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Unfree Market

In 2008, trafficking of the world's 27 million slaves made up the third-most-profitable criminal enterprise. Here's what the $40-billion industry looks like. The United States abolished slavery in 1865. Now, every country in the world has outlawed the practice. But you'd be mistaken to think that humankind..

In 2008, trafficking of the world's 27 million slaves made up the third-most-profitable criminal enterprise. Here's what the $40-billion industry looks like.

The United States abolished slavery in 1865. Now, every country in the world has outlawed the practice. But you'd be mistaken to think that humankind had left the "peculiar institution" in its past. Slavery endures. And not just in isolated incidents or far-flung corners of the globe. Today, it happens as ecumenically as it did in the Old Testament, which is to say often and everywhere.As many as 17,500 people are brought into the United States as slaves every year. Though the practice occurs in many cities and towns, Immokalee, Florida, has become a flash point for the battle against agricultural slavery. There, crew bosses from local farms trick migrant workers into picking tomatoes and other crops, then deprive them of a living wage. Beatings and death threats are normal.Around 300,000 children are enslaved in Haiti as restavecs, or household servants. Here, poor single mothers give up their children to middle-class families for the promise of a better life. Restavecs, who might start working 20-hour days at age 6, are discarded as soon as they get pregnant or become too physically imposing.Many slaves here work in the illegal gold-mining industry. Bosses lure unemployed men to distant sites in the jungle, and once they arrive, the money vanishes and the guns come out. The good news? The president of neighboring Brazil has new laws in place that set the standard for the region. In Brazil, 6,000 slaves are freed every year.Europe is a major destination for women sold into the sex trade. But other types of slavery exist here, as well. Africans, particularly Nigerians, are forced to work in the agriculture and service sectors. And large numbers of Chinese are brought in for various purposes, among them garment-industry jobs.Slave brokers troll the destitute villages of West Africa for children they can take to Yeji, a fishing area around Ghana's Lake Volta where atrocities are common. The slaves wake up before dawn and fish into the night. Overseers attach weights to the children's ankles to help them drop to the lakebed and untangle nets, a practice which often results in drowning.There are around 18 million slaves in Nepal, Pakistan, and India, more than anywhere else in the world. The worst offender is India, where slavery usually takes the form of hereditary debt bondage, a situation in which people are born into slavery after inheriting their parents' debt. They work in agriculture and produce goods like rugby and soccer balls for Western consumers. In the north, hundreds of thousands of child slaves weave carpets for the global market.Japan's booming sex industry makes it the biggest user of slave labor among rich nations. An estimated 50,000 women are shipped into the country each year, from Thailand, the Philippines, China, and other parts of Asia. Many enter the country legally on "entertainment visas" that government says it has been regulating more tightly.

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What Nau?

The innovative clothing company Nau was supposed to transform the apparel industry. Instead, it tanked. So what went wrong, and what happens next? Unfuck the world. Mark Galbraith remembers when he first heard the phrase. It was June, 2004. Galbraith was sitting in Typhoon, a pan-Asian restaurant at..

The innovative clothing company Nau was supposed to transform the apparel industry. Instead, it tanked. So what went wrong, and what happens next?

