Be Ethical: Students should research brands to encourage fair labor practices, dissuade exploitative child labor

Raiha Zainab

The holiday season is all about love, food, snow—and best of all: gifts. ‘Tis the season when Santa comes to town and we show our love for each other through a pile of presents underneath the Christmas tree. However, while this season of giving is an amazing time for most, there is an underlying cost.

Most people are unaware of the hidden costs associated with their excessive spending. While many flock to stores such as Walmart, Forever 21 and H&M for their low prices, they often do not know of the unethical and exploitative techniques these businesses use to keep their prices so low.

According to CNN, in 2013, a sweatshop in Bangladesh that supplied clothing for those stores collapsed, killing over 1,000 garment workers. However, according to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, little has been done to improve conditions for workers since that time. These corporations are known for underpaying their workers and using exploitative child labor in the manufacturing of their products. In fact, according to UNICEF, 150 million children aged 5 to 14 were found to be employed in dangerous and unsafe conditions in sweatshops in countries all over the world including the United States.

Most of these children work in retail factories, making products that will later be shipped west. Some of them have to work up to 13 hours a day, only making 20 cents in income. They often make barely-livable wages in order to support their families and are consequently unable to get an education or build a life for themselves, contributing to an endless cycle of inhumane working conditions.

As you get gifts for your loved ones this holiday season, do a little more research on where the products you’re buying come from. As you shop in your daily life, be more conscious about your impact on the global exploitation of workers and human trafficking victims. I’ve found alternatives to many of the stores I previously shopped at, and instead of going to the mall, I’ll go to local stores, ethically-based online companies or thrift shops. As we spend our money, we are essentially voting for the companies we want to survive or fail, so make these votes count.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Raiha Zainab at [email protected]