The festive window displays, mass of sales signs, and general glee of holiday shopping of Black Friday can easily obscure the dark side of retail: the sweatshops, child labor, environmental violations, and other devastation wrought by the global consumer supply chain.
Over three years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, where a factory in Dhaka collapsed, killing 1,100 garment workers, Bangladesh’s working conditions reportedly remained unchanged: accounts of physical assault, verbal abuse, forced overtime, unsanitary conditions, denial of paid maternity leave, and failure to pay wages and bonuses on time or in full were still cited by the watchdog Human Rights Watch in 2015. Similar violations have been reported in Central and South American textile facilities, and sub-par working conditions are also common in China’s electronics manufacturing industry.
Across the globe, nearly 150 million children aged five to 14 are engaged in child labor, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). And that doesn’t even tell the full story—the International Labor Organization (ILO) doesn’t categorize 14 to 18-year-olds within the child labor category and various big brands have reportedly taken advantage of the fact in the past.
Meanwhile, various international sporting and fashion labels have been accused of dumping toxic chemicals into the rivers in China, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. Dying fabrics accounts for nearly 20% of industrial water pollution. Sometimes, scores of local manufactures dump their colors into the local river, “rendering groundwater undrinkable and local farmland ruined,” the Guardian reported.
This year, don’t wait for Giving Tuesday–start on Black Friday by donating your shopping budget to one of these NGOs working to clean up the mess created by big name in retail:
- Global March Against Child Labor
- International Initiative to End Child Labor
- Child Labor Coalition
- Child Right’s International Network
- HAQ: Center for Child Rights and Campaign to Stop Child Labor
- International Labor Rights Forum
- China Labor Watch
- Or pick one of the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) recommendations for NGOs working to eliminate water pollution, create green areas with clean air, and taking other steps to protect the environment in different countries across the world.
For those strapped for cash this holiday season, “Do A Thing” instead: A couple of do-gooders started a project where you can sign up to get an email with “an idea for one thing you can do in under 5 minutes or for less than $5 to be more civically-minded every day.”
You could also turn the gifts you are about to receive into help for the less fortunate: On the NO.GIFTS charity platform, you can fill out a short questionnaire—name, birthday, and the causes you care about most—so your friends and family can donate instead of buying you things.
And if you really can’t keep yourself from a shopping spree but want to keep it guilt-free, Patagonia is donating 100% of its Black Friday proceeds to charitable organizations.