Victoria’s Secret has found itself smack dab in the middle of a child-labor scandal on Thursday last week after a lengthy report was published on Bloomberg.

 

The article detailed the life of a 13 year old Clarisse working at a Burkina Faso farm in West Africa where VS buys a majority of their cotton. Clarisse says if she goes too slow she is beaten with a tree branch, if she’s lucky she’ll be fed once a day and sleeps on a mattress that is about as thick as a magazine. Here is just a snipet of the article:

 

To understand the plight of Clarisse and others like her, Bloomberg News spent more than six weeks reporting in Burkina Faso, including interviewing Clarisse, her family, neighbors and leaders in her village. Her experiences were similar to those of six other children extensively interviewed by Bloomberg, such as an emaciated 12-year-old boy working in a nearby field.Interviews around the country with fair-trade growers, officers of fair-trade cooperatives and child-welfare officials reveal that there is little training and few if any safeguards against using children, even after dangers were uncovered by the 2008 report. 

Clarisse Kambire, 13, a child laborer, left, and fellow child laborers pick fair-trade organic cotton during the day’s harvest in a field near Benvar, Burkina Faso, in November.

Victoria’s Secret parent company Limited Brands has released a statement saying they have already started an investigation into the allegations and are “very concerned”.

 

The statement adds:

“Depending on the findings, we are prepared 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.”

Victoria’s Secret does seem to be taking the allegations seriously perhaps because Burkina Faso has been a source of cotton for them since 2007. In 2009, the label even released a line of Valentine’s Day underwear, telling customer about how purchases of the pieces would improve the lives of cotton pickers. Unfortunately, the children’s lives on the farms need to change dramatically. Fairtrade International is taking the first step by reviewing the certification of farms in the area. Let’s hope Victoria’s Secret either helps to transform what is going on in Burkina Faso or switch to a different source.

Victoria's Secret 2009 Valentine's Day Collection

 

Do you shop at Victoria Secret? Will this knowledge keep you from buying products from there?

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One Response

  1. Michael Zelmer

    Thanks for posting the story while reminding readers that investigations were indeed underway.

    Fairtrade International has now completed its investigation and published its response yesterday. In it, they refute the claims that the person featured in the Bloomberg articles was involved in cotton production at all (Fairtrade certified or otherwise) and that she was under the age of 18. They also raise serious concerns regarding the journalists methods.
    It can be found on the front page of http://www.fairtrade.net (or directly at http://www.bit.ly/FIBlmbgResp).

    Thanks again,

    Michael Zelmer
    Fairtrade Canada

    Reply

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