by targeting one category of products. Make it a family goal to purchase ethically in this category next year [food, produce, clothes, furniture, cleaning supplies, hygiene, etc].
- Read labels. Is the food or coffee your purchasing certified fair trade, non-GMO and/or organic? Are the shoes or clothes you’re buying ethically made? If there isn’t enough information, put the product back on the shelf and do a two-minute Google or Good Guide search to see how the product was made.
- Spend more. Spending less is not always the most ethical or wise option. As noted earlier, although many bargains may benefit us as the consumer, they are often costly to those who made the products.
- Shop local, online or secondhand shops. For food, most cities have local farmers markets or stores that source local farmers. For clothes, accessories, bathing supplies and more, there are great companies like:
- Krochet Kids makes adult and children clothes, accessories, bags and more. Each product is handmade and signed by a lady in Uganda or Peru who crafted it. Each purchase empowers women from these impoverished nations by providing them with decent-paying jobs.
- Proof Eyewear makes handmade prescription glasses and sunglasses, wallets, lighters and more in the U. S. A portion of the profits are currently funding an eye clinic in India.
- Also, check out Claro Candles, Ethica, The Giving Keys, Land of Thousand Hills Coffee Co, People Tree, Raven + Lily, Sevenly, Style with Heart, the marketplace at Toms and Zady. Most of these companies have awesome initiatives like giving back to impoverished communities and empowering women and homeless workers.
- Ask honest questions. How can this product be so inexpensive? By purchasing this product, am I causing harm to a person, community or our environment?
It Begins with Us
The end of slavery begins with us. The choices we make on a daily basis by purchasing one product instead of another affect not only those enslaved today but the generations to come.
May we as God’s people bring a mighty flood of justice by speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves and ensuring justice for those who are being crushed.
- Check out Fair Trade USA.
- Utilize the Ethical Shopping Guide.
- The Good Guide app allows you to scan and look up various products, giving you a rating of how ethically produced the product is.
- The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights does many thorough studies and produces numerous reports of major companies that feed off of and fuel slavery.
- Can You Make Clothes Without Sweatshop Labor? This Dominican Factory is Trying // Kim Bhasin | Check out Georgetown University’s report on the company as well.