People in supply chains

SASB: CG-AA-430b.1; CG-AA-430b.3; CG-AA-440a.1; FB-FR-430a.3
GRI: 102-9; 204-1; 409-1; 412-2; 414-1
UN SDGs: 2, 5, 8
S G | Last Updated: July 7, 2021

Our aspiration

Our aspiration

We aim to source responsibly while acting as a catalyst of positive transformation for the well-being of people working in consumer product supply chains, working with others to realize the economic promise of supply chains and to help address specific systemic risks.

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Key goals & metrics

Metrics
FY2019
FY2020
FY2021
Responsible sourcing metrics
Supplier-disclosed facilities in “active” status198>25,800 >26,000>27,800
Number of third-party responsible sourcing facility audit reports assessed>14,400
>14,500>14,000
Facility color ratings for assessed audit reports as a percentage of all assessed audits for the fiscal year199 200Green23.7%24.0%23.5%
Yellow63.1%65.3%68.8%
Orange10.8%10.3%7.3%
Red0.3%0.4%0.4%
Number of facilities in small supplier compliance program
355274
Number of countries where assessed third-party responsible sourcing facility audits were conducted
84
Number of cases opened related to allegations of supply chain misconduct>600>700>800
Progress toward social sustainability commitments
Goal Metric FY2019 FY2020 FY2021
Between 2018-2022, Walmart Foundation to invest $25 million to strengthen smallholders in farmer producer organizations and farm yields in IndiaDollars invested (cumulative since 2018)
>$13 million>$20 million
Amount sourced from diverse suppliers201 to our U.S. businesses—goods and services>$11 billion$11.7 billion>$13 billion
Number of diverse suppliers202 to our U.S. businesses—goods and services~2,800~2,900~2,900

Relevance to our business & society

Retail supply chains bring food and other essential products to consumers around the world. Growing, making and transporting products also benefits local economies and provides economic opportunity for billions of people who work in product supply chains, including lifting many out of poverty. In some cases, however, people working in product supply chains may face the risk of exploitation, especially in regions with less robust legal and social infrastructure.

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Walmart’s business depends on our ability to source responsibly made products; our core values of respect for the individual and for human rights demand it. Walmart’s supply chain consists of more than 100,000 suppliers globally, many of whom have their own suppliers. Our stakeholders expect us to not only source responsibly but to be a catalyst for positive transformation for the well-being of people working in supply chains: working with others to create economic opportunity and to address specific systemic risks at scale.

Walmart’s approach

To promote the well-being of people in the supply chains in which we source, Walmart aims to source our products responsibly, create economic opportunity for people and collaborate with others to address systemic risks to worker well-being.

  • Responsible sourcing: Our approach begins with holding our suppliers accountable for the responsible operation of their facilities and for safeguarding the well-being of workers in their facilities and supply chains. Walmart expects that the products it purchases and sells are made in the right way by suppliers who act ethically, pay people fairly, provide working environments that are clean and safe, and respect the dignity of workers. We articulate this in our Standards for Suppliers, which apply to all suppliers who sell their products to us for resale or for Walmart’s own use. We employ a risk-based approach to monitor for compliance with our Standards and focus on areas that pose the greatest potential risk to worker dignity. We also empower our merchants to make purchasing decisions that best promote our objectives and give our suppliers resources and information to help them understand and meet our expectations. 
  • Creating economic opportunity for people in supply chains: Growing, making and transporting products benefits local economies and provides economic opportunity for billions of people who work in product supply chains, including lifting many out of poverty. Walmart annually sources billions of dollars of products from diverse suppliers and uses business and philanthropic resources to help smaller producers access markets and grow.
  • Collaborating to address systemic risks to worker well-being: Systemic issues such as forced labor, unsafe working conditions and gender inequity require collective action to bring about significant, positive and lasting transformation for the well-being of workers. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation collaborate with suppliers, non-governmental organizations, experts and others to address root causes of these issues, foster innovative solutions and accelerate adoption at scale.

