Labeling Child Labor


1-React to Past Blog

In response to the blog, “Who is Accountable for Child Labor?”

The original blog, “Who is Accountable for Child Labor?” discusses the current situation of child labor in the retail industry.  It explains that companies need to be more aware if their products are being produced through child labor, and on the other end, that consumers need to be more aware of the values of the companies they open their wallets for.

The blog states that consumers need to be conscious of where their clothing comes from, and the process of which it was created.  The line that stuck with me the most was, “It seems that transparency is going to be the best way to fix the problem.  Companies need to be more transparent in their corporate responsibilities and consumers need to feel burdened by child labor that produces their clothing.”

I believe the best way to tackle this problem is through product labeling.  There are huge lobbies in DC right now regarding food labeling – on whether genetically modified food should be labeled or left unmarked, and the social ramifications of marking all our produce as “GMO,” “non-GMO,” or not at all.  Inspired by those initiatives, I believe the best way to achieve the transparency needed to fix the problem brought up in the past blog is through clothing labeling.

Much in the way clothing states where it was made, I propose clothing would also state whether or not it was made using child labor (as defined by certain parameters created when the law that passed that determines what conditions constitute child labor).  Clothing made with child labor would get a shameful label that taints their brand and harms their image. Meanwhile, if a company is inspected and found free of any child labor practices, they would be able to label their clothing as free of child labor, in the same way cosmetics can label ‘not tested on animals.’  It would become a mark of pride, and could be advertised as such.  If we wanted to go a step further, different degrees of child labor could even be ranked, so the clothing could convey if the article was made under mild or severe conditions of child labor.  However, I’m hesitant to do this because if we make the label too complicated we could confuse the consumer and lessen the impact.

This labeling would be an extremely transparent way of making corporations responsible for their manufacturing practices, and burden the consumer with the weight of the child labor they’re encouraging by shopping there.  By putting this label on every article of clothing, the burden of child labor will affect them at the moment of purchase – not while reading the newspaper at home.  Consumers might then think twice before purchasing that $4 shirt at H&M if it’s labeled to remind them it was manufactured at the hands of an 8-year-old in Bangladesh.

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2 thoughts on “Labeling Child Labor

  1. Great post! I think the idea on putting a “label” on clothes to indicate where they have come from is an interesting idea. Do you think that through the process of globalization it has been increasingly more difficult for companies to monitor their supply chains? Also, do you think that consumers have enough buying power to make a difference in the face of corporate giants such as Walmart?

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    1. Thanks for replying! I do think business globalization has made it more difficult for companies to monitor their supply chains — but the technology available today also makes it more and more accessible. Tracking capabilities of products through supply chains are becoming increasingly more advanced, so a company like Hanes (a big offender of child labor) has no excuse to plead ignorant of their practices. These companies know they’re profiting from child labor, and labeling will just bring it to the public’s attention.

      To your second question, I do think consumers have enough buying power to make a difference in the face of corporate giants. Even if only 5% of consumers (1 out of 20) decide not to buy the shirt from H&M, that’s a significant drop in sales. Stockholders will see the drop, recognize that the new labels are the cause, and put pressure on the company to change. The media will also have a feeding frenzy over the issue — chewing apart companies with significant child labor offenses and tying it to the 5% decrease in sales. The labeling is more a way to tarnish the company’s name and shame them into making a change.

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