Supply chain workers urge Walmart to act on supplier standards

4 July 2015

Walmart must do more to improve supply chain transparency and hold its suppliers accountable, according to a report.

The study from the Food Chain Workers Alliance includes research on 11 different food-related industries in the retail giant’s supply chain, as well as on the corporation’s impact on local farmers.

The alliance said the retailer should do more to hold suppliers accountable to labour and environmental standards. The report, Walmart at the Crossroads: the Environmental and Labor Impact of Its Food Supply Chain, calls on the company to enforce its existing labour and environmental standards and fulfil its goals for local food purchases.

The report also contains a raft of recommendations for the supply chain. It said Walmart should improve its supply chain transparency by requiring suppliers to identify the names and addresses of all factories, farms, fishing vessels, or other entities that contribute to the product being purchased before a supplier contract is awarded. This information should be made public, the organisation which represents workers in the food supply chain said.

The study also called for an independent, third party body to monitor and verify supplier compliance with Walmart’s labour and environmental standards. Suppliers should have long-term contracts and be paid fairly, and should pay workers fairly. Recruitment costs must be borne by the employer, not the workers, and contracts and pay must be clear, the report added.

There should be a remediation process so failures to comply with a supplier contract can be flagged up, and support provided for exploited workers, according to the alliance. Animals must be treated humanely.

Walmart should prioritise buying food from suppliers that use sustainable practices, the report recommended. There are also other recommendations concerning labour, the environment, and recommendations for policy makers.

In response, the retailer described the report as "misleading". It said: "We seek to use our scale and capabilities to help others – not only customers and other Walmart stakeholders, but also society at large. We create economic opportunity for our associates, suppliers and people who work in retail and retail supply chains beyond Walmart.

"We enhance the sustainability of our operations and product supply chains for people and the planet, and work to build strong communities where we operate. We care about the people who work throughout our supply chain. While there are complex issues inherent in the global supply chain, we bring together numerous stakeholders, NGOs and other private sector companies to help find solutions.

"We are very excited about the commitment we made to our associates this year, including raising start wages for all of our pay levels, creating new training programs and giving associates more control over their schedule. Under Walmart’s new commitment, the opportunity is there for people to build the schedule that works for them, earn higher pay and build the skills that will help them advance their career."

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