Despite many believing it banished to the history books, slavery underlies almost every facet of our lives – and U.S. law as it stands can’t do anything about it. In his article in The [F]law, Ariq Hatibie unravels the intricate supply chains that mutate basic commodities a thousand miles away into the household staples we know and love.

Starting first with chocolate, he explores how corporations like Nestlé and Cargill import cocoa en masse from West African plantations that use and exploit trafficked children. Although resourceful lawyering under the Alien Tort Statute attempted to hold these companies accountable, the tsunami of corporate interests, allied with the U.S. Government, Big Law firms, and the Supreme Court, shut the door on corporate accountability both through the judiciary and through legislation.

This refrain echoes throughout other industries relying on commodities in developing countries, from the palm oil universally present in our toothpaste and Nutella, to the complex technologies that define the digital generation. Because of a gaping void in U.S. corporate law, corporations in any sector can freely and furtively vampirize the labor of the developing world to push costs down and stay competitive, leaving the path to accountability hazy.

Yet despite these obstacles, the human rights lawyers working in this field remain optimistic. They call for us readers to unify around a cohesive movement and make alliances with organizations and legislators, so that laws forcing corporations to monitor and reveal information about their supply chains can come into force. Only a concerted effort to counter the corporate playbook can facilitate true accountability.

Read Hatibie’s important article: “The Sins of our Supply Chains.”

Related Systemic Justice Project Resources