Collaborating for Industry Change
Promoting Responsible Recruitment
Many of the challenges we identify in the global supply chain are nonunique to Walmart. We believe that by collaborating with our suppliers, engaging with our peers, internal and external stakeholders, industry experts, NGOs and local governments, we can help drive transformation across industries.
We have several areas of focus – including promoting responsible recruitment, promoting the dignity of women, and engaging in key geographies and supply chains where we believe Walmart can have the greatest impact. Beyond Walmart’s supply chain, the Walmart Foundation is using philanthropy to help address systemic issues and transform global supply chains to better empower and support workers.
Promoting Responsible Recruitment
One of Responsible Sourcing’s primary areas of focus is combatting forced labour in the global supply chain—a complex issue with a range of root causes including lack of government prioritization and enforcement, unreported victims, culture and economics. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to unethical recruitment practices and the accumulation of debt primarily from fees charged by labour brokers.
We want responsible recruitment to be the standard business practice for employers throughout the global supply chain by 2026. To do so, we are working with other businesses, suppliers, governments and members of civil society to confront root causes of forced labour and trafficking.
Walmart believes in the Employer Pays Principle: that no worker should pay for a job, and that the costs of recruitment should not be borne by the worker but by the employer. Our Responsible Recruitment Statement of Principles, which we published to our corporate site in FY19, includes a public commitment in support of the Employer Pays Principle.
In FY19, we added a Responsible Recruitment toolkit to the Responsible Sourcing Academy, which includes a diagnostic tool to help suppliers identify process enhancements and resources to help design new recruitment policies, processes and procedures. We have also worked with our suppliers to help remediate unethical recruitment practices.
To further demonstrate our support, we joined the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment (LGRR) in 2016 as a member of the steering committee. Along with other LGRR members, we are working to create demand for and availability of ethically-recruited workers in Thailand and Malaysia, as well as to advocate for better government regulation of recruitment agencies. In FY19, we participated in two supplier roundtables sponsored by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and the Leadership Group. These roundtables gave us the opportunity to participate in discussions with key officials in the Thai and Malaysian governments, and several of our suppliers attended responsible recruitment training.
Walmart is also a member of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), which brings together 400 retailers, manufacturers and service providers in the consumer goods industry. In 2016, CGF aligned around three priority principles to combat risks of forced labour: (1) Every worker should have freedom of movement; (2) No worker should pay for a job, and (3) No worker should be indebted or coerced to work. A senior member of the Responsible Sourcing team serves as co-chair of CGF’s Social Sustainability Committee, which helped develop these principles, and continues to help foster global cooperation on these and other key responsible sourcing and sustainability issues for the consumer goods industry.
Additional collaborations on responsible recruitment include involvement in the Seafood Task Force’s Responsible Recruitment working group to tackle labour abuses in the tuna and Thai shrimp supply chains; participation in the Responsible Business Alliance’s Responsible Labour Initiative; government engagement through the Bali Process, and engagement at industry events such as the Global Forum on Responsible Recruitment in Singapore.
Impact Story: Ethical Recruitment Project
Walmart has engaged the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an agency of the United Nations, to better understand the scope and scale of migrant labour in Walmart’s supply chains in Thailand and Malaysia. To help build the capacity of suppliers’ facilities and their recruiters on ethical recruitment and migrant worker protection, the project will help provide suppliers with tools to promote ethical recruitment, decrease risks of worker exploitation, and develop a baseline on labour migration patterns and migrant worker recruitment.
Promoting the Dignity of Women
Oxfam’s 2018 Behind the Barcode report ranked Walmart highest of the retailers measured in women’s issues, but there is more work to be done. Walmart is committed to promoting the dignity of women in the supply chain, including by reducing the risk of harassment and abuse.
In March 2019, we announced a new priority focus area in Responsible Sourcing to promote the dignity of women, and we have dedicated two Responsible Sourcing associates to this initiative.
Impact Story: Women in Factories
The Women in Factories Training Program was a five-year initiative by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to work with NGOs in Bangladesh, India, China, Honduras and El Salvador. More than 128,000 women received important life and work skills training.
Leading Supply Chains
In 2016, Walmart committed to addressing potential risks to the dignity of workers in a minimum of 10 retail supply chains by 2025. We have determined key geographies and supply chains where risks are greatest and where Walmart can have the greatest impact. As of January 31, 2019, we have focused on five supply chain initiatives:
Produce in Mexico and U.S.Walmart is working towards improving working conditions in the fresh produce industry. Our initial focus is to help mitigate potential risks of forced labour, underage labour and unsafe working conditions in Mexican produce supplied to our U.S. retail market. To better understand the industry, Responsible Sourcing associates have engaged with produce suppliers, industry stakeholders and Walmart Global Sourcing associates in Mexico.
Shrimp in ThailandSince 2015, Walmart has focused on combating human trafficking, unsafe working conditions and underage labour in shrimp supply chains in Thailand. Because of the issues’ complexity and scale, we collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders. Responsible Sourcing associates have joined seafood merchants and sourcing associates on buying trips and facility visits to India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. These trips help Walmart better understand various potential risks across the seafood supply chain.
Tuna Processed in ThailandCrews on fishing vessels face higher potential risks due to physical isolation, lack of monitoring, and limited communication. Walmart aims to help mitigate risks of human trafficking and forced labour on fishing vessels for tuna processed in Thailand by collaborating with suppliers and industry stakeholders. Our initial focus is on tuna supplying Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S.
Apparel in BangladeshTo help address worker safety issues in the Bangladesh ready-made garment industry, Walmart became a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in 2013. The Alliance concluded its five-year commitment on December 31, 2018, and over the last five years, we have seen significant progress. There is more work to be done, and we recognize that true reform requires many stakeholders, including the government, working together for change.
Electronics in U.S. Retail Market Supply ChainGovernments, industry organizations and NGOs, including the U.S. Department of Labor and Verité, have identified the electronics supply chains in China and Malaysia as posing potentially higher risks for forced and underage labour. Walmart is helping mitigate potential risks in the Electronics supply chain, and in FY19, we expanded our focus from China and Malaysia to the global Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. retail market supply chains.