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Wal-Mart Lumbers Towards Ethical Responsibility

Wal-Mart Lumbers Towards Ethical Responsibility

“Sadly, Wal-Mart’s refusal to rethink its core business strategy, which consists of paying absolute bottom prices for its products, all but ensures that it will make little progress in respecting workers’ rights."
- The International Labor Rights Fund

October 23, 2007 —

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Wal-Mart stopped denying its role in facilitating the terrible labor and environmental practices of its suppliers around the world. Sometime in the last few years though, the mega-retailer has gone from a position of absolute denial to implicit guilt, with the only evidence of a change being its current pledge to do better. Part of the company's newfound sense of conscience are nebulous annual sourcing reports that the company releases to illustrate its interest in how exactly the factories that it imports all those $10 pairs of sneakers from operate.

Wal-Mart has been increasing overall audits of suppliers every year, with surprise audits increasing at a more rapid rate. What exactly it finds when it performs these audits is a secret, but Wal-Mart will say that there has been a 23 percent reduction in high-risk factory violations, and that this came as a result of its supplier training program. Wal-Mart Watch is not impressed:

Wal-Mart’s Report on Ethical Sourcing is an attempt to avoid responsibility for the problems the company itself has created.

In recent years, in factory after factory that supplies goods for Wal-Mart, widespread cases of blatant illegal and unethical labor abuses have been uncovered.

If Wal-Mart and the Walton family were truly committed to improving product safety and worker conditions, the company would spend money to do it, not distract with a report that glosses over the serious problems within its supply chain.

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