Wal-Mart shakes up local sourcing in southern Africa

10 May 2012

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10 May 2012 | Adam Leach in Johannesburg, South Africa

The entrance of the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, into the southern African region is helping develop the principle of local sourcing, according to a sustainability expert.

The merger between Wal-Mart and regional retailer Massmart, which was approved in March, has long been a contentious issue in South Africa. Workers’ unions and some government departments protested the merger over concerns it would result in the loss of jobs and damage to the local supplier workforce. But Kevin James, CEO of consultancy Global Carbon Exchange, believes it has been a beneficial development in relation to local sourcing.

Speaking at the CIPS Pan Africa Conference 2012 in Johannesburg, he said: “What we've seen since Wal-Mart has actually come here is that it's shaken things up in terms of local sourcing of food. It's using local farmers, using more regenerative types of agricultural methods.”

Responding to a question on food security, he highlighted local sourcing as the key solution. He said: “The core of food security is about empowering people in their own areas to feed themselves, not relying on the global supply chain.”

James said consumer pressure over environmental issues was driving companies to take action on sustainability, which he has seen evidenced by tenders. “What we're seeing is within companies’ tenders policies are questions [relating to environmental sustainability] that have never been seen before,” he said.

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