Key strategies & progress

Responsible sourcing | Creating economic opportunity | Collaborating to address systemic risks

Responsible sourcing

Our Responsible Sourcing program sets expectations of product suppliers aligned with our Human Rights Statement, monitors supplier performance against those expectations and works through our business to continuously improve our product supply chains.

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Program foundations

Walmart’s expectations of suppliers are set out in our Standards for Suppliers, which apply to all suppliers that sell their products to us for resale or for Walmart’s own use. Suppliers are expected to cascade the requirements outlined in our Standards for Suppliers throughout their supply chains – including raw material, component or ingredient suppliers, and subcontractors and agents. These foundational expectations address fundamental issues such as worker safety, forced labor and discrimination in the workplace.

Walmart merchandising and sourcing teams choose which products to buy and which suppliers to work with and are key to achieving Walmart’s responsible sourcing objectives. Their actions are guided by Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers, Code of Conduct, Global Responsible Sourcing Compliance Policy, and Global Forced Labor Prevention Policy, among other resources.

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Code of Conduct, Global Responsible Sourcing Compliance Policy and Global Forced Labor Prevention Policy

Walmart’s Code of Conduct, which applies to all Walmart associates globally, reiterates our respect for human rights, prohibits the use of underage or forced labor anywhere we do business, sets the expectation that all Walmart associates know and uphold our Standards for Suppliers, and obligates associates to comply with all other relevant policies, including our Global Responsible Sourcing Policy and Global Forced Labor Prevention Policy.

Walmart’s Global Responsible Sourcing Compliance Policy establishes requirements for our merchandising and sourcing associates to buy and source from responsible supply chains, including by:

  • Knowing and understanding our Standards for Suppliers and other relevant policies and program requirements 
  • Not knowingly buying or sourcing from suppliers that are producing products for Walmart using forced, underage, or involuntary prison labor; suppliers with facilities with known safety issues that may result in significant loss of life; or suppliers or facilities that are not authorized to produce for Walmart because of past compliance violations 
  • Communicating expectations and holding suppliers accountable to the Walmart Standards for Suppliers and Responsible Sourcing Compliance Program requirements 
  • Considering how certain buying practices might create pressures on suppliers and facilities that may increase risk 
  • Escalating concerns through our Ethics channels 

Additionally, Walmart’s Global Forced Labor Prevention policy sets requirements for all Walmart associates regarding the prevention of forced labor and conveys the expectation that our suppliers uphold the principles in the policy. The policy makes clear Walmart’s endorsement of forced labor prevention principles, that workers should understand the terms and conditions of their employment, and that workers should have freedom of movement. It reiterates the expectation that merchandising and sourcing associates not knowingly buy or source from suppliers producing products using forced labor, including underage labor or involuntary prison labor, in their operations or their supply chain, and communicate expectations and hold suppliers accountable to the Walmart Standards for Suppliers and our Forced Labor Prevention requirements.

Failure to comply with these policies may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

To support our merchandising and sourcing teams and to build strong connections with local suppliers, Walmart has associates around the world dedicated to administering our Responsible Sourcing program. As of January 31, 2021, Walmart Compliance associates located in 12 countries support the Responsible Sourcing program. Walmart’s Responsible Sourcing Compliance associates provide ongoing support and guidance to merchandising and sourcing teams so they can align purchasing practices with program expectations. This includes helping these teams understand and mitigate risk and training them on responsible sourcing expectations, processes, trends and tools; working directly with suppliers to help create an understanding of our expectations; and collaborating with stakeholders on key industry and regional responsible sourcing issues.

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Training & tools

Walmart merchandising and sourcing associates are trained on our Global Responsible Sourcing Compliance Policy, our Standards for Suppliers and our responsible sourcing expectations on an ongoing basis. This training introduces new merchants to the Responsible Sourcing program while updating program understanding among seasoned business partners. In FY2021, we provided training to more than 2,700 participants globally.

