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Until There are Cruelty-Free Smartphones
I hadn't until recently. The makers of a new web site and app, SlaveryFootprint.org, want to help consumers understand the connection between the stuff we buy and the people who may have been forced to make it against their will. (An estimated 27 million people are working under unfair conditions on almost every continent.) When I took this survey on the site, I learned that electronic devices, including smartphones, are made with a superconductor called coltan, and some coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where forced labor is a huge problem. I was also informed of my “slavery footprint” (think carbon footprint), which is the likelihood that forced labor was involved in making the things I own.
The project was designed by an anti-slavery non-profit called Call + Response in collaboration with the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Justin Dillon, the CEO of Call + Response, says that the intention of the site isn’t to stop people from buying things they need or to boycott manufacturers. “Most big companies probably don’t even realize how they’re connected to forced labor,” he told us. Instead, the campaign was designed to make clear the person-to-person connections within the massively complicated global supply chain.
The hope is that after we get our score, we’ll take action by either talking about this issue with our friends, sending a message to corporations asking them to step up awareness of the issue, and eventually downloading an app that will help us make better decisions while shopping in stores (that app is still being perfected). Instead of making me want to throw up my hands at the injustice of it all, performing these small actions helped me feel like I'm at least doing something--albeit small--to advocate for a more free world.
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