Dirty cotton: a 'complex supply chain'

photo of a boy struggling to pick up a large heavy bag of cotton

Cotton picking is arduous work. The harvest begins in the late summer, when temperatures in the fields remain at about 25 degrees and can continue until the onset of the Uzbek winter. Each year during the harvest there are reports of fatalities and injuries from accidents. © Thomas Grabka

The primary product manufactured from cotton is clothing, which accounts for some 60% of the world's total cotton production. European and North American consumers account for around 75% of world clothing imports.

Hiding behind a 'complex supply chain' allows the cotton industry to avoid providing direct assurance that its practices are free from child labour (or other abuses). Consequently, consumers are denied the opportunity to make informed choices before purchasing.

However, some retail companies have developed systems which enable the origin of cotton to be determined. They have refused to purchase cotton from countries found to use slave labour, demonstrating it is possible to provide assurances to the consumer that cotton is free from child labour.

By providing consumers and retailers with the opportunity to make informed decisions in their purchase of cotton products, the brutal practices of slave labour in the cotton industry will be significantly undermined.