In addition to training Walmart associates, we provide tools and resources to suppliers through various channels, including our corporate website to help them understand our expectations and to help them make improvements in their supply chains. Since 2017, more than 140,000 training sessions have been completed by suppliers, including training on key areas such as the Standards for Suppliers. Additionally, after disclosing their production facilities to Walmart, suppliers receive email communications reiterating our Standards for Suppliers and providing references to resources to help them understand and meet Responsible Sourcing requirements. In FY2021, over 12,500 of these communications were sent to suppliers globally. Finally, Walmart associates also provide individual guidance, including when suppliers or merchants reach out with questions and when audit results are shared with suppliers.

Monitoring

We take a risk-based approach to monitoring suppliers’ facilities for compliance with our Standards for Suppliers. This approach includes audits conducted by third parties and handling of allegations through our case management process that can include investigations.

Our monitoring program begins with our requirement that suppliers disclose to Walmart any facilities they are using to produce private and exclusive brand merchandise, goods imported by Walmart and items for our own use that carry the Walmart brand (such as shopping bags). In some markets, and based on risk, we require additional facilities to be disclosed, and this requirement extends to goods not for resale. Consistent with our Disclosure Policy & Guidance and Audit and Assessment Policy & Guidance documents, we rely on third-party auditing programs to monitor suppliers’ social compliance at these facilities.

We do not wait for allegations of misconduct to audit. Instead, as set out in our Audit and Assessment Policy and Guidance, we require suppliers to provide audits from our suppliers’ facilities based on factors including the risk level of the country in which the facility is located or any prior audit results from the facility. Countries are assigned risk levels based on World Bank governance indicators. Country risk level helps us decide what type of due diligence may be needed before we permit our suppliers to begin producing product for Walmart. Facilities in lower-risk countries are typically subject to audits on a less frequent basis—but may be reaudited more frequently if prior results disclosed higher-risk findings—while facilities in countries that fall into medium and higher levels of risk are typically subject to regular audits, regardless of the outcome of earlier audits of the same facilities. If a facility is in scope for an audit, a third-party audit is conducted to evaluate and monitor social compliance. As of May 2021, Walmart recognized 11 approved third-party audit programs. Walmart assessed more than 14,000 third-party audit reports in FY2021.

Strengthening capacity of global audit systems

Walmart seeks to strengthen the capacity of the global social compliance audit system.

For example, we supported the establishment of the Association of Professional Social Compliance Auditors (APSCA) to enhance the professionalism, consistency and credibility of the individuals and organizations performing social compliance audits. Walmart continues to support APSCA. As of January 2021, more than 4,250 auditors had enrolled with APSCA. Walmart also works to improve individual audit programs. To become approved by Responsible Sourcing, an audit program undergoes an extensive review that covers the program’s audit content, methodology, program governance and quality assurance processes, among other components. After the review, we provide feedback to the programs on elements for improvement. We may require elements to be addressed before the program can become an approved option for suppliers. We continually engage with the programs to help mature them as necessary.

Suppliers are responsible for providing an audit report for facilities that fall within the audit scope and for correcting non-compliances identified. We have associates dedicated to support suppliers through this process, including communicating with suppliers about our requirements and checking the validity of submitted audit reports. We also have associates dedicated to review each audit submitted and assign a rating to describe its compliance and risk level. Central audit administration teams partner with the compliance teams in each country in which we operate to support merchants in understanding their suppliers’ performance and any issues that warrant supplier engagement, as well as communicating with suppliers about audit results and expected next steps.

Facility & supplier compliance assessments

Facilities are assigned color ratings based on their compliance and risk levels. These ratings may come from audits or investigations.

