Still life shot of an empty office building

Glass is a Ubiquitous Building Material At-Risk of Forced Labor

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. Glass is a composite material composed of these natural and abundant raw materials, which are melted at high temperatures to form molten glass. Depending on the temperature, glass can be molded into various shapes. According to Glass Alliance Europe, glass manufacturing dates back to 3500 BC and over the centuries the making of glass has turned into a high-tech industrial process. Besides being used in the construction of our buildings and homes, glass is also part of a country or region’s cultural heritage. Some of the end applications and products include building windows, facades, insulation, interior windows, partitions, lighting, shatterproof glass, and laminated glass.

There are currently no industry standards that includes third-party audited labor inputs specific to glass. Knowing the global hot spots known to use forced and child labor could be an essential step in establishing an audit process. For instance, child labor is used in the extraction of sand in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. In terms of limestone, Egypt and Paraguay are known for using child labor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Further resources:

U.S. Department of Labor’s 2020 List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor

Glass Alliance Europe, What is Glass?

Corning, Materials Science