Modern slavery's imprint in the built environment
Understanding our large and largely invisible crisis
Forced labor and human trafficking is an estimated
$150 Billion Industry
The very nature of the built environment, its complexity, disaggregation, and lack of transparency, has enabled the growth of this criminal industry. The illegal use of forced labor across industrial sectors subsidizes corporate profits and has contributed to the expansion of this global industry.
held in forced labor
While much of forced labor is out of sight, the conditions that produce forced labor are clearly visible. We know the millions held are the most vulnerable and come from impoverished communities or from areas of conflicts and disasters.
While one of the largest industries in the world, the construction industry is fragmented and the lack of innovation has impeded its productivity.
The scope of the problem
Once you know, you cannot unknow it.Learn More
Global steel production averages 2 billion tons each year, half of which comes from Chinese mills. The myriad components of steel are extracted from other countries, too, like Brazil, Columbia, India, Mexico, and Pakistan, all of which have been identified by the U.S. Department of State as places known to use forced labor in their mining industries. For this reason, using imported steel from foreign fabricators is increasingly risky, with threats to sustainability, thousands of American jobs, our national industrial investment, and the livelihood of the billions impacted by forced labor.
Mica is a group of silicate crystal minerals that form in distinct layers, making individual sheet silicates that are light, soft, flexible, and heat resistant. There are two types of mica that are mined: sheet mica and scrap and flake mica.
While much has been discovered and reported about human rights abuses in the global garment supply chain, textiles used in building products like shades, rugs, wall furnishings, and chair upholstery are also subject to significant risk.
As one of the most widely-used materials in global construction, imported timber into the United States is the fifth largest product by value that is at risk of forced labor, according to the Global Slavery Index. The evidence that such abuses exist in the logging industry is widespread, and it is estimated that 50 percent of illegally-harvested timber is produced through forced labor.
The U.S. Department of Labor lists a number of stone products extracted at the hands of forced labor and child labor around the world. In Egypt and Paraguay, child labor is used in limestone quarries, while in Nepal and Uganda, child labor is used in artisanal quarries. According to the ILO, half a million stone quarry workers in Tamil Nadu, India are considered bonded laborers.
Petersen Tegl has been producing bricks for more than two centuries. The Financial Times called Petersen “probably the best brickmaker in the world.” Over the past seven generations, the Petersen family, based in Denmark, have created handmade artisanal bricks by using Danish soil rich in clay to shape the bricks, which are then fired by flames and coal in an oven.
Copper, a versatile material due to its conductivity, resistance to corrosion, along with it flexibility, is often used in our wiring, heating systems, and roofing. In fact, approximately half of the copper supply worldwide is used in buildings. From the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Mexico, workers producing copper are using their hands or rudimentary tools and often work in dangerous mines.
When it comes to glass, a widely-used interior and exterior construction material, there is significant risk that forced labor was used in its mining and production. This commonly-used material poses a significant risk, specifically with regard to child labor used in mining silica, soda ash, and limestone that are the main components of glass used in production.
Stony Creek Granite
Stony Creek Granite is an ethically sourced building material from the Stony Creek Quarry in Branford, CT. The more than 150-year-old quarry, which received gold-level certification from the NSI, is known for its Stony Creek Granite, a geological formation dating back 360 million years. This distinctive granite has been used for iconic landmarks around the country including the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, The Smithsonian, Columbia University, and in landscape projects such as New York City’s Riverside and Battery Parks.
The use of forced labor in making solar panels is rampant. Polysilicon, the main material component of solar panels, was once produced mostly in the United States, but over the course of the past decade, China has seized control of the global market. The majority of the world’s polysilicon comes from the Uyghur region of China, where an estimated one million people are held in forced labor conditions.
Materials: from Timber to Steel
Raw and composite materials at highest risk of embedded slavery:
Steel undergoes complex processing with numerous materials including nickel, chromium, and manganese. This processing and material extractions are invisible doorways to forced labor.READ MORE
Timber is one of the most widely used construction material in the world, ranks as the 5th largest product by value at risk of forced labor imported into the United States.Read More
From Specification to Source: Grace Farms’ Roof Study
Grace Farms’ general contractor Sciame Construction examines source components used in our 60,000 square-foot roof. The methods used can help from specifications to sourcing.Learn More
Slavery is illegal in every country
There is systemic use of forced labor in the building materials supply chain because forced labor is so hidden and profitable.Learn More
State of international government oversight
Discussion of, and attention paid to, forced labor world-wide has steadily increased in recent years, and governments, like businesses, differ in their approaches to addressing this subject.Read More
The moral imperative to examine our building materials supply chain
More than 100 industry leaders across a broad spectrum of the built environment have come together to collectively acknowledge that we must confront modern slavery’s permanent imprint. A sense of moral obligation underscores a mounting call to action to stop this inhumane and illegal act.Read More