  • Green: Highest level of compliance
  • Yellow: Minimal issues to be addressed
  • Orange: More significant issues that must be remediated
  • Red: Serious issues that ordinarily lead to the facility no longer being authorized to produce products for Walmart 

Suppliers may also be given consequences for substantiated non-compliances. Suppliers may be assigned a “strike” where they are directly responsible for non-compliant activities (i.e., action on their part as opposed to on the part of one of their facilities) and for certain serious violations by their facilities. Ordinarily three “strikes” within a two-year period will lead to the termination of a relationship with Walmart. Walmart may also choose to sever its relationship with a supplier based on a single instance or event, as circumstances warrant.

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Walmart has several mechanisms for workers (and anyone with relevant information) to raise concerns directly to Walmart, and we require facilities producing for Walmart private brands to post signage in the local language that details how workers can use these mechanisms.

If we receive information alleging serious violations of our Standards by suppliers or their facilities, we manage those allegations through a case management process. Our escalation criteria are informed by principles from the four International Labour Organization fundamental principles and rights at work. In some cases, these efforts involve engaging with suppliers directly to discuss the allegations, clarify expectations and follow-up on remediation. In more serious cases, we deploy a team of Walmart investigators to gather facts about the allegations through on-site visits to facilities or through other means. For example, serious allegations that may warrant in-depth scrutiny could include indicators of forced labor, such as restriction of movement and excessive recruitment fees. In FY2021, 843 cases were managed related to more serious allegations of non-compliances with our Standards for Suppliers.

FY2021 Responsible sourcing allegations received, by allegation category 
Safety conditions193
Voluntary labor156
Unauthorized production141
Employment practices111
Integrity91
Working conditions66
Other62
Proactive visits20323
Total843

Managing non-compliance & risk

While the vast majority of audited suppliers’ facilities are compliant with our foundational expectations (maintaining a Green or Yellow rating), audits and cases do surface more serious issues.

In our experience, staying engaged with a supplier through dialogue can have a more positive impact than abandoning a supplier relationship. For example, in FY2021, nearly 30% of orange-rated facilities were remediated to either yellow or green assessments.

However, certain non-compliance with our standards can result in consequences up to and including termination of a supplier’s relationship with Walmart and our subsidiaries and/or a supplier’s ability to use a particular facility for Walmart production. Whether resulting from audits or cases, when higher-risk findings that could lead to a red rating (for a facility) or a strike (for a supplier) are identified, the compliance teams work with the relevant merchant teams to communicate the results, any business consequences and/or remediation expectations to the supplier. In FY2021, 26 facilities received a red rating. Since 2012, Walmart has stopped doing business with 37 suppliers in response to serious violations of our Standards.

Creating economic opportunity for people in supply chains

Walmart sources billions of dollars from diverse suppliers and uses business and philanthropic resources to help smaller producers access markets and grow.

Supporting India manufacturing & entrepreneurs

In India, Walmart has established the Vriddhi Supplier Development Program, which aims to train and prepare 50,000 of India’s micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to “Make in India” for domestic and global supply chains by 2025. Through a collaboration with Swasti, the Walmart Vriddhi program aims to improve supplier capacity through training on business management, promotion of customer-centric strategies, workforce management and environmental sustainability. In December 2020, Walmart announced that it will triple its exports of goods from India to $10 billion each year by 2027. The new export commitment is expected to provide a significant boost to MSMEs in India.

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Market access for small producers

Retail markets with leading small producer sourcing programs include Mexico, Central America, South Africa and India. These businesses also have specialized supplier development programs focused on subject matter experts (SME), including examples such as Adopta Una PyME (“Adopt a SME”), Una Mana Para Crecer (“A Helping Hand”), Tierrra Fértil (“Fertile Soil”), and our South Africa Supplier Development Program that has procured more than $72 million of products from small and medium enterprises since 2012.

The Walmart Foundation has awarded grants of over $52 million to benefit smallholders in India, Mexico and Central America since 2017. These grants are expected to reach over 293,000 smallholder farmers (44% of whom are women). The grants provide access to training and capacity development along with market linkages for smallholders in Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). As part of this total reach to smallholders, in India, the Walmart Foundation has an active $25 million five-year commitment to strengthen smallholders in FPOs. Progress against this commitment to date includes 10 grantees with grant awards of just over $20 million, providing reach to over 170,000 smallholder farmers (57% of whom are women).

