Human rights

SASB: CG-AA-430b.1; CG-AA-430b.3
GRI: 102-17; 102-21; 102-43; 102-44;
103-1; 103-2; 103-3; 409-1 a-b; 412
UN SDG: 8
S G | Last Updated: July 7, 2021

Our aspiration

Our aspiration

We respect human rights and seek to use our scale, capabilities and influence to help people and communities improve their lives, with a focus on our salient human rights issues.

Human Rights/associate-tire-section.jpg

Relevance to our business & society

Our business is a people business: we engage in diverse business activities that touch millions of people across the globe, including more than 2 million associates from a variety of ethnicities, orientations, backgrounds and life experiences; a supply chain that includes over 100,000 suppliers, who in turn employ and do business with many others; and we serve hundreds of millions of customers around the world.

Consistent with Walmart’s values of respect for the individual, integrity, service and excellence, we believe people are created equal and are born with certain inherent rights.

Responsibility for upholding human rights is shared: while governments have the responsibility to protect human rights, Walmart and other businesses have a responsibility to respect those human rights. Respecting human rights is essential for businesses to build and sustain trust among customers, associates and other stakeholders, and it mitigates risk to people and to business.

What’s more, we believe creating positive opportunities for people contributes to significant, lasting business value creation: Walmart’s business thrives when our associates, people in our supply chain, customers and our communities thrive.

Walmart’s approach

We use our position as an employer, retailer and community member to promote respect for human rights.

Our Human Rights Statement serves as the foundation of our approach to human rights, grounded in Walmart’s values and confirming our respect for and commitment to upholding human rights across our operations and supply chain. We are mindful that many adverse human rights risks are complex and can be the result of systemic issues, so we also work collaboratively with other stakeholders to inform our approach and identify root causes, share our work with others and use our leverage to help drive positive change. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation also help advance systemic change by supporting capacity in critical parts of the system.

Key strategies & progress

Human rights statement & salient issues | Governance | Stakeholder engagement | Promoting respect for human rights in supply chains

Human rights statement & salient issues

Our Human Rights Statement serves as the foundation of our efforts to respect human rights by confirming our respect for human rights and articulating how our culture, values and international instruments (including the U.N. Guiding Principles [UNGP] on Business and Human Rights and the International Labor Organization’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work) inform our approach to human rights. We have also identified our salient human rights issues, and we share our Statement and salient issues with our associates, suppliers and other stakeholders through our ESG reporting and on our corporate website.

Salient human rights issues
Key aspects
Treating workers with respect
  • Pay; working hours
  • Freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Meaningful opportunities for workers to be heard
Promoting a safe & healthy work environment
  • Physical safety and security of work premises
  • Workplace abuse
  • Healthy work environments
Providing a fair & inclusive work environment
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Gender equity
Combating forced & underage labor
  • Forced labor, including debt bondage
  • Underage labor
  • Vulnerability of migrant workers; responsible recruitment
  • Human trafficking

    Governance

    A cross-functional Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) supports Walmart teams in advancing respect for human rights through our business. The working group includes representatives from functions such as Ethics & Compliance; Global People; Labor Relations; Responsible Sourcing; Culture, Diversity & Inclusion; Global Responsibility; Government Affairs; Communications; and Legal.

    The working group reports to the ESG Steering Committee, which is a management committee composed of leaders from various Walmart teams that reviews ESG issues and priorities at Walmart. The ESG team, as part of Global Responsibility, coordinates the HRWG. In addition, our Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs provides regular updates about our ESG initiatives, including those related to our salient human rights issues, to the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Walmart Board of Directors. The Board approved our Human Rights Statement in November 2018.

    Stakeholder engagement

    We routinely engage with stakeholders to understand and benefit from their perspectives on human rights in retail and retail supply chains. As part of our ongoing work on initiatives such as Retail Opportunity and Responsible Recruitment, Walmart and Walmart Foundation teams engage stakeholders with experience addressing salient human rights issues to help us strengthen our efforts and impact. For instance, we meet with several subject matter experts in the human rights field, including representatives from the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) and Shift, and we participate in forums that address human rights issues, including the U.N. Business and Human Rights Conference, the Bali Process Government and Business Forum Consultation and Innovation Session for the Fishing Sector, the OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector, the Global Forum for Responsible Recruitment and conferences hosted by the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. These engagements provide an opportunity to address emerging risks, progress ideas that tackle labor exploitation and learn more about what businesses can contribute with respect to human rights.

