New Zealanders are being urged to use new breakthrough technology to buy products that are ethically sourced to reduce exploitation.
The call has come from ethical shopping activist Dr Susan Maiava who says the 2021 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery Report shows the number of people living in modern slavery has jumped by 10 million over the past five years, putting the total figure close to 50 million or one in every 150 people in the world. The term modern slavery covers forced labour, child labour, debt bondage and human trafficking.
Maiava, co-founder of not-for-profit organisation fair&good, is calling on Kiwis to use their purchasing power to demand change. She says it is shocking to realise how many products on Kiwi shop shelves are made with labour abuses present in their supply chain - including child labour, modern slavery, low pay and unsafe working conditions.
A World Vision New Zealand report in 2020 revealed that up to $3 billion worth of "risky" products were imported into the country in 2019 and that each week Kiwis spend around $34 on such products.
"I was shocked to find out that the average New Zealander consumes three cups of coffee per week that probably involve forced or child labour," Maiava says. "About $34 of the average Kiwi weekly shopping bill is the same; worker exploitation is in the staple grocery items we buy and the clothes we wear, the sorts of things we buy every week."
Research commissioned by fair&good showed 67 per cent of Kiwis who want to shop ethically say it's hard for them to know which products are free from exploitation.
"The problem is that Kiwis are very fair minded but they don't know how to shop their values. We're solving this problem with new technology. This is something people will not have seen before and it's a real game changer. It will put power in the hands of consumers to demand change"
Maiava says New Zealand is one of the few countries that does not yet have an anti-modern slavery act and yet World Vision reports that 59 per cent of the 50 million people caught up in modern slavery are based in the Asia-Pacific region.
"The problem is so close to home," says Maiava. "But as shocking as it is, I am convinced that through our everyday shopping we can change this. This is our problem to solve and now every person with a computer or Android mobile can help solve it."
Using new ground-breaking technology, fair&good is launching Find Fair, a completely new way of shopping ethically, giving Kiwi consumers real power to be a force for good.
Find Fair is a free Chrome browser extension available to download from the Chrome Store. It is simple to set up and works automatically, and can be used on desktop or tablet and Android mobile.
The extension makes it super easy to identify ethically sourced products by highlighting them as "FAIR" in orange capitals which stand out on the page, so users can instantly spot them while searching the web or shopping online.
Maiava says people might be surprised by the wide range of products that qualify. Who would have thought Milo was ethical? Or Tim Tams? Now you'll know.
Find Fair works on many of the search engines shoppers already use including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo and others, and with all the major online supermarkets including Countdown, New World, Supie, Farro, Paknsave and The Warehouse.
Maiava says by downloading Find Fair consumers can shop with confidence and a clear conscience, knowing they are doing no harm and that the people who make the things they buy are paid fairly and work in safe conditions.
The issue is an important one for many. The Colmar Brunton 2020 Better Futures Report found that 76 per cent of Kiwis would stop buying a company's product or service if they heard the company was irresponsible or unethical, while 50 per cent would consider how a business treats its workers when buying.
Maiava says brands cannot pay to be included. Every highlighted product is independently assessed by fair&good or one of the like-minded organisations it works with: Fairtrade ANZ, Trade Aid, Just Kai, Tearfund, B Corp and the SPCA.
Find Fair endorses brands that have been certified by at least one Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), B Corp or SPCA certification, received an A-plus or A rating from Tear Fund's Ethical Fashion Guide, or are a World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) member.
They are also evaluated according to fair&good's nine values: fair labour, supply chain transparency, community focus, gender equality, inclusiveness, the environment, consistency, animal welfare and giving back.
With larger companies, fair&good looks for best practice code of conduct agreements with suppliers, robust supply chain auditing processes and easily accessible corporate social responsibility reports, while smaller community-based brands have close direct trading relationships.
A Commonwealth Scholar and former lecturer in Development Studies at Massey University, Maiava recalls visiting a garment factory in Bangladesh in 2016 where women were working shoulder-to-shoulder embroidering logos on clothing.
"The room was air-conditioned and I thought 'that's good, it's keeping them cool'. But when it was explained to me that it was not for the workers but to keep the machines cool, I realised that the management valued their machines more than their workers. Ultimately that was what consumers were demanding."
"But I also realised that if consumers can have such a negative influence, then the opposite must also be true; that consumers empowered to make ethical shopping decisions could reduce poverty, inequality and exploitation. That realisation inspired me to start fair&good."
Maiava says fair&good's ultimate aim is to normalise ethical shopping by harnessing our combined purchasing power to reach a tipping point where consumer demand influences retailers to stock ethical products as normal practice.
"This is something Find Fair's game-changing technology can make happen."
For more information go to findfair.co.nz