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Diverse sourcing

Walmart uses its sourcing strategies to foster equity and inclusion of underrepresented and disadvantaged groups while enhancing our product offering. Walmart’s supplier inclusion program provides companies owned and operated by racial and ethnic minorities, women, veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities equal access to work with us while at the same time growing their business. A diverse supply chain helps us deliver the products and services our customers want and need at affordable prices.

To help Walmart U.S. identify and support diverse suppliers, we have a Supplier Inclusion portal that provides information on our supplier diversity initiatives and requirements. We also have a merchandising team dedicated to supplier diversity that works directly with interested suppliers and regularly attends business conferences, product and procurement fairs, expos and similar events to help identify potential new diverse suppliers.

Made in USA

Walmart has a long history of supporting American-made products. According to data from our suppliers, in FY2021 nearly two-thirds of Walmart U.S.’ total product spend was on items made, grown or assembled in the United States.

Through our America at Work initiative, launched in 2013, we committed to invest an incremental $250 billion over 10 years in products that support the creation of American jobs. As of the end of FY2021, we have achieved 93% of our expected progress through the first eight years of the initiative. In March 2021, we announced an updated and extended commitment to invest an additional $350 billion in items made, grown or assembled in the United States over the next 10 years (through FY2031). Walmart estimates that this investment has the potential to support more than 750,000 new jobs.204

Read more: Supplier opportunity.

Collaborating to address systemic risks to worker well-being

Beyond foundational compliance, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are working to address key issues in strategic supply chains by:

  • Conducting due diligence, including funding research into the prevalence of social concerns in industry supply chains and/or regions and tracking progress toward improvement (e.g., the Walmart Foundation funded the first comprehensive study documenting the prevalence of forced labor and exploitation of fishermen on Thai fishing vessels in 2016, led by International Justice Mission)
  • Engaging with governments to advocate for policy change and enforcement of current laws and regulations (e.g., we have advocated for responsible recruitment through the Bali Process and direct engagement with government leaders in southeast Asia)
  • Collaborating with key stakeholders and thought leaders in task forces and consortia
  • Supporting capacity in critical parts of the system

Such efforts reflect our commitment to engage with stakeholders to address the major potential risks to the dignity of workers in a minimum of 10 retail supply chains by 2025. We have focused on the following supply chains to date:

  • Apparel in Bangladesh
  • Produce in the U.S. and Mexico
  • Shrimp in Thailand
  • Tuna in Thailand
  • Electronics sourced for the U.S. retail market
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Within these supply chains, we are focused on addressing issues of forced labor and responsible recruitment, worker safety and gender equity. Read more: Human rights.

Forced labor & responsible recruitment

Walmart has prioritized working with stakeholders to combat forced labor and other exploitative practices in global supply chains. Debt bondage, one of the most common forms of forced labor, is often caused by employers and recruiters charging vulnerable workers exorbitant recruitment fees, which leaves workers indebted and unable to leave their jobs. While forced labor is a global problem, forced labor risks are most acute in certain geographies and supply chains, including products from Southeast Asia and agriculture in North America. In FY2021, Walmart identified 23 audits which noted workers had paid recruitment fees to obtain employment and were escalated for further review.

In 2016, Walmart and Walmart Foundation set an aspiration to help make responsible recruitment the standard business practice for employers throughout global supply chains within a decade (by 2026). Since then, our business and philanthropic efforts have focused on the following:

  • Strengthening demand for responsible labor and practices
  • Using data and technology to increase transparency about labor practices
  • Enhancing worker and community voice tools and mechanisms
  • Supporting efforts to improve enforcement of existing regulations

Since FY2016, the Walmart Foundation has awarded over $40 million in grants to help strengthen worker dignity by promoting the responsible recruitment of workers and fair and responsible labor practices in global supply chains.

