The Slavery Footprint
The Slavery Footprint is an online calculator, similar to the Ecological Footprint that calculates the estimated number of modern-day slaves that are required to upkeep our current levels of material consumption.
The calculator was created in 2011 by Justin Dillon that a few years later founded the MIAFW organisation that developed the FRDM (Forced Labor Risk Determination and Mitigation) online platform.
The users of the FRDM platform are companies that upload their data on purchases of services and raw materials that they require for their products. The platform then analyses multiple aspects of companies’ supply chain, from the extraction of raw materials to final product assembly, to help them identify and mitigate the risk of modern slavery.
Companies that are interested in improving the ethics of the business practices are often unaware of the sub-manufacturers behind their finished products due to the complexity of supply chains. The MIAFW software than analyses multiple sources of data that results in customized reports for participating companies about the potential risks of slavery and exploitative practices in their supply chains.
The Slavery Footprint website is a useful educational and awareness raising resource that renders manifest the connections between our consumption and forced labour / slavery across the world. Its applicability is similar to that of the Ecological Footprint, but adds an important, and often overlooked social justice dimension to sustainability issues.
The FRDM platform that emerged from the website also offers a very unique approach to engaging with the problem of modern-day slavery. Rather than calling for consumer action or seeking to impose stricter regulations either through (inter)national policies or corporate regulation, which may be considered “standard” approaches, MIAFW seeks to work directly with companies that are (most likely) already interested in improving the ethical standards in their supply chains, but lack the knowledge and data on how to do so. As such it does not aim to initiate a change, or induce a desire for change, but rather works with those already interested in changing their practice.
This approach has its benefits and shortcomings as any other in relation to what it can realistically hope to achieve, and in the limited number of companies that would be willing to consider using MIAFW services. Still, it can provide a useful example of a different (not tried before) kind of engagement with a persistent, structural global issue.