Modern global slavery. Those words might sound as if they don’t belong together. Yes, slavery is illegal throughout the world, but it still exists. Estimates of the number of slaves throughout the world vary from 12 million to 27 million. There are slaves cutting down rain forest in Brazil, making charcoal to fuel steel plants. Slaves grow and harvest cotton, sugar, pineapples, rubber, coffee, chocolate… so many products are tainted by slave labor. The farmers who pay their workers get the same for their crop as those who use slaves, and the cotton, or cocoa beans, are mixed together, and nobody really knows which is which, or how much was made by slaves.
Fair trade companies have close relationships with the farms that supply them, and they are able to certify that farmers and farm workers are paid living wages and work under humane conditions. Workers have the right to unionize. Currently, buying fairly traded products is the only way to be completely certain that the products were produced without the use of slave labor.
Coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar are some of the products that you can buy from fair trade companies such as Equal Exchange and Global Exchange.