Recent examples of Walmart & Walmart Foundation initiatives to combat forced labor & promote responsible recruitment
Business-led initiatives and investmentsWalmart Foundation-led initiatives and investments

International Organization for Migration (IOM) 

Walmart engaged this group to better understand the scope and scale of migrant labor in Walmart’s supply chains in Thailand and Malaysia. To help build the leadership capacity of suppliers’ facilities and their recruiters on ethical recruitment and migrant worker protection, the project delivered training to increase awareness of responsible recruitment practices and effective actions to improve the recruitment process of migrant workers and decrease the risk of workers’ exploitation. IOM has trained 100 facilities in Thailand and Malaysia on managing the risks of migrant worker exploitation and trained over 90 recruiters205 on ethical recruitment in Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar. As a result, participants gained the knowledge and skills to help improve protection of over 84,000 migrant workers.

Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment (LGRR)

Walmart has been a member of this company-led collective advocacy platform since 2016. LGRR collaborates with other businesses, the recruitment industry and governments to create demand for responsible recruitment, increase supply of ethically sourced labor and improve protections for migrant workers through effective regulation. In 2020, the LGRR pilot-tested a reporting framework to better understand companies’ activities and progress in implementing the Employer Pays Principle.

Responsible Labor Initiative (RLI)

Walmart participated in the multi-stakeholder advisory group that assisted the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) in launching the Responsible Labor Initiative in 2017 to bring together stakeholders from multiple industries that share recruitment supply chains to promote due diligence in labor practices and ensure that the rights of vulnerable workers are upheld. Walmart is currently an active member of both the RLI Steering Committee and the RLI Working Group. Walmart is working with the Responsible Labor Initiative Steering Committee to develop an accountability model designed to enhance the maturity of RLI membership and measure impact of members’ activities.

Seafood Task Force

Walmart has been a member of this international, multi-stakeholder initiative to address forced labor and illegal fishing in the Thai seafood industry since 2015. We have been a member of the organization’s board since 2016 and are a member of several of its working subgroups. The Seafood Task Force has developed a Code of Conduct; established a system to track products across the supply chain; worked with government and industry stakeholders to improve regulation and codes of conduct; and championed fishery improvement projects. In FY2019, the Seafood Task Force developed the Vessel Auditable Standards, which the tuna subgroup used as a tool to raise awareness with fishing vessel representatives in selected locations in FY2020. In FY2021, the Seafood Task Force developed additional tools that are available in different languages and are accessible to anyone for use to accelerate improvement in the industry.

Electronics

Governments, 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 labor. To mitigate these potential risks, we are engaging all information, communication and technology suppliers for the Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. retail market supply chains and asking them to implement the RBA Code of Conduct. These suppliers have the option to become an RBA member (regular or full category) or implement the RBA Validated Assessment Program for each disclosed facility.

Stronger Together

Following an initial investment from the Walmart Foundation in 2019, Stronger Together launched a new series of online webinars aimed at enhancing U.S. produce suppliers’ understanding of recruitment risks for H-2A workers and strengthen their management of and communications with these employees. Their multi-stakeholder program seeks to motivate the U.S. fresh produce sector to recognize and reward responsible recruitment, increasing the supply of ethically sourced labor and reducing risks for workers and businesses.

CIERTO

In FY2021, the Walmart Foundation made an investment in CIERTO, a non-profit international Farm Labor Contractor, to build capacity around the responsible recruitment of H-2A migrant workers through the Mexico/U.S. corridor to U.S. farms and to support implementation of the “Employer Pays Principle” under which the costs of recruitment should be borne not by the worker but by the employer.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

In FY2021, the Walmart Foundation made its third grant to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to fill knowledge gaps, strengthen enforcement efforts and assess the implications of an increasingly Mexican-born workforce in North American agriculture.

