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Cotton and Clothing

Introduction

Many garments made by trafficked individuals can be found on clothing racks around the country and in some of our favorite retail stores. The Department of Labor's 2016 report on human trafficking cites 18 countries producing cotton using exploitive labor. Children as young as five-years old are doing this work while not getting paid and not receiving education. They work 12 hour workdays, 6 days a week, and have minimum freedom outside the factory walls.

Why is this different than other trafficked goods?

Turing raw cotton into a garment requires several steps including:  planting, harvesting, ginning, spinning, dying, cutting and sewing. Each step adds further complexity and risk of exploitation into clothing supply chains. In order to ensure worker rights and ethical products, it is critical that companies have strong policies and training and the ability to trace and monitor their full supply chain.

What can I do to help?

Clothing companies are taking great strides in their transparency and efforts to reduce human trafficking from their products. Many of the companies started from the ground up with the mission to promote social and environmental responsibility. Other companies have joined the fight and have enforced ethical practices in the making of their clothing. Included in this section are some companies that should be highlighted for their efforts against fast fashion and forced labor. By shopping at these retailers, you can start a trend in the industry that illustrates an importance in fair wages and healthy living conditions.

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