Last updated at 8:55 PM on 16th December 2011
Victoria’s Secret has responded to allegations that child labour was used in the production of its underwear line.
An investigation by Bloomberg reported that children as young as ten had been working in the Burkina Faso cotton fields that supply fibres to factories used by the lingerie giant.
In a statement today Victoria’s Secret parent company Limited Brands Inc pledged to investigate the claims.
Clarisse Kambire, 13, holds a sack used for collecting fair trade organic cotton in Burkina Faso, the kind used to make Victoria’s Secret underwear
Tammy Roberts Myers, Limited Brands Inc’s vice president of external communications, said: ‘[The allegations] describe behaviour contrary to our company’s values and the code of labour and sourcing standards we require all of our suppliers to meet.
‘Our standards specifically prohibit child labour. We are vigorously engaging with stakeholders to fully investigate this matter.’
Bloomberg reporters spent several weeks in the West African land-locked country talking to impoverished children who have not only been working for free but have suffered gross mistreatment at the hands of their employers and families.
One child spoke of being whipped and denied food by the farmer for whom she works and another described the cousin who punished her for trying to sneak to school instead of going to work.
More than just cotton panties: A Victoria’s Secret advertisment
The accusations of child labour echo a 1996 scandal involving Nike. Even 16 years later, the sportswear brand is suffering the fallout, so Victoria’s Secret will surely move swiftly to resolve this issue.
Reactions among bloggers and fashion enthusiasts are divided though.
Many are frustrated and saddened by the news that children are still exploited at the hands of organisations serving large Third World corporations.
‘Very immoral of VS’, reads one comment on MailOnline’s original piece.
But others are quick to defend the underwear brand opting to believe that Victoria’s Secret chiefs were unaware of the brutal conditions and youth of the workforce.
Some even go so far as dismiss the claims as par for the course:
‘Educate yourself folks. This is nothing new. The exploitation of children is widespread. And it is all done to benefit you, the consumer. Happy holidays, everyone..’
In 2009 Victoria’s Secret launched their Valentine collection made from what was celebrated as ‘fair trade’ and organic cotton from Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso, where child labour is known to be endemic, recently ranked 181st out of 187 countries in the 2011 United Nations Human Development Index.
In a description about the collection, this slogan appeared: ‘Good for women. Good for the children who depend on them.’
It’s no surprise that in the wake of these accusations reps are keen to investigate the claims and clear the lingerie goliath’s name.
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