Polaris

Polaris works to tackle human trafficking and end modern slavery. They have built a North American Safety Net that connects national anti-trafficking hotlines in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Funding from the Walmart Foundation supported Polaris’s implementation of Nonechka, a mobile multilingual tech tool to engage Mexican agricultural migrant workers and strengthen their knowledge around potential exploitation. Funding also supported collaboration and sharing of best practices between victim services hotlines in Mexico and the U.S. The grant resulted in more than 360 labor trafficking and exploitation cases being referred for action by the appropriate authorities between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020.

Responsible Business Alliance Foundation (RBA-FDTN)

The RBA-FDTN is a supporting organization of the RBA which has a leading social compliance standard designed to address forced labor risks across global supply chains. The Walmart Foundation’s FY2021 grant will help diversify and strengthen the market for ethical recruitment by incentivizing private recruitment agencies serving different industries towards becoming an ethical recruiter through the Responsible Recruitment Program and by piloting an innovative economic model that incentivizes employers to participate in responsible recruiting.

International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) 

IREX works to reduce human trafficking across the Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia recruitment corridors. The Walmart Foundation’s FY2020 grant will help IREX expand their community engagement and outreach to mitigate first-mile risks faced by migrant workers and build capacity of local actors to sustain safe migration activities in their communities. This grant also enables IREX to support migrant workers and their families’ most pressing needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating mobile safe migration resource centers for targeted outreach and launching online information campaigns designed to improve workers’ awareness of their rights and how to access key services.

Issara Institute, Inc.

The Walmart Foundation has partnered with Issara since 2016 to tackle human trafficking in Southeast Asia by empowering migrant workers and engaging businesses in the supply chain. The Walmart Foundation’s FY2021 grant will help Issara develop an expanded responsible recruitment marketplace app, expand case study-based training offered through Issara Academy for employers and recruitment agencies, and engage stakeholders in national meetings to share key findings and best practices for recruitment.

Truckers Against Trafficking 

In the U.S., Walmart has incorporated training from Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) that helps transportation professionals recognize and report suspected human trafficking incidents. Since 2019, TAT training has been a part of both the recurring driver training program and the new-driver onboarding process for our private fleet drivers. To date, we have used the TAT training to train over 16,500 drivers on how they can combat human trafficking while operating their vehicles.

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Worker safety

Walmart expects our suppliers to provide a safe working environment, but endemic safety challenges remain in many parts of the world. We have prioritized initiatives focused on the apparel and footwear industries in geographies with acute safety challenges to help improve worker safety in our own supply chain and beyond.

Safety in Bangladesh

Walmart was a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which concluded its five-year mission at the end of 2018. The Alliance trained nearly 1.6 million factory employees on basic safety and provided more than 1.5 million workers in 1,000 factories access to a helpline to anonymously report safety or other job-related concerns. Approximately 93% of total remediation items across Alliance-affiliated factories were complete—including 90% of high-priority remediation items. Although the Alliance’s work concluded, we continue to prioritize safety in Bangladesh, including through Nirapon, an organization focused on monitoring ongoing safety compliance and maintaining the progress made through the Alliance and other safety initiatives.

Life and Building Safety (LABS) initiative

Walmart is a founding member (and on the steering committee) of LABS, an initiative comprising European and American brands that have come together to set international best practices for factory safety in the apparel and footwear industries. LABS is currently active in India and Vietnam. LABS works with engineering companies to develop country-specific standards for safety in factories. It also commissions audits around fire, electrical and structural risks and asks factories to develop supervised Corrective Action Plans to remediate problems and then assesses implementation of their plans. LABS also provides training for factory workers on safety, maintaining fire prevention systems, and use of the LABS helpline to report building safety concerns.

