A child laborer carries a basket of fair-trade organic cotton in Burkina Fatso. Photo courtesy of Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Recent news that cotton used by Victoria’s Secret to sew women’s lingerie may have been harvested by slaves has sparked a broader debate about how deep companies should go into policing their supply chains. It’s also prompting discussion in Washington about strengthening slavery disclosure rules for businesses. The story below includes comments from Free the Slaves Director of Programs Karen Stauss, a key proponent of stronger disclosure requirements.

Child Labor for Victoria’s Secret Cotton Examined By U.S.

U.S. investigators are conducting a preliminary inquiry into forced child labor used in an organic and fair-trade cotton program that supplies the American lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret, a federal law enforcement official confirmed this week.

Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, Limited Brands (LTD) Inc., said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that it continues “to take this matter very seriously as we do not tolerate child labor.” Those practices were disclosed in a Dec. 15 Bloomberg News report about the program the company buys from in Burkina Faso. Fairtrade International, the Bonn-based organization that certified the cotton, said in a statement last week that it has“prioritised further training on child labour and child protection for its members” beginning in early 2012.

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