At times it is daunting to acknowledge the fact that slavery has been a constant theme of our world’s history. It is also inspiring to see civilians such as William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglas, and Martin Luther King become renowned heroes. They dedicated their lives and work to change the status quo and open the gates for a more fair world. Thanks to their relentless work, justice systems around the world lean favorably against slavery; but sadly, modern slavery still exists and some alarming statistics even suggest that slavery is currently at its worst.
What is the job of our contemporary heroes?
The work of the abolitionists in the past centuries consisted in changing legislation. Triumphantly they achieved so, but the struggle to end modern slavery has less to do with laws and more to do with business practices.
Businesses are shaped by a struggle of powers. Often, it is a very healthy and necessary struggle around supply and demand, the needs of the market, and particular situations that may spark a special interest in a venture. It is in the cases when the struggle of power leaves one party without dignified conditions and opportunities to conduct business ethically that modern slavery emerges. Most modern slavery is based on situations in which a farmer only has the ability to negotiate with one supplier and such supplier takes advantage of the situation by setting a price for the product that is unfair to the farmer. If the farmer is not respected by the industry as a party-at-large, his options for a dignified living are cut short.
Industries may also be attacking the human rights of those laboring in the bottom by taking more than necessary cuts on the product. Doing so leaves the resellers with two options, taking a smaller margin of profit or lowering the wages of the suppliers. It is when the choice is the latter that modern slavery emerges.
For the past twenty years, great efforts have been made to change this. The internet has been a major player in informing people about where their money goes and socially we have moved towards responsible spending. Simultaneously, accessibility has allowed for more ethical businesses to be born. It seems as if there is a major appreciation and desire for businesses accountability across the board.
Going back to our initial question: What is the job of our contemporary heroes? We can say that the issues of modern slavery is in the hands of the consumers. We can protest, we can write letters, and make demands; but in the current system, nothing is as effective as simply being conscious of how we spend our money. Think of the money you spend on everyday goods as an investment in the changes you want to make in the world.
Pay close attention to the markets in which the product involves manual labor and a craft. Whether it is farmers, miners, or crafters -Your expense shapes the quality of their life, and while they remain humble and simple, their salaries must be fair.
Guadalupe Roastery was founded with the commitment to provide fair opportunities to the coffee farmers we work with. We have extended that commitment beyond the financial exchange and contributed to the communities by building a school and genuinely caring for the needs of our farmers.