Not that anyone's about to curl up in an armchair and read this thing cover to cover, but pages 37 through 44 of the U.S. Department of Labor's recently issued report on child labor and forced labor could make for some interesting browsing. That's the product-by-product list of which countries use which of the two types of labor.
Change.org (which pointed me to the report) highlights some of the worst offenders here, and notes the need for more analysis. To whit, what specific companies source problematic goods and sell them in the U.S.?
My last post points to the issue of sweatshops overseas, but as this article on the Florida fruit-picking industry shows, the U.S. has exploitation problems of its own.
Toward the end of the story, the reporter mentions a campaign waged by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a local advocacy group, to get major buyers to pay a penny extra per pound of tomatoes in order to improve the lot of the workers. McDonald’s and Yum Brands (which owns such chains as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell) have agreed to the plan, but Burger King refuses, using the familiar old “we don’t employ them, so they’re not our problem” rationale.
It’s a pretty tired excuse in a day and age when corporations are increasingly expected to take responsibility for the unethical practices of their suppliers by getting them to either change their evil ways or say adios to all those fat purchase orders.
Still, I wasn’t particularly surprised. But I was shocked to read that Whole Foods Market “has been discovered stocking tomatoes
from one of the most notorious Florida sweatshop producers” and that it, like Burger King, had also refused to pay the extra penny per pound.
I haven’t even heard this Talk of the Nation segment yet, because I’m about to hop on a plane to visit family for the holidays. But I intend to listen to it later, as it’s about sweatshops and third-party auditors—all up my alley, and very apropos for the materialism-laced holidays.
What a great feeling to find an e-commerce site that states in big letters on its home page that it sells “only goods made in countries where labor laws or unions are in place to protect the workers! We don’t sell any products made in China or other countries known for sweatshops.”
Pangea sells not only shoes but all sorts of things: cleaning products, pet supplies, cruelty-free cosmetics and body care, etc.
How does it vet its merchandise? I traded email with Pangea employee Phil, who told me that the company’s main source of information is its founder, Shari Kalina. “Over the past 11 years she’s had to do so much research and have so many discussions with various experts that she has probably learned more than can be found at any single website,” he wrote. “For any unfamiliar ingredient, she’ll use the internet as a starting point and then get in touch with as many people as necessary for us to be confident about the
Which tells me that Pangea must be a pretty small operation. But it’s one I’m happy to support. In fact, I’m eyeing a pair of red No Sweat high-tops right now...
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).