After a week centred all around the importance of child safety, it is perhaps apt that today marks World Day Against Child Labour.
First established in 2002 to raise awareness of immoral child labour practices by the International Labour Organisation, over twenty years on this day is more important than ever – highlighting the hidden cost of counterfeits beyond the consumer and brand: who creates them.
While fakes are quite rightly condemned by brands for opportunistic and, at worst, dangerous practices when it comes to aping their quality and name, it can be easy to tar everyone involved with the same brush.
Sadly however, when it comes to the manufacture and distribution of substandard infringements, the supply chain of suffering extends far and wide – impacting those at the poorest level.
What’s more, although the creation of fakes should never be tolerated, it is important we don’t ignore the plight of people trapped in a substandard system: including, most tragically, innocent children.
Fighting child labour abuse in 2023
When it comes to infringers, at SnapDragon Monitoring we often stress the all-too severe risks unchecked fakes can have on brands and consumers alike, from harsh chemicals or lax safety standards through to financial and reputational ruin.
Although such dangers alone are more than enough to protect your brand and customers, they are sadly accompanied by the striking possibility that, in order to produce low-cost fakes in industrial quantities, labour abuse will be involved along the way.
Indeed, many studies have identified a strong correlation between fake goods and exploitation, including modern slavery violations, poor pay, appalling working conditions and child labour. Typically basing themselves in markets and territories with lower oversight to evade detection, such unscrupulous infringers will stop at nothing to improve their margins – no matter the human cost.
Despite this, child labour abuse can and does occur everywhere in the pursuit of fakes, including the UK – where the Greater Manchester Police force identified a number of missing asylum seeker children working in Manchester’s “counterfeit street” as recently as February this year.
Such shocking stories are a stark reminder of the global reach and infinite greed of the worst infringers, which threaten the lives and prospects of innocent children around the world to facilitate a profitable market.
How to help today
So what to do and how can we help? While the counterfeit industry may never be shut down overnight, the fight against child labour is won relies on us all.
For brands seeking to protect themselves online, the mission is twofold. Firstly, so long as fakes of their products are left to proliferate unchecked and the infringers unpunished, a high demand for counterfeits and the associated dangers they create will endure.
By educating consumers therefore, working proactively to stamp out infringers themselves and lobbying for better labour transparency, brands can do their part to help their business, the wider community and innocent victims of this cruel system.
Secondly, for their own part, any brands with a complex supply chain or distribution network should always remember to control, monitor and review all external partners where possible, ensuring a secure and safe system which is free from child labour.
While child labour cases are thankfully rare for genuine brands compared to their fake counterparts, such vigilance should never be underestimated as we fight this global issue together for a better world.
And for consumers? While we may rely on the actions of brands, upon whose trust we rely, in order to make informed decisions, ignorance is no longer an excuse as we purchase responsibly.
Whether educating others, researching favourite brands or realigning your attitude to that all-too tempting cheaper “dupe”, ask yourself this: is the hidden cost truly worth it?
For more information on this important issue, check out the ILO directly.