Smart Consumerism

As the holidays approach many are designing their wish lists and preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year. We all have budgets in our mind, but have you ever wondered why some of our products are so cheap? These days it is hard to find a product that has not been touched by labor exploitation at some point in the supply chain.

Slavery can be found in consumer products such as clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics, sports equipment, rugs, agricultural produce, sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, and many other products. Often products, like clothing, may even have exploitation at multiple points in the supply chain. For example children may have been used to pick the cotton of a shirt, while workers were held in situations of slavery and forced to sew the clothing. Slavery touches each one of us as a consumer.

An organization called Made in A Free World has published a quiz online to tell consumers how many slaves, on average, have touched products they purchase. At individuals can profile their current lifestyle and see how it supports modern day slavery. This site then urges companies to address discrepancies in their supply chain. The Not for Sale Campaign has also been addressing divergences in supply chains by launching a website and mobile app called Free2Work. The application serves as an evaluation and rating system for companies worldwide. The App gives consumers real-time information about a products, labor standards, and corporate practices as well as furthers their engagement through their purchasing decisions.

The efforts of these organizations have helped to equip consumers with the power they need to align their purchasing power with their values. By using tools such as these, individuals can significantly reduce their slavery footprint and attempt to purchase products free of labor exploitation. Being an informed consumer is imperative to sending a message to companies about their labor practices.


Fair trade is a social movement which aims to help producers achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Fair trade products come from farms and workers who are fairly compensated for their work. Cincinnati is no stranger to this movement. Below is a list of some local businesses that strive to make fair trade an integral part of their business model.

  • Maumee World Traders – Housed in Findley Market, this business carries handcrafted local items, as well as a large assortment of Fair Trade goods from nations around the world.
  • Ten Thousand Villages – “handcrafted gift items, personal accessories and home décor from artisans in over 35 countries in developing regions”
  • Chocolats Latour – “gourmet, fair-trade, locally handcrafted chocolates”
  • It’s Only Fair – “Many of our products are made by women who are survivors of human trafficking & prostitution, while others are part of small income generating projects that are focused on empowering the poor.”
  • Community Blend – “Community Blend serves fair-trade coffee, tea and chocolate, as well as delicious sandwiches and locally made baked goods.”

Author: Kellie Gaustad
November 24th, 2014


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