We can all be more conscientious about who is supplying our daily goods and services. Are the products we enjoy and the trades we engage provided by employees who are fairly paid? Are these workers receiving their entitled benefits and rights? Ask questions and create the demand for goods and services that are supplied legally and ethically.
Globalisation has delivered many positives for Australians. We now have greater choice of products and more competitive prices. Shareholders have benefited from greater profitability as a result of lower costs of supply. These advantages may come at a great cost to workers in developing countries who do not have the legal protection of work rights that exist in Australia. Slave labour drastically reduces the cost of raw materials and manufacturing.
There is currently no requirement for businesses to publish where their raw materials are sourced from and where production occurs. Consumers are generally not provided with information that would assist them in making more ethical purchasing decisions. Without such knowledge, it is likely that Australian businesses may be profiting from the use of slave labour and consumers are unaware unknowingly supporting such practices.
There are NGOs in Australia that are working to address this lack of transparency to provide consumers with a more informed choice. The Ethical Fashion Guide recently published by Baptist World Aid Australia is a good example of this, as is the recent Chocolate Score Card from Be Slavery Free.
The Fair Trade movement provides an example of how developing countries benefit from fairer working conditions and improved living standards as a result of more transparent supply chains and fairer trading practices.
Some businesses are working to address the issue of slavery in their supply chains and we commend the work of Konica Minolta and Fortescue Metals Group for their efforts.
These examples show that there is an appetite for businesses and consumers for ethical manufacturing processes, however, this fractured approach has had limited reach.
The Mercy Foundation endorses the view of the Walk Free Foundation that the collaboration of business, government and civil society is required to make a major impact in this area.
Image credits: CC Flikr/Quinn Dombrowski; CC Flikr/Atomische Tom Giebel; CC Haitham alfalah; CC Flikr/Carlos Medina; CC Flikr/ErciParker; CC Flikr/ILO/M.Crozet