A Smartphone App To Help End Child Labor

Do you know where your jeans or your child's favorite toy came from, before they landed on that shelf in your neighborhood store?  Would it make a difference in your shopping habits if you could tell, with just a quick check on your smartphone, that the dress you're about to buy was made with slave labor?  Free2Work thinks so.

A Digital Abolition Movement
Free2Work is a new smartphone application sponsored by the International Labor Rights Forum, and it allows consumers easy access to information about the quality of labor used to create the products on store shelves.  Specifically, Free2Work wants consumers to support companies who do not use child labor or forced labor in their supply chains, and to avoid companies that do.  By using the Free2Work smartphone app, consumers can make informed choices about ethical shopping.

Free2Work assigns grades to companies on an A to F scale, based on each company's policy and record regarding child labor or forced labor.  Companies that receive an A are actively working to prevent slave labor practices and have a strong record with workers' rights.  Companies that receive an F are not actively working to protect the workers in their supply chain, and products from F companies have a high chance of having been made with forced labor.  The B, C and D grades are appropriately tiered between these two extremes.

The Free2Work app for iPhone was introduced in December 2010.  At the time of this article, the Android version has not yet been released, but is in development and may be available in the near future.  Consumers without an iPhone can access company grades through the Free2Work website.

Who Makes The Grade?
Free2Work users can find products by searching company names or browsing categories.  Products indexed by Free2Work are divided into 20 categories, some of which include accessories, digital cameras, kids & babies, outerwear, toys, and TV & video.  The Free2Work app currently tracks more than 40 companies, including big names such as Apple, Adidas, Levi-Strauss, Sketchers and Wal-Mart.

So who makes the grade in Free2Work's rating system?  There are very few A's in the list.  Adidas receives an A-, while Levi-Strauss, Nike and Gap are rated B.  Companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple receive C's, while Amazon, ProFlowers and Sunkist each get a D-.  Free2Work expects to update the smartphone app as new companies are graded, and as companies change their forced labor policies.

The Free2Work ratings are based on information made public by corporate responsibility reports and the International Labor Rights Forum. Supply chains are complicated, and the information used to create the Free2Work ratings may be incomplete.  But even as an imperfect tool, the Free2Work smartphone app is a valuable resource for ethical consumers.

Photo Credit:  liewcf