    In addition, Walmart and Walmart Foundation support programs and tools that engage workers to raise awareness and strengthen worker protections in supply chains. For instance:

    • Walmart partnered with Issara Institute to engage directly with workers with the purpose to drive remediation. Issara Institute operates a multilingual migrant worker hotline and oversees remediation of identified issues in facilities. The Issara Institute has also created a smartphone app called Golden Dreams (with support from the Walmart Foundation), which was specifically designed for migrant Burmese workers in Thailand to share information about worker rights, opinions about various employers and recruiters, and report concerns through Issara Institute’s helpline.
    • The Walmart Foundation provided support to Polaris, including for the development of a tool that engages Mexican agricultural migrant workers, strengthens awareness of potential exploitation and supports collaboration between victim services hotlines in Mexico and the U.S.
    • The Walmart Foundation provided support to CIERTO, a non-profit international farm labor contractor, which engages migrant agricultural workers in the North American Corridor before, during and after their recruitment, a process that strengthens protections for workers and enables them to take corrective action where necessary.

    Grievance mechanisms

    In addition to the engagement approaches outlined above, Walmart makes several grievance mechanisms available to solicit, assess and address the concerns of our stakeholders, including our own associates, workers in the supply chain, and groups interested in raising concerns on individuals’ behalf. These include the following:

    • Global helpline: Walmart provides global and local phone numbers that anyone can use to ask questions and report concerns related to Walmart’s business, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The helpline is equipped to handle most local languages spoken in each of the retail markets where we operate.
    • Global email address: This email address (ethics@walmart.com) is available for reporting concerns, asking questions or simply seeking guidance for situations that may be unclear. All contacts are received by Walmart’s Global Ethics and Compliance team in Bentonville, Arkansas.
    • WalmartEthics.comThis website is available in 13 languages and is globally accessible. It provides a platform where stakeholders can ask questions, read our Code of Conduct, submit ethical concerns and follow up on previously reported concerns.

    We triage inquiries and allegations received through these channels, routing them to the appropriate teams for further consideration or action. Depending on the nature of the allegation, we may open a formal investigation using internal investigators or a third party. We work to see that concerns are appropriately addressed in a timely manner. We also monitor the number and types of inquiries and allegations received through these and other channels to understand where we may need to strengthen our policies or procedures. Read more: Ethics & compliance.

    Beyond these mechanisms that are available to everyone, Walmart also provides additional outlets exclusively for our associates, including daily person-to-person interactions, our Open Door process and our Associate Engagement Survey. Read more: Human capital: Good jobs & advancement for associates.

    Human Rights/covid-screening.jpg

    We encourage stakeholders to raise concerns and report activities they suspect may contravene the values and positions we express in our policies and statements. We will not retaliate against any party for raising concerns in good faith. We train our associates to be able to recognize and speak up about retaliation and other issues. Walmart associates receive ethics training during onboarding and regularly thereafter. In FY2021, more than 942,000 associates received ethics training. An updated global training module and awareness campaigns are launching in 2021 to support our new Code of Conduct.

    Promoting respect for human rights in supply chains

    Given our salient human rights issues set forth above, understanding our product supply chains and accounting for stakeholder insights, we have identified five supply chains where we believe Walmart can make a positive impact in promoting respecting human rights. Key issues of focus in these supply chains include:

    • Apparel in Bangladesh: promoting a safe and healthy work environment
    • Produce in the U.S. and Mexico: all Walmart salient human rights issues
    • Shrimp in Thailand: combating forced and underage labor
    • Tuna in Thailand: combating forced and underage labor
    • Electronics sourced for the U.S. retail market: combating forced and underage labor
    Human Rights/thai-shrimp-boat.jpg

    Given the complexity and endemic nature of many human rights issues, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation work across industries, geographies and stakeholder groups to help advance respect for human rights by supporting capacity in critical parts of the system.

    Working with our suppliers and our grantees, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation use business levers and philanthropy to implement strategies relevant to our salient human rights issues in our supply chains. Below are examples of ways we work to help address these issues:

    Sourcing & operations
    Supplier engagement
    Capacity building & investments
    • Set policies and standards for our business and our suppliers, including our Code of Conduct, Standards for Suppliers, Global Responsible Sourcing Compliance Policy and Global Forced Labor Prevention Policy
    • Train merchandising and sourcing associates on responsible sourcing policies
    • Employ a risk-based approach to monitor compliance with our Standards for Suppliers, focusing on areas that pose the greatest potential risks to worker dignity
    • Encourage adoption of human rights–related policies and standards, such as the Seafood Task Force’s Code of Conduct and Vessel Auditable Standards, the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) Code of Conduct and the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices
    • Engage in ongoing dialogue with suppliers around management of non-compliance and risks
    • Provide resources to suppliers through our Responsible Sourcing website and our Responsible Sourcing Academy, including training, best practices and educational materials; strengthen suppliers’ capacity through targeted trainings (such as IOM trainings on responsible recruitment)
    • Encourage participation in industry-driven initiatives that promote worker dignity and safety, such as the RBA, the Life and Building Safety (LABS) Initiative and Nirapon
    • Develop and test tools to measure efforts on implementation of responsible labor practices, such as a pilot related to implementation of the Ethical Charter
    • Invest in data and technology to increase transparency about labor practices—e.g., IOM engagement to better understand the scope and scale of migrant labor in Walmart’s supply chains in Thailand and Malaysia
    • Strengthen demand for responsible labor practices—e.g., Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, Responsible Labor Initiative
    • Support efforts to improve policy and enforcement of regulations—e.g., Seafood Task Force engagement with government and industry stakeholders to improve regulation and codes of conduct
    • Enhance worker and community voices—e.g., Issara Institute’s worker empowerment efforts

    See examples of our philanthropic investments below.

