You might be surprised to learn that tens of millions of people around the world are enslaved. I was.

Yes, slavery has been outlawed, but it has not been eliminated. And, unfortunately you and I could be supporting slave labor without even knowing it. The items we regularly purchase can so easily come from a corrupt supply chain. Free the Slaves is working to fix that.

The chain from slave to store
Modern slavery, or new slavery, is hidden in a way that old enslavement was not. Unlike the slavery we read about in our history books, forced labor is now rightfully illegal everywhere. However, by threatening violence and making false promises, slave owners still illegally force men, women and children to work without pay.

More than 40 million people need to be liberated from modern forms of slavery. Half of those enslaved people are forced into manual labor and service industries, producing goods that end up in our homes and offices. Commonly, the slaves are so many steps removed from the final product that businesses and consumers don’t realize the raw goods used to make a product were provided through forced labor.

How to break the chain
Free The Slaves works every day to liberate victims of modern slave trafficking. One way you can help in your everyday life is by making more ethical choices when you shop. When you spend your money on slave-free goods, you help stop the flow of funding to human traffickers. Instead, you are redirecting funds to brands that provide a living wage, safe working conditions and sustainably made goods.

From your daily cup of coffee to the device you’re reading this on or the shirt on your back, it can be hard to avoid. Even if the company you’re buying from doesn’t directly enslave people, they could be sourcing their materials from farms, sweatshops or factories that do. Clothing, jewelry, electronics, food and raw goods are most commonly connected to slave labor. Nevertheless, there are ways to keep your money out of traffickers’ hands.

I know what you’re thinking: That sounds like a daunting amount of research. It feels unavoidable to purchase items that have forced labor somewhere in their supply chain and it can be confusing. Organizations like Free the Slaves make it easier by informing consumers and providing resources in addition to their community intervention.

So, what do you look for next time you are at the store (or, more likely, browsing the internet)? Avoid fast fashion and look for labels that say Fair Trade. Fair Trade Certified goods are made all over the world are sold in the U.S. Not only are they empowering people, but they are also sustainable for the environment and supporting local economies in the developing countries they hail from.

Free the Slaves promotes resources and works with online stores like DoneGood that make it convenient to find ethical and sustainable versions of the products that you need in one place. The charity also suggests that you visit Know the Chain for a list of some of the world’s biggest companies, how they rank and the steps they are taking to address forced labor risks. With your buying power, you can demand liberation for those without a choice.

Become a slave-free business
In addition to your personal shopping, the charity has suggestions for how your organization can make a difference. Together with your colleagues, you can open the conversation and close the flow of funding to slave owners. Like I mentioned above, modern slavery is hidden and supply chains are long, so many business leaders are unaware that they are even funding slavery.

If your company is purchasing and selling products – do you know if a slave has touched them along the way? You may not have considered it before, but look for a transparent supplier of goods. By recommending to ensure credible supplies, you could be freeing hundreds or thousands of people by cutting off the source of income to traffickers. Customers and employees will be happy to know that they can feel good about their work and support for your organization.

Fight for freedom
Of course, shopping ethically is only one of the ways you can fight for freedom. People who are especially vulnerable to trafficking are often suffering economic hardship, victims of disaster, seeking refuge, or living in communities without schools and medical facilities. All of which are problems on the rise due to the COVID-19 crisis. The work of Free the Slaves and other Global Impact charities to help individuals improve their lives in these areas makes them less susceptible to trafficking. You can learn more about how your gifts support economic development, stop human trafficking, provide disaster relief and more in our interactive impact infographic.

Ways to make freedom possible

  • Support organizations that are fighting for freedom around the world. Give to Free the Slaves and see if your workplace matches donations to double your impact.
  • Take your money out of the hands of slave owners. Shop from ethically sourced supply chains. Look for fair trade labels and find stores that you trust to carry slave-free products.
  • Become a slavery-free business. If you are directly involved in product buying for your organization, evaluate the supply chains. If not, then start the discussion with your colleagues, and encourage them to make mindful purchasing decisions.
  • Endorse anti-trafficking policies. Contact your senators and representatives to support bills and provide funding that can stop slavery.