Is Victoria’s Secret Child Labor?

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In class on November 25th, our Global Marketing Professor lectured on “Marketing and Socially Sustainable Supply Chain Management.” I know most consumers do not make their purchasing decision on where their product comes from but rather does it fit into their budget. Although, speaking from experience as a former sales associate, there are a select few people who do take into consideration where their product originates. Lately, a new marketing strategy has been taking place; there has been a move for American consumers to only purchase American products so that we can stimulate our own job growth. Although job growth is very important, November 25th’s class made me think of another topic we should take into consideration before we purchase a product and that is if the product we are wearing, consuming, was made from the hands of a child. The international company that I will choose to focus on for this topic is American retailer, Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret is the world’s largest retailer of lingerie. Founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond, Victoria’s Secret has over 1,000 stores in the United States and also ha stores in Europe, Canada, and Latin America. They are the number one retailer for lingerie and are responsible for the making lingerie into what it has become today. Their biggest marketing tool is their annual fashion show modeled by their “angels.” Victoria’s Secret is a popular brand among women of all ages.

Victoria Secret1What the women who attributed to over 6 billion dollars in sales do not realize is the Victoria’s Secret has a very naughty secret of their own. In December 2011 and January of 2012, Victoria’s Secret was receiving bad press because Bloomberg News wrote an article that detailed the fact that the retailer was purchasing their cotton from a forced child labor in an organic and free trade cotton program in Africa. Bloomberg News was able to capture an image of the children picking the cotton for the women who were to purchase the “sexy” lingerie from the retailer.

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Clarisse Kambire (left), 13, and other alleged child laborers pick cotton in Africa 

Victoria’s Secret response to the allegations was that they were not aware of what was going on and they are strongly against child labor. Hmmm, kind of sounds like they were using the ignorance is bliss argument. The child at the center of these allegations is foster child Clarisse Kambire. She claims that her foster parent will beat her if she does not show up to work everyday and the idea of getting beat, in other words FEAR, is what helps her get through work day.

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When questioned again about the allegations Limited Brands, Inc, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, placed the blame on Clarrise saying that she was actually an adult and she has the right to work. After Bloomberg News did more research on the child, Clarisse said that she took her older sister’s name after she died as a sign of respect. So not only did Victoria’s Secret play the “I didn’t know card” but then they placed the blame on the victim!

Since then, there have been no more articles about these allegations. It sort of opens the imagination up to the idea that maybe they paid Bloomberg News to keep quiet on the allegations and move onto another company.

Instead of exploiting children like Clarrise, Victoria’s Secret should teach these girls about self confidence and the importance of schooling. The retailer should also offer a scholarship program for these girls so that they have a chance to have a successful life. Big retailers should take more care into the research of their supply chain and its workers. If they pay more attention, I’m sure they would find things that they wouldn’t like. They should also look at it as if it was their own children working and if they would be okay with that idea.  A great retailer like Victoria’s Secret should take more responsibility in their actions.

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