Economics & Economy
12:10 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

VT Students Help Consumers Fight Forced Labor with Informed Purchases

University Honors students, from left, Kwamina Orleans-Pobee, Nicholas Montgomery, and Wes Williams want to make their tool, AboliShop, available for public use for Black Friday shoppers.
University Honors students, from left, Kwamina Orleans-Pobee, Nicholas Montgomery, and Wes Williams want to make their tool, AboliShop, available for public use for Black Friday shoppers.
Credit Virginia Tech

It’s estimated some thirty million people around the world are forced into slave labor. And while there’s been an international outcry, it was hard to know what labor conditions are behind the products you buy.

Now a team of students at Virginia Tech has come up with an easy way for online shoppers to see how their purchases stack up on the human rights scale, before they buy.  

The students call their free web browser extension AboliShop.  They say the goal of the app is to help abolish modern slavery through the power of your purchase choice. It puts a grade right next to the price in your online shopping cart.

Wes Williams is a senior majoring in economic management at Virginia Tech.  “So our aim is to take these grades, which basically tell you how well the company’s policies address child forced labor, and we’re putting them right in front of your face so they can impact your purchasing decision as closely as possible to the purchase itself.”

Kwamina Orleans Pobee and Nicholas Montgomery also worked on the AboliShop project. They partnered with an organization called “Not for Sale” which researches companies and their connection to forced labor.

It’s currently ranking only a few categories, including apparel, electronics and chocolate, but as it adds more sectors, AboliShop will too.