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Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices

Walmart was a member of the Joint Committee for Responsible Labor Practices , a committee convened by United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association and including growers, packers, distributors, marketers and retailers of fresh produce and flowers. As a member of the Committee, Walmart helped to develop the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. The Charter contains guiding principles and values intended to provide a framework for responsible labor practices in fresh produce and floral supply chains. The Charter is based on a foundation of employment law, good management systems and sound occupational safety and health practices.

Since launching the Charter in 2018, Walmart has been an advocate of the Ethical Charter as it aligns with the values of our own Standards for Suppliers and a promoter of becoming an endorser. Walmart and other endorsers have been working with ELEVATE and the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) on a project that aims to develop and pilot non-audit approaches focused on management systems, such as self-assessment, self-guided actions and capacity building for managers and workers for the Charter’s implementation. The project started testing with selected suppliers and growers in 2020, and the learnings from the pilot will be shared with the industry associations mid-2021.

Read more: Human rights.

Gender equity

Since 2011, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have shaped and participated in special initiatives to help empower women working in global supply chains around the world. Most recently, these initiatives include overcoming barriers to market access for women smallholder farmers through the Walmart Foundation Market Access program, supporting the empowerment of women in factories through the Empower@Work Collaborative, and sourcing from women-owned businesses in the U.S. and other markets (with Walmart U.S. spending over $39 billion with women-owned businesses over the nine years ending in FY2021). Such efforts build on the insights and momentum from our five-year Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) initiative, which ran from 2012 to 2017 and included Walmart U.S. sourcing $20 billion from women-owned businesses as well as philanthropic support to train one million women on farms, in factories and in retail settings in emerging markets.

Walmart Foundation’s Market Access program, launched in 2017, focuses on helping Farmer Producer Organizations build capacity in India, Mexico and Central America to help smallholder farmers prosper. The Walmart Foundation awarded grants of just over $52 million to benefit smallholders in India, Mexico and Central America between 2017 and the end of FY2021. These grants are expected to reach over 293,000 smallholder farmers (44% of whom are women). The grants provide access to training and capacity development along with market linkages for smallholders in Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). As part of this total reach to smallholders, in India, the Walmart Foundation has an active $25 million five-year commitment to strengthen smallholders in FPOs. Progress against this commitment to date includes 10 grantees with grant awards of just over $20 million, providing reach to over 170,000 smallholder farmers (57% of whom are women). The Walmart Foundation's recently published white paper, Seeding advancement of women in smallholder farming: insights from the Market Access portfolio, highlights lessons learned from its Market Access portfolio. We found that the following areas are most successful in accelerating female farmers’ economic prosperity: women’s membership and leadership in farmer producer organizations, women’s skills and capacity development in farm production systems, women’s inclusive crop and marketing programs and women’s access to finance.

COVID-19 created devastating impacts on global supply chains. Low-wage, predominantly female garment workers have been disproportionately impacted, both by being put at risk and by spending savings on food and medical expenditures for their families. In October 2020, to promote benefits to factory workers with a focus on women’s well-being, Walmart entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with other retailers and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The MOU aims to establish a dialogue and identify any steps in the framework for further cooperation in activities that provide much-needed livelihood relief to the predominantly female workers in the supply chain.

Walmart continues initiatives to source from women-owned businesses and support related initiatives such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Student Entrepreneur Program, the NextGen program (nurturing millennial and Generation Z enterprises), and the Women of Color program (aimed at increasing their competitiveness for inclusion in corporate supply chains).

We will continue to integrate efforts to support gender equity throughout our business, ranging from responsible sourcing standards and social auditing practices along the supply chain to internal gender equity policies, practices and commitments.

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 in which products are made. 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 retailers 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’ 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.  
  • Walmart’s ability to scale more sustainable options is dependent on customer preferences and demand (which can depend on the cost and convenience of such options) and the availability and cost of preferred products, ingredients, commodities and inputs. Growth in and/or changes in our business can challenge our ability to meet customer demands consistent with our aspiration.  
  • Pandemics, weather-related events and political/social unrest can create supply/demand volatility and interrupt supply chains.

Additional resources