Of all the social indignities the garment industry promotes, child labor ranks among the worst. It’s galling in its pervasiveness, from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where low-caste girls are lured into bonded servitude with the promise of better dowries, to the cotton fields of Uzbekistan, where upwards of 2 million children—some as young as 7—are forced by their government to toil for 10 hours a day, two to three months out of every year. According to the International Labour Organisation, which defines child labor as as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity,” roughly 168 million are trapped in mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous occupations that jeopardize their wellbeing. A group of childcare educators in New Zealand wants to change that, however.

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Working in tandem with UNICEF and Saatchi & Saatchi, Child Labor Free is a new organization-cum-movement that seeks to wield the power of the consumer to create a world where “children are free to be children.”

Its tentpole offering? A first-of-its-kind accreditation system and certification mark that verifies that a product was made without employing children. Brands applying to the the Child Labor Free mark must provide manufacturing, component, and sourcing information, along with evidence that child labor is absent in their supply chains, for assessment by an auditor from EY (née Ernst & Young). Child Labor Free will then evaluate the report, which may include recommendations for site inspections if deemed necessary.

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“Effectively, our approach is about enabling conscious consumerism,” Michelle Pratt, CEO and founder of Child Labor Free, said in a statement. “In the same way that we have come to expect ‘cruelty free’ as an industry norm in beauty, or actively seek out ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ produce in our supermarkets, we believe that ‘Child Labor–Free’ needs to become a globally recognized standard.”

The group is currently working through a pilot phase in preparation for a larger consumer launch during New Zealand Fashion Week in late August. Its inaugural partners, which include local designers such as Hailwood, Kate Sylvester, Nom*d, and Stolen Girlfriends Club, will take on the added role of consultant by documenting the process with both their customers and the industry at large.

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Child Labor Free plans to eventually branch out beyond apparel to include textiles, furniture, toys, cleaning products, skincare, and other consumables.

“One thing we really want to stress is that this is a positive movement for change,” Pratt said. “We want to celebrate those brands that come on the journey with us. This is a highly complex issue, and for a company to come out today and say they’re prepared to take this first step with us, is a bold move, but one we believe their consumers will reward them for.”

+ Child Labor Free

[Via the Guardian]