We’re all guilty of it. And it’s hard not to be. We buy clothes with only a vague idea of how and where they were produced, and even less information about who made them. Were they made in a sweat shop? Or by children? In response to these crucial, unanswered questions comes aVOID, a browser plug-in that helps us do exactly that: avoid products that may have been made by children under exploitative conditions.
According to data from the International Labour Organization, although numbers are decreasing, there is still a large number of children – approximately 168 million – involved in some form of child labour throughout the world. Deprived of an education and exploited, more than half of them, an estimated 85 million, are also said to be working in hazardous conditions. Many of these children are producing the clothes that we buy. With more and more people doing their shopping online (figures are consistently on the rise both in Europe and the US), the internet is where many of these garments are sold: what would happen if with just a few simple clicks, consumers could say no to child labour in the garment industry and be empowered to make a change?
This is where aVOID comes in: it’s a simple plug-in for your internet browser that runs in the background while you surf the web. Visit one of the biggest online shopping sites, and the plug-in will automatically compare products with data collected by the German campaign Active Against Child Labour. If the brands displayed have received any negative rating, the products are instantly hidden from view, literally wiped out. It’s as easy as that. The plug-in currently works with online outlets such as Asos, Amazon, Zalando and Google Shopping, and the ticker on the official website shows the number of items avoided is currently at the two million mark.
We as consumers can often feel powerless when it comes to huge issues like this, and assume that there’s nothing we can really do to make a change. But a simple tool like aVOID uses the power of fashion, of consumption, of our decisions, to encourage manufacturers to take a closer look at their production procedures. What would happen if everyone started using this tool? Or if the plug-in was installed as a default setting on one of the world’s most-used internet browsers?
Most people are unaware of the processes and impacts involved in the manufacture of a garment, simply because we don’t have that kind of information available to us. It’s not made public, and although we’re aware of the issues, it’s easy to become complacent and ignore the facts. And that’s the beautiful paradox of this invention: the gaps that show up online when aVOID is switched on, highlight those dark links in the supply chain, and the vulnerable children who normally only exist somewhere in the backs of our minds, are brought to the forefront and made all the more present.
To download aVOID and take it for a test run, visit the plugin’s official website. For more information about exactly how it works, take a look at the short video below.