According to a new report by the Walk Free Foundation.
For a few years, the idea that the fashion industry was the world’s second-most polluting industry circulated constantly, repeated in endless articles and sustainabilitysummits. While that fact has turned out to be impossible to prove, a new report suggests one that’s just as dark: The fashion supply chain funnels more money toward modern slavery than any other industry besides tech.

Slave labor sneaks into the fashion industry in myriad ways, from children who are lured into coerced factory labor via promises of free education to cotton pickers who are kept in debt bondage by their employers. In an increasingly globalized industry, where fabric may be woven, cut and sewn in different nations before being shipped to yet another to be sold, slavery in any country is a problem for every country.

The U.S., for example, has one of the lower rates of modern slavery, but far out-consumes its global neighbors. While California passed an act in 2010 that requires large companies to publicly disclose their efforts to address slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains, the act is only valid in that state — and any brand with an annual global business under $100 million is exempted from this transparency legislation.

So what can be done to address the problem and move toward a slavery-free global supply chain? It starts, the Walk Free Foundation suggests, with citizens and governments everywhere acknowledging that we’re all implicated in this mess.

“Too often, the onus of eliminating modern slavery is placed only on the countries where the crime is perpetrated,” the Global Slavery Index website claims. “They certainly have a responsibility, but they are not alone in this regard. An atrocity as large and pervasive as modern slavery requires a united, global response.”

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