Yes, you read the headline right. A group of handicapped Chinese, enslaved by a factory boss to make bricks, recently freed by police.
My first reaction is rage. I hope the factory owner burns in hell. Enslaving the mentally ill and physically handicapped. That’s just wrong! Way wrong!
My second reaction was to ask how could this happen and what should sourcing professionals learn from this horrible story.
We have our share of monsters too
The US and Europe has its share of psychotic criminals committing horrendous offences. But the root cause is often some mental imbalance and the crime is committed by an individual in secret. In the case of the Chinese kiln slaves, the motivation was money and an entire factory and supply chain committed this atrocious act. You could say the community turned the blind eye as the blind who were put to work as slaves!
What does this mean for us foreign buyers?
In my experience, the vast majority of Chinese factory owners and common folk are honest people with whom I enjoy working and in some cases consider family. But the sad fact remains that a certain portion of Chinese society will break the law to make money.
If there are members of this society who would enslave the handicap, doesn’t that say something about the moral compass of the society as a whole?
If slave labor happens in rare cases, I think it is safe to say that lesser infractions such as failing to pay OT, employing child labor and work place safety are probably happening on a much more frequent basis in China than the average foreign buyers realizes. Do you really think the supplier you have won’t cut corners on raw materials and quality and make a few extra bucks if the opportunity presents itself? Watch your supply chain like a hawk!
So, in my opinion, as a buyer, it is essential we do the following:
- Conduct social compliance audits of suppliers
- Do due diligence on factory ownership and reputation
- Buyer or Buyer’s representative must check quality to ensure buyer gets what buyer paid for.
- Lab testing to check for product safety. My team recently caught a supplier using gasoline to clean a baby toy because gas was cheaper than a safe cleaning solution. WTF!
If you don’t know where to look for support in audits, due diligence and inspection, please please please get in touch with me. I would be honored to put you in touch with reputable service providers and I can sleep better at night knowing more foreign buyers are leveraging buying power to make China and the world a safer and more humane place to do business. I doubt you will find slavery in your supply china when you look close, but I am almost positive that if you have not already taken a close look, you will be surprised at what you find. Then you can take action to fix it.
Wishing you successful China Sourcing!
China Operations Director, PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (3rd party assembly & inspection to protect intellectual property and ensure quality.)
Chairman of the Advisory Board, China Sourcing Information Center
LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-bellamy-author-business-owner-volunteer-advisor/8/52a/389