CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ahead of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking is reminding customers to choose their products and retailers carefully to avoid contributing to the forced labor trade.
The United Nations, this year, estimated 28 million people around the world, including children, are in forced labor – often called modern slavery – and the number keeps rising. Coffee, cocoa, tobacco, cotton and garments are some of the most common goods produced by child labor, specifically.
Most forced labor traces to Asia and the Pacific, but the UN estimates there are more than 3.5 million cases in the Americas.
Because there is no central reporting system in the U.S., there’s no way to track how many individuals in Cuyahoga County or even Ohio are trafficked each year, according to Kirsti Mouncey, president and CEO of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking. The organization unites more than 70 agencies to prevent sex and labor trafficking in Cuyahoga County.
But Ohio is among the top states with the highest call volume for help to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, she said.
“Human trafficking is a problem that has so many tentacles, but one of the ways we can help end it is through smart shopping,” Mouncey said in a news release. “This holiday season, we can all do our part to help end human trafficking if we can decrease – or even stop – the demand for products created by forced labor.”
When shopping, look for products with “Fair Trade” on the label, which means companies are taking action to promote fair wages across their supply chains, she said. The most common names customers will find are “Fairtrade America,” “Fair Trade Certified,” “Fair Trade USA,” “Fair Trade Federation” and “Fair for Life.”
She also recommends shoppers research products at www.fairtradeamerica.org. Among grocery items, they’ll find goods from recognizable retailers like Russell Stover, Kind and Ben & Jerry’s.
Equal Exchange also distributes coffee, tea, chocolate, avocados and other items produced by farmer cooperatives that pay fair wages. And Ohio Fair Trade keeps a list of participating businesses, statewide.
Locally, the collaborative recommended six retailers they say sell Fair Trade products:
- Joyce’s Boutique and Hair Salon, in Chagrin Falls, sells jewelry, bags, accessories and other products that support fair trade practices
- One World Shop, in Rocky River, sells artisan-made goods from 65 different countries
- Revy, in Cleveland, sells products from artisans in El Salvador
- Shema, an Ohio-based online store, sells all-natural fair trade shea butter products
- Storehouse Tea, in Cleveland, sells fair-trade teas in several local specialty stores
- Esperanza Threads, in Cleveland, trains unemployed and underemployed people for jobs in the Cleveland garment industry and sells some of the products they make
Learn more about some of the stores and what they do, here.