About 40,000 children as young as 7 are sent down mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo to collect cobalt to power the world's electronic gadgets [1].

It is hard to be absolutely sure that whoever sources, makes, transports or recycles our things works under conditions we would gladly work under ourselves. 46 million slaves and 168 million children [2,3] are involved in these processes. Millions more workers face terrible conditions, illness, harassment and poor pay [4]. And when people no longer want something, the item gets thrown away - dumping the problem on someone else, somewhere else.

HOW TO FIX IT: End the social injustice of cheap stuff

Thinking about the ‘beginning to end’ of a product’s lifecycle is an effective way to explore its value not just as a dollar price. What is it made of? Where were the components sourced? Who was involved in sourcing or producing it, and under what conditions? Would we be satisfied to work under such conditions ourselves? How long does it last, and how frequently can it be used? Where does the product go after it has left our possession? How toxic, degradable or polluting is this product if dumped?

[1]Amnesty, 2016

[2] GSI, 2017

[3] ILO, 2013

[4] Tenenbaum, 2002; Leonard, 2011

For full citations, check out our References page.