Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Season of Consumption

As many people around the world celebrate religious and secular holidays with their family by exchanging gifts, food, and love, we at BASI need to remind ourselves that the items exchanged may be products from human trafficking and slavery. Some major corporations audit and train individuals to identify global and local abuses. Yet there are concerns about lack of intervention.

At the Trust Women 2013 Conference, the first keynote speaker Anne Gallagher spoke of the past, present, and future in regards to human trafficking outreach.

Dr. Gallagher emphasizes briefly that activism requires action. That words alone are not enough for change. This Holiday season, when buying or receiving gifts, consider merchandises' origins. We are looking more into our products and learning more about the person behind the stitches of a shirt or the clasp of a coat.

Bruno Pieters discusses the embodiment of such action at TEDxGhent. Price and supply chain transparencies are important to for customers read up on, and we should recognizes companies for being ecologically sustainable. On the flip-side, we should exercise our own abilities to shop smart and penalize industries and companies by not giving business.

A pervasive product of note, palm oil ranges from being in foods to soaps to cosmetics, and also as animal feed and biofuel. Palm oil is rarely listed as an ingredient on product labels, with the term "vegetable oil" often being used instead. but original infograph from

A young farm-worker in Berau, Indonesia, loading oil palm bunches.
The production and trade of palm oil is rapidly expanding. Large corporate producers in Malaysia and Indonesia are continuing to expand their land holdings and their workforce to meet the demand. The palm oil industry is now one of the most significant employers in Malaysia and Indonesia, employing as many as 3.5 million workers. In the global supply chains, these workers can face significant vulnerability, patterns of abuse and malpractice, and coercion at various stages of the recruitment, migration, and employment process. This includes policies and regulations in home and host countries that can exacerbate their vulnerability. For businesses linked to such circumstances through business relationships, this amounts to forced and trafficked labor in their supply chains. Many of these workers are victims of serious labor exploitation including workers are trafficked into bonded labor, forced to work and live under extreme conditions, with limited legal recourse, suffer from abuse or the threat of abuse, and/or are victims of child labor. Traffickers who prey on victims face few, if any, sanctions from business or government officials.

In recent years, media and civil society reports have focused the world’s attention on the unsustainable environmental practices that often characterize palm oil production in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia because of the vast deforestation and subsequent animal depopulation of the areas. Growers can make improvements in several environmental areas, including taking steps for responsible land acquisition, area management, and providing ecosystem services.

But, palm oil is such a pervasive product? What can I do?

If you need oil and can afford alternatives, buy products that do not use palm oil or buy from certified green companies. Research must be done on the consumers' part, but you must also exercise our right to vote so that businesses and companies feel the pressure and utilize human and environmentally safe practices. 

Check out the recent BASI posts regarding other products: Cotton, Diamonds, and Fashion

Relevant Resources

Breaking the silence on slavery: why companies need to do more:

Advent Conspiracy:

Pope Francis speaks out on human trafficking:

Green Palm Sustainability:

Sustainable Palm Oil:

Verité's PDF:

Humanity United's PDF:

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