Unfuck the world. Mark Galbraith remembers when he first heard the phrase. It was June, 2004. Galbraith was sitting in Typhoon, a pan-Asian restaurant at the Santa Monica airport in California. He'd driven in from Ventura, where he oversaw design, merchandising, and pricing for Patagonia. He'd been slugging back sake for a couple hours when his dinner companion, Eric Reynolds, slid a document across the table to him."I need you to sign this," Reynolds said, and excused himself to the bathroom.In front of Galbraith was a nondisclosure agreement. Given the conversation, this wasn't unusual. Reynolds had spent the afternoon getting to know Galbraith better. Now, Reynolds intended to lay out his vision for a new clothing company with a radical business model. It had potential-enough potential, Galbraith thought later, that the company, eventually dubbed Nau (Maori for "Welcome. Come in."), might redefine the outdoor industry. Reynolds' plan was inspiring: Nau would be the first major apparel company built for sustainability from scratch. The clothes would be sourced down to the fiber, made only from the most environmentally friendly material in the most socially responsible manner. And they would be fashionable.Reynolds wanted to sell the clothes directly to customers online and in stores that merged brick-and-mortar retail with an internet experience. Called "webfronts," the stores would educate customers about the products through touch-screen computers. If shoppers opted for a "ship-to-you" feature, their purchases would show up a few days later in the mail, and they'd receive a 10 percent discount for their trouble. The webfront idea would cut out middlemen and keep inventory low (along with carbon emissions). Perhaps most striking, though, was Reynolds' goal to give away 5 percent of Nau's sales to nonprofits. It was a staggering amount. Patagonia, the industry leader in charitable companies, gives away 1 percent.Risky stuff, for sure. But Galbraith was intrigued. He reached for the nondisclosure agreement. That's when he noticed the mysterious acronym printed on top: UTW. As Galbraith puzzled over the letters, Reynolds returned. He hadn't gone to the bathroom. He'd rushed out to his car and had come back wearing something other than the Patagonia polo he had on minutes earlier."He had changed sort of Superman-style into a T-shirt," Galbraith recalls. "It was a Michael Franti T-shirt that had in big letters across it: Unfuck the World."Galbraith glanced at the acronym, looked back up at Reynolds, and provided the only suitable response: "Fuck yeah!"Thus began a grand experiment. Nau would soon go from sake-soaked dream to bona fide startup with more than 60 employees, $24 million in capital, and outsized buzz for its business practices. Apparel is an unkind industry-from 2004 to 2005, nearly twice as many apparel, piece goods, and notions wholesalers died as were born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau-but Nau intended to defy the odds. It boasted an expert staff and stylish products. More important, its ideals differentiated the brand dramatically.\n\n\n
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Poor planning and hard luck torpedoed Nau. But to the faithful, the company's demise was more than a financial undoing. It was the failure of a movement.
Although UTW remained Nau's underground catchphrase, the company slogan later morphed into something more presentable: "Do well by doing good." In a cutthroat capitalist landscape befouled by the Enron scandal, skyrocketing CEO pay, and hollow attempts by multinationals to look green, Nau intended to set things right, to blaze a new trail for apparel and, possibly, corporate America.What happened instead was quite different.Barely a year after Nau's clothing landed on store shelves in March, 2007, the company went belly-up, done in by overreaching ambition and a slumping economy. Reynolds was canned by his handpicked management team. And a young ecosystem of socially responsible startups was left to wonder what message Nau's implosion might send. Instead of fixing everything, Nau had fallen apart.Inspiration for Nau arrived in Yosemite Park's Tuolumne Meadows. Tuolumne is holy ground for conservationists: it's where John Muir worked as a shepherd in 1869 and was later inspired to create the Sierra Club. And it is where Reynolds, an expert climber, spent summers as a boy. In July, 2003, mired in a depression, he returned to the meadows for a reunion with his brothers and friends. The hours around a campfire, talking late into the night about social and environmental issues, rekindled old passions in the 56-year-old."It blew on some long-dormant embers," Reynolds says. He recalled what his activist parents had taught him growing up: One person can change the world. Reynolds had co-founded another outdoor clothing company, Marmot, in 1974. Apparel was a natural place for him to sow change. Within weeks of that camping trip, the idea for Nau coalesced.Over the next year, Reynolds honed his concept on hundreds of pages of spreadsheets. He also happened across the writings of Robert Hinkley, a reform-minded corporate attorney who advocated inserting a "code of corporate citizenship" into every company's charter. The code would legally require businesses to make money, but not at the expense of the environment and human rights. This triple-bottom-line focus aligned perfectly with Reynolds' goals.

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