6 October 2008 | Jake Kanter
Wal-Mart has vowed to stop sourcing cotton and cotton materials from Uzbekistan in a bid to help end the use of child labour in the country.
The US retail giant hopes its decision will encourage the Uzbek government to take action on the problem. Wal-Mart has worked closely with trade associations, government agencies and other organisations over the past few months to condemn "forced" child labour during cotton harvesting.
Rajan Kamalanathan, vice-president of ethical standards for the retailer, said in a statement: "We have formed an unprecedented coalition, representing 90 per cent of the US purchases of cotton and cotton-based merchandise, to bring these appalling child labour conditions to an end."
Wal-Mart's decision to stop purchasing cotton from the country was praised by human rights and socially responsible shareholder groups. A number of organisations joined forces in August to mount a campaign against the problems in Uzbekistan (news, 27 August 2008).
"The Uzbek government needs to understand that we will keep the pressure on until it changes the system. With Wal-Mart's support we hope to transform the industry in Uzbekistan and in other countries with documented use of child labour," said Patricia Jurewicz, associate director at the As You Sow foundation, which co-ordinated the campaign.