mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Organic, "Fair Trade" Products Made By Child Slaves

Clueless incompetence meets western and third world greed over and over in the fantasy world of do-gooding NGOs; a particularly chilling example comes from a Bloomberg story today about how children in Burkino Faso are beaten and abused to produce “fair trade” cotton and high priced Victoria’s Secret underwear.  After describing the horrific conditions under which children all over the country are forced into labor on the organic, fair trade cotton farms, the piece notes that these abuses have been reported before.  The NGO responsible for the “fair trade” label appears to have done little to follow up reports of widespread child abuse and exploitation.  Victoria’s Secret executives appear to have been too busy thinking up sexy new lingerie ideas and writing catalog copy praising their exalted company ethics to ask any questions.

Read the whole piece and understand that much of the global do-gooding industry works in exactly this way.  Consumers feel virtuous, companies get a marketing boost, NGO executives get paid and the kids in the cotton fields labor on as before.  Making the world a better place is hard, but you can make a lot of money telling people that it’s easy.  That is exactly what a lot of NGOs do.

Features Icon
show comments
  • SC Mike

    Ah, we should take the Fair Trade stamp as seriously as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It’s right up there with “UN-sanctioned.”

    Noted, and thank you.

  • Martin Berman-Gorvine

    My “favorite” detail in the article is that 13-year-old child slave Clarisse has to carry buckets of s–t on her head so that the cotton she harvests by hand can be deemed “organic.”
    “Everybody knows the deal is rotten
    Old Black Joe still pickin’ cotton
    For your ribbons and bows
    And everybody knows.”–Leonard Cohen

  • Sasha

    Limited Brands has posted its response onto its website stating how important it is for to them to resolve this matter and how this is not part of its company’s values. Even though the website seems to have a response to what has been happening with this poor girl the Victoria Secret FaceBook has only had one response to all of the allegations. In today’s society were many are constantly marketing and networking through FaceBook I believe that Victoria’s Secret should be more active with their posts. Instead of currently focusing and its deals I believe it should have much more feedback and responses to this case. Many of the comments on the page deals with questions regarding the allegations. I believe that not only Limited Brands but also Victoria’s Secret should speak out about this matter through social media. Companies should have more supervision and monitoring of partner programs where its materials are picked and produced. With Companies such as Nike, which have had these similar allegations Companies, should learn from others and watch closely where and how every segment of its clothing/product production is occurring.

  • Michael Zelmer

    Following its own investigation of the claims made by Bloomberg, Fairtrade International released its response yesterday.

    It can be found on the front page of (or directly at In particular, it refutes the claims that the person featured in the articles was involved in cotton production at all (Fairtrade certified or otherwise) and that she was under the age of 18. It also raises serious concerns regarding the journalist’s methods.

    Nevertheless, it should be noted that no system can guarantee that a product is 100% child labour free. However, the Fairtrade system has standards against it, an audit-based monitoring system to catch it if it occurs, and clear protocols on what to do if it does that focus first on the safety of any at-risk children and second on mitigating the risk of it happening again.

    As an additional point, Victoria’s Secret products are not Fairtrade certified. To be certified, they would also have to submit to regular on-site audits and reporting to ensure compliance with Fairtrade standards, in addition to sourcing cotton from certified farmers.

    Michael Zelmer
    Fairtrade Canada

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service