Do you know which products are frequently associated with human trafficking? Which goods you should pay the most attention to when shopping? It depends on the good and the industry, but exploited and/or forced labor is often found throughout the supply chain of things we buy everyday, whether it occurs in the production of the raw material or in a factory along the way.

The latest estimates show that 35.8 million people are victims of modern day slavery. Most people associate human trafficking with the sex trade - because it’s horrific - but the majority of those caught in the web of this injustice are found in the area of labor trafficking. They are found working in fields, on construction sites, in factories, or maybe even in your favorite neighborhood restaurant or the home of a neighbor. However, there is often an overlap of sex and labor trafficking, especially for women and children. 

The reality is this: we all have a slavery footprint whether we realize it or not. We have all played a role in the exploitation of other people by purchasing cheap goods and not verifying the ethics of the companies we are buying them from. 

So which industries are at high risk? Which goods should you pay closer attention to? 

According to the US State Department’s Trafficking In Persons Report 2014, there are four industries where trafficked persons have been frequently found, although this is just the tip of the iceberg. They are: Agriculture (Crops and Livestock), Fishing and Aquaculture, Logging, and Mining. I’m going to add a fifth - Fashion. All of these industries are not only breeding grounds for an exploited and/or trafficked labor force, but they have also proven to be unsustainable and promote environmental degradation. 

I’ll break it down for you, but would highly encourage you to take a look at the report. I would also recommend reading the Global Slavery Index


Agriculture (Crops and Livestock): 

  • Cotton
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Cocoa
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Rubber
  • Rice
  • Tobacco 
  • Sugar
  • Palm Oil
  • Livestock

Fishing and Aquaculture: 

  • Occurs on inland, coastal, and deep sea fishing vessels, as well as in shrimp farming and seafood processing. 
  • Countries where violations have occurred: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, along the coastline of sub-Saharan Africa, Norway, and in the territorial waters of countries in Southeast Asia, the Pacific region, and New Zealand. 


  • One out of five people in the world relies directly upon forests for food, income, building materials, and medicine. 
  • Poorly regulated industry
  • Trafficking cases have occurred across Asia, Russia, Brazil, and Belarus. 


  • Mining often occurs in remote or rural areas with limited government presence, leaving individuals in mining communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia more vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking.
  • Countries where trafficking has been found include DR of Congo, Senegal, Angola, and Peru. 
  • Mining impacts multiple industries from Fashion (jewelry and accessories) to Technology. 


  • With cotton being a high risk good and this industry being very labor intensive, the fashion industry has a huge impact on the demand for labor trafficking
  • The sourcing of raw materials and the fair treatment of workers in factories across the globe has been a huge challenge for this industry
  • 1 in 6 people work in the apparel industry with the majority living in developing countries. 
  • In addition to the risk associated with exploited/trafficked persons, the fashion industry is ranked as the 2nd most polluting industry in the world after oil.