The Truth Behind the Turtleneck

Picture this.

You’re at your favorite store in the mall, lets say Abercrombie and Fitch. You’re just browsing through the racks, not really looking for anything in particular,  when you spot the absolutely perfect sweater. It’s super soft, your favorite color and there’s only one left in your size. And 50% off. You grab it without a second thought and make a beeline for the register. You cash out and take the sweater home and that is the end of the story.

Chances are, most people have had many shopping experiences like this one. As a rule of thumb people take size, color, brand and price into consideration when buying something. We rarely think of where the item came from, how it was made or who made it. And that is a problem.

Enter Free2Work, a project started by the agency Not For Sale. According to their website, the goal of the Free2Work project is “to provide consumers with information on how products relate to modern day slavery,”

According to Free2Work.org, the modern day slave trade system is a very complex network. Because the products we use in our everyday lives travel though a long chain of manufacturing and processing before they reach our hands, its difficult for most consumers to know which companies are offenders of using slave labor to produce their products. Therefore Free2Work wants to “shed light” on where exactly our products are coming from.

In order to make consumers more informed Free2Work has conducted extensive studies on companies in a wide variety of industries such as clothing and food producers. They conduct research using public information and data put forth by each company. Free2Work asks each company a series of 61 questions dealing with “policies, transportation and traceability, monitoring and training, and worker rights.”

After conducting their research, Free2Work gives each company a letter grade ranging from “A” to “F” which defines their efforts in making sure that labor slavery does not exist in their company.

Consumers can then find a list of companies ratings on the Free2Work website, free2work.org, or download the Free2Work app. The app includes a barcode scanner. A consumer can scan the barcode of a product they are considering purchasing while in the store and instantly become more informed about where the product came from.

Students in Deb Flaherty’s CWI class at Woodland Regional High School, who have just completed a unit about modern day slavery, learned about the Free2Work project when guest speaker Ariel Dowski gave a presentation to the class. Dowski is a Woodland alumni and a current senior of UCONN who spoke  to the class about the Love146 chapter at UCONN, of which she is the president. Love146 is a global nonprofit that works to end child trafficking and exploitation.

The class was inspired by the idea of the program.

“I love shopping,” said CWI student Erin Mascoli, “so I’m going to use the Free2Work app all the time because I really want to support the right brands.”

Dowski learned about the Free2Work app through other members in the Love146 group. She believes that it is a great tool that can help people make a difference in stopping trafficking.

“Free2Work makes it so easy to support the brand that has the most fair trade conditions,” said Dowski.”It’s such a small and effortless step that could make such a big difference, so why wouldn’t you use it?”

Check out free2work.org or downlaod their app “Free2Work” to see how your favorite brands rank in the fight against human trafficking.