Last week, Google issued $11.5 million to several organizations fighting modern day slavery. Among the recipients was Oakland-based startup Slavery Footprint, a non-profit organization that provides consumers web and mobile apps which calculate the forced labor costs of their lifestyles. Released just three months ago, these free tools are provided with the hope that the information will spur customers into pressuring brands to disclose—and, where necessary, clean up—their company’s labor practices.
Both the website and phone app run a questionnaire that asks about users’ housing situation, wardrobe, diet, and hobbies. Using an index developed with data from multiple sources, the program then generates a rough calculation of how many slaves are likely working for the user. The average number of slaves per survey taker so far: 25. Provided with the information is a map that pinpoints the regions where users’ forced laborers are likely located.
Slavery Footprint refrains from calling out specific brands for their labor practices. Instead, it leaves that action to consumers: Pre-written notes inquiring about labor practices are provided along with a list of major brands. Questionnaire takers need only select the brand they want the letter sent to, and the organization sends it on the user’s behalf.
Slavery Footprint is counting on the power of consumer activism to effect significant change. In an interview at the beginning of this week, CEO Justin Dillon explained, “The voice [for change] has to come from the marketplace, not government and not advocates. We’re not trying to bum anyone out. We’re trying to encourage people and say you can have a part in fixing it.”
Details about how to “have a part” are provided when you sign up for a Slavery Footprint account and click on the “Take Action” button.