Investigation Uncovered Inaccuracies In Bloomberg Article
On Dec. 15, 2011, Bloomberg News published an article entitled, “Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton” that alleged Victoria’s Secret purchased cotton from farms that utilized children workers forced into labor. This report disputed the Fairtrade certification that Victoria’s Secret relied on, and it questioned the oversight and training of the program by the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina Faso (UNPCB).
Shocked by these allegations, we immediately launched an investigation because the allegations described behavior that was and still is contrary to our company’s values and our code of labor and sourcing standards that all of our suppliers were and are required to meet. These standards expressly prohibit illegal child labor and forced labor.
After the story was published, a third-party investigation that we commissioned by L Brands was conducted and uncovered substantial factual inaccuracies, most notably:
- The “young girl” who was the centerpiece of the article, Clarisse Kambire, was 21 years old — not 13 years old, as reported by Bloomberg News.
- Clarisse did not live nor work on a registered organic cotton farm in Burkina Faso. Rather, she worked on a vegetable farm.
- Victorien Kamboule, who was reported to be an organic cotton farmer, did not raise cotton, according to records of the UNPCB which registers all cotton farms in Burkina Faso, as well as ECOCERT, a French certification organization that actively inspects and monitors organic agricultural production, including organic cotton from Burkina Faso. Victorien grew vegetables.
The allegations raised by Bloomberg News were very serious. In addition to our findings, follow-up investigations by the UNPCB, the government of Burkina Faso and Fairtrade International also showed that there were substantive inaccuracies in the Bloomberg article. Additionally, while Bloomberg referenced an alleged "preliminary investigation" of the company by the Department of Homeland Security, there was no indication that this was factual. L Brands was never notified, either formally or informally, that we or any of our affiliated companies or brands were the target or subject of any investigation by U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, pertaining to child labor in Burkina Faso.
Two years after the publication of the Bloomberg article, the U.S. government, announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to expand and improve production of UNPCB after vetting their program. Catholic Relief Services, the overseas charitable arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is administering the program.