Recently, a series of reports from CNN's Dan Rivers traced slavery in the supply chain. He began in Cambodia, where a woman grieved for her daughter, to a factory in Malaysia where the girl was forced to work for no pay and, ultimately, went to shops in London that sell the products made by slaves.
Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. human trafficking czar - more formally known as the ambassador-at-large for the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons - sat down with CNN's Max Foster to talk about what consumers can learn from the reporting and other tips for keeping slavery out of the supply chain.
CNN: What can we learn from these stories?
CDEBACA: The report that Dan Rivers did is, I think, critically important because his journey from the village, the woman looking for her daughter, going to the factory, but then going back to London and talking to consumers is the exact kind of journey that we all need to take as we look at our own contributions to modern slavery. He's really tracing it back to where it matters, and that's the point of sale.
CNN: It seems that once you see the report, there are problems all the way through the process, and that makes it such a big problem to deal with, doesn't it?
CDEBACA: Well, I think we'd all like to say that this is a problem of some corrupt official or, in the case of Cambodia, an official's wife, or that it's the problem of some factory owner who's taking people's passports and locking them in.
But at the end of the day, it all is responding to the demand of us in developed countries, as well, for these cheap goods.
So, I think that it shows that there's a lot of work to do at each step of the chain, really. At the end of the day, this is a supply chain that reaches all the way back into these villages and to people's houses.
CNN: So, if we consider the consumer's role in this, how actually do we resolve this, because any consumer told that the product they're buying was created thanks to slave labor wouldn't buy the product. I think most people wouldn't, at least, even if it was cheap.
So, how do you inform them apart from doing programs like this? Because there needs to be a bigger drive towards some sort of solution on the consumer side.
CDEBACA: Well, on the consumer side, one of the things that we've found, much as Dan Rivers did when he was asking people on the street in London, is that when people find out about this, they're appalled and they want to do something about it.
And so, that's one of the reasons why we've funded a project recently, Slavery Footprint.org, which is an opportunity for people to go in and calculate their own, for lack of a better word, slavery footprint, kind of like we do with carbon footprint.
What is the impact that I'm making with my consumption patterns and with what I have in my house and my daily life to this global problem of forced labor, this global problem of modern slavery.
CNN: That's a great solution on the face of it, isn't it? But when you have the company that isn't fully aware of the slave labor-related product in its product, how do consumers get the information that they need and make the judgment?
CDEBACA: I think that's, to me, the best thing about Slavery Footprint. It's not just a one-time, take the test and get your slavery number as far as how many slaves around the world are you impacting.
It then has this notion of what are the offsets. And those offsets are making sure that the companies know, I'm in your store, I'm thinking about slavery.
Right now, there's not very many companies out there that have anti- slavery policies, but the ones that do, especially, for instance, the Body Shop, which is very forward-leading on this, you can go into their store and ask the store manager, "What are you doing on this issue?"
If more people do that in more locales, whether it's retail or otherwise, I think we're going to see corporations responding to that.
Related: Are you a slavery-free consumer? Look around at the items you use every day and identify a few you feel certain are slavery-free. It may be harder than it would seem. iReport: Are you a slavery-free consumer?