55 Slaves

This is how many it takes to support my lifestyle.  Shocking, isn’t it?

These people aren’t in my house, or even in my country (probably).  But nevertheless the choices I make have put that number higher than is acceptable.

Living in a country where we are part of the global economy means it is almost impossible to live a slave free life style.  But does that mean we should just accept it?  Pretend like slavery is nothing to do with us because we “didn’t know”?


It’s easy to see fair trade bananas, coffee, tea, and chocolate in the shops and come to the conclusion that the food industry is the main contributor to the problem of modern slavery.

We’d be wrong.

Technology, clothing, cosmetics, jewellery – basically anything you can buy – all contribute.

One of the useful things about finding out your slavery footprint is it can show you how the decisions we make can make a difference.

For me, a big area where I can make an improvement is in the clothing sector.  I mean, in the last 15 years I’ve only had 3 mobile phones.  But number of new wardrobes?  I dread to think.

So recently I have been doing my best to buy ethically sourced clothing.  I would like to say it’s been easy.  But I have run in to a few issues.

Firstly, it feels expensive.  But then maybe it should.  After all, I’m paying someone a decent wage to make it.  New jeans for £10? That’s cotton grown, picked, spun, woven, shipped halfway across the world, dyed, shipped again, fabric cut, stitched, packaged, items shipped again, marketed and distributed, stacked on shelves and put through the till.  For £10?  Even allowing for wage disparities between the developed and developing world, that’s too cheap.

Secondly, it’s inconvenient.  A few weeks ago my cousin got married and I wound up ordering 4 different dresses for the day – none of which fitted.  I ended up with a fair trade skirt and a top from the high street.  It was a compromise. But half the money for the cost of the outfit went to a business that will improve people’s lives.  Which is better than none.

The reality is it won’t be possible to get my number down from 55 to 0 overnight.  Not spending any money at all is neither practical nor is it helpful when the ideal would be for businesses to change how they source their products.

But if I spend less with companies that will force that number of slaves up, and more with companies that will lower it, I’m voting with my cash for change.  If I think before I purchase – do I need this?  Do I need to buy this from this particular business or can I buy it elsewhere more ethically? – then I’m stewarding my money well.  I’m investing in freedom instead of slavery.

Who’s with me?

[If you want to find out your slave footprint, click here.  At the end you can petition the companies you shop with to change how they do business.  All it takes is a few clicks!]