Victoria's Secret has been in the centre of a storm of criticism since Bloomberg reported about its involvement in child labour in Burkina Faso. The luxury lingerie brand has some of its fair trade cotton picked by children, as the news agency reported. Parent company Limited Brands is “concerned” and promises to “fully investigate this matter”.
The story of 13-year-old Clarisse
Bloomberg news has sent one of its reporters to Burkina Faso, which resulted in a documentary about 13-year-old Clarisse Kambire. Cam Simpson interviewed the girl, her family, neighbours and village leaders. Their stories were confirmed by other children, who had to work in the same degrading circumstances of being beaten, malnourished and kept out of school.
According to the documentary, there is a lack of control of working circumstances and local cotton farmers need to be educated more. Furthermore, the rights of “enfants confiés”, as children vulnerable to exploitation are called in Western Africa, are almost always overlooked.
'Fair trade' and organic
”If this allegation is true, it describes behavior that is contrary to our company’s values and the code of labor and sourcing standards that we require all of our suppliers to meet. These standards expressly prohibit child labor”, says Limited Brands in an official statement on its website. The company promises “to take swift action to prevent the illegal use of child labor in the fields where we source Fairtrade-certified organic cotton in Burkina Faso.”
"Clarisse’s labor exposes flaws in the system for certifying fair-trade commodities and finished goods in a global market that grew 27 percent in just one year to more than $5.8 billion in 2010. That market is built on the notion that purchases by companies and consumers aren’t supposed to make them accomplices to exploitation, especially of children”, as Bloomberg rightly points out.
Fairtrade International says not to have had any knowledge of this situation and promises to fully screen its activities in Burkina Faso. The organisation also promises to start education programmes for local farmers.