Victoria's Secret, child labor, fair trade and its issues

December 15, 2011

"This is an unfortunate situation that I have dreaded might emerge as a result of rapid scale-up of fair trade," says Marsha Dickson,a fashion and apparel studies professor who researches fair trade. She is referring to the details reported published yesterday by Bloomberg News. The Bloomberg article chronicles the desperate life of a young girl working on a cotton farm in the landlocked African country of Burkina Faso.

Dickson explains that Fair Trade Certification systems like the Victoria's Secret employed granted approval on the basis of single audits where conditions may be "dressed up" for the audit or certification might be based on some undisclosed terms.

"Victoria's Secret and other brands should take responsibility themselves for the labor conditions in their supply chains," she says. "Brands and retailers that make themselves accountable for labor conditions: Even then problems will be found, but we can be assured the brand is aware and working to solve them."

Even with this bad news, Dickson urges consumers to keep buying fair trade. But, she says shoppers should ask tough questions when buying fair trade products - what principles of fair trade do you follow? How do you work with artisans/farmers to ensure these principles are followed? What evidence have you collected to measure your impact? What are you doing to address the shortcomings you find?
Dickson is available for interviews and can be reached at


University of Delaware

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