Canadian beauty industry at risk of supporting child labour: study
A new study suggests the complex global supply chain of beauty products means that Canadian consumers could unknowingly be supporting child labour in India, and advocates are urging the federal government to introduce new laws to tackle the lack of transparency.
The study, released Tuesday as part of World Day Against Child Labour, indicates that 65 per cent of the 60 cosmetic companies operating in Canada do not report what measures are being taken to prevent child labour-produced ingredients from entering their products.
World Vision, the Christian advocacy organization that produced the study, says it’s especially concerned about the use of mica, a mineral that can be found in some eye, lip, face and nail products, among other non-cosmetic uses.
In India, World Vision says 22,000 children -- some as young as five years old -- work in small-scale mica mines. Estimates show roughly 25 per cent of the world’s mica comes from illegal mining in India.
According to the organization, these children work up to 12 hours a day in dark, dusty caves and earn as little as CAD$1.87 per day.
It’s illegal for children to work in these mines, but a loophole allows them to work outside school hours if the mines are family-run enterprises. On top of this loophole, the organization says in some parts of India, only 10 per cent of mica mines are legal and regulated.
“Far too many children are working in dangerous conditions that threaten their lives and their futures. And so what we’re looking for is for the Canadian government to help consumers have more access to information about the products that they buy, including mica,” Cheryl Hotchkiss, a child advocate with World Vision Canada, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
World Vision says the complicated supply chain between these illegal mines and the cosmetic brands makes it difficult to determine where the mica is coming from. Without detailed reports, consumers can never know if their products were made in part through child labour.
The organization says more than $798 million in Canadian makeup imports are at risk of having child labour in their supply chains.
Cosmetics Alliance Canada, a Canadian trade association that represents the cosmetics and personal care products industry, said responsible companies use reputable suppliers, have strict ingredient specifications and regularly audit their suppliers.
“The use of child and forced labour is abhorrent and the cosmetics industry condemns this practice,” Cosmetics Alliance Canada said in a statement. “No responsible member of the cosmetic industry would knowingly use ingredients obtained via child labour.”
The organizations does acknowledge the complex supply chains that make it hard to tell where some of their ingredients come from.
“It is not always clear-cut where highly processed ingredients like mica come from,” Cosmetics Alliance Canada said. “An ingredient like mica will often pass through many businesses and refinement processes before being sold for use in finished products, so everyone in the supply chain has a role to play. Other mica users, including the construction, electronics, and paints & coatings industry, also have a role to play, not just cosmetics.”
World Vision is urging the Canadian government to pass new transparency legislation that would require companies to provide detailed information on the steps they’ve taken to combat child labour in their supply chains.
“Most companies make it very difficult for a consumer to find out where the various raw materials that go into their cosmetic products come from,” said Hotchiss.
Michael Messenger, president and CEO of World Vision Canada, points out that other countries have already introduced legislation to confront the issue.
“The U.K. and other jurisdictions have brought in new laws. It’s time for Canada to be a leader on this issue too,” he said in a news release.
Cosmetics Alliance Canada said the ultimate solution to stamp out these labour practices lies with the government where these mines are located.