    For example, in the North American produce corridor (NAC), we work to strengthen worker dignity and tackle forced labor across the NAC through investments that drive systems change and support fair labor practices and responsible recruitment. Below are examples of our philanthropic investments in the NAC and how they map to our salient human rights issues.

    North American Produce Corridor (NAC)
    Strategy: Strengthen worker dignity and tackle forced labor across the NAC through investments that drive systems change and support fair labor practices and responsible recruitment
    Salient human rights issues
    Treating workers with respect
    Promoting a safe & healthy work environment
    Providing a fair & inclusive work environment
    Combating forced & underage labor
    Philanthropy
    Data & transparency 
    Market signals 
    Policy, regulation & enforcement 
    Community & worker engagement & capacity 

    Wilson Center: Gather robust data on wages and working conditions on Mexican export-oriented farms to identify gaps, better assess patterns of recruitment, and share of employment for Mexican-born produce workers across the NAC

    Polaris: Strengthen worker voice through a communications tool that collects data and pushes information directly to and from agricultural workers at scale

    Stronger2gether: Partner with U.S. migrant worker organizations to conduct research around gaps in the H-2A process and raise migrant workers' awareness of their rights

    Florida International University: Research to better understand risks in FL tomato and strawberry supply chains and develop a regionally scalable blueprint for the sector

    Equitable Food Initiative: Build capacity and coverage around social assurance for Mexican export produce

    Stronger2gether: Build a program to drive demand for responsible recruitment in U.S. produce and pilot a social labor assurance certification for labor brokers

    Polaris: Develop educational materials on tackling cross-border labor trafficking for U.S. and Mexican lawmakers, prosecutors, consular officials and civil society groups

    Stronger2gether: Partner with U.S. migrant worker organizations to conduct baseline research and raise awareness of opportunities to strengthen policy and regulation

    Wilson Center: Better focus domestic Mexican labor enforcement efforts on forced labor/recruitment fees and conditions of work (payroll taxes, harassment and discrimination) in the produce sector

    Coalition of Immokalee Workers: Scale worker-driven social responsibility model beyond tomatoes in Florida

    Fair Trade USA: maximize the impact and transparency of premium programs, improving support for farmers and workers (focusing on producers of berries, tomatoes and coffee).

    CIERTO: Strengthen and develop scalable systems for responsible recruitment of H-2A farm workers from Mexico on U.S. farms including workers’ knowledge of their rights in communities of origin

    Connect & strengthen the system
    Avina Americas: Build the capacity of civil society organizations to support and train workers in key corridors for agricultural migration between Mexico and the United States on their rights and how to exercise them throughout their recruitment and employment, develop policy recommendations around labor rights through collaboration with sector stakeholders and engage agriculture suppliers to adopt responsible recruitment practices.

    For more information about our work on social sustainability in product supply chains, including more details about our Responsible Sourcing program, visit People in supply chains.

    Human Rights/citrus-peru.jpg

    Challenges

    • Human rights risks are complex and are often the result of systemic issues including deeply entrenched economic practices, workers lacking knowledge, support or tools to safeguard their rights, and inconsistent government regulation and enforcement across countries. These factors make it challenging for any single organization to have an impact.  
    • Progress in addressing human rights issues is dependent on the maturity, rigor and efficacy of third-party standards and initiatives, which requires a critical mass of suppliers and other businesses to align on common standards and best practices. For certain practices, there currently is no universal set of standards for responsible or sustainable production and/or certification beyond compliance with the law (e.g., responsible recruitment, wage/hour). Furthermore, there are limits to the efficacy of tools used to monitor compliance with expectations.  
    • The success of Walmart’s programs is dependent on suppliers’ and contractors’ capacity and willingness to meet high standards, as well as their performance.  
    • Human rights risks are often upstream and beyond the reach of traditional retailer oversight and monitoring tools. Lack of reliable data on source/origin of certain commodities and product ingredients and the way they are produced—as well as the blending and commoditization of product inputs and ingredients—is a complicating factor. The use of technology improving transparency and traceability (e.g., blockchain) can help, but adoption takes time and further innovation is necessary to meet these challenges. 
    • The breadth of Walmart's global product offerings and dispersed geographical reach of supply chains can present challenges for supplier engagement and risk identification and mitigation. Moreover, certain products can only be obtained from specific regions of the world, limiting options for alternative sources.  
    • Pandemics, weather-related events and political/social unrest can create supply/demand volatility and interrupt supply chains.  

    Additional resources