We believe it is the responsibility of business to respect human rights, and we aspire to use our capabilities and influence to bring about positive change at scale. To promote human dignity, we’ve committed to help make responsible recruitment standard business practice by around 2026. From monitoring and investigating issues to find root cause solutions, to embedding responsible sourcing practices into buying decisions, we’re working with others to help prevent forced labor, address unsafe working conditions and promote the dignity of women.
The Responsible Sourcing program began in 1992 to establish our expectations for suppliers and to monitor facilities in potentially high-risk geographies. Since then, we have expanded our efforts to provide ways for workers to report concerns, began risk-based auditing and audit assessments to monitor supply chain health, engaged with stakeholders around the world, and engaged in key supply chains to solve for root cause issues.
Approach to Responsible Buying practices
A foundation of our program is integration with the business. Our Responsible Sourcing Business Enablement teams work with buyers and sourcing hubs to help integrate responsible sourcing practices. From merchant strategies to selecting suppliers, they’re engaged in ensuring responsible buying practices at every step. Associates often participate in merchant and supplier meetings to help establish expectations up front.
Merchants and sourcing associates also participate in training to understand how their decisions can potentially influence supply chain conditions, and what they can do to reinforce positive facility working practices with suppliers. They receive new associate onboarding from Responsible Sourcing, and participate in workshops and educational sessions, which typically include information on forced labor, health and safety, and category-specific training.
Merchants use data – such as KPIs and Health Check Reports – to help hold suppliers accountable for supply chain health and risks. These reports provide visibility of suppliers and supply chains that present the highest potential risks. Responsible Sourcing and merchant associates use the data to drive improvements to supply chain health.
Empowering Suppliers + Responsible Sourcing Academy
Our suppliers own the relationship with facilities that produce the products we sell, and we expect suppliers to communicate our expectations throughout the entire supply chain. There are several ways we help empower suppliers to promote worker dignity.
The Responsible Sourcing Academy provides suppliers with access to training resources, best practice guidance, and educational materials developed by third parties and by Walmart. The Academy covers topics such as audit guidance – including the Global Compliance Guidance Tool – forced labor, health and safety, and supply chain controls. Many of these resources are offered in multiple languages. Responsible Sourcing associates conduct training and onboarding sessions with suppliers around the world.
Assessing the Supply Chain Risk
Responsible Sourcing conducts an annual risk assessment to better understand social compliance risks in the supply chain. All suppliers of goods for resale and for our own use are subject to our Standards for Suppliers. Suppliers are expected to communicate these standards throughout their supply chain. We include the Standards for Suppliers in supplier agreements, and post them for suppliers in seven languages.
Monitoring Supply Chains Through Auditing
We take a risk-based approach to auditing suppliers’ disclosed facilities, which allocates more resources to facilities located in countries with greater potential risks. Audits focus on a variety of issues, including worker compensation, voluntary labor practices, working age laws and standards, working hours, and facility health and safety standards. At Walmart, we strive to continually improve our risk-based audit program so we can better allocate our resources to higher-risk facilities and help increase overall compliance. However, we recognize that, despite our efforts, no audit program can guarantee that every facility used by every supplier is in full compliance with our Standards for Suppliers.
Investigations and Issue Response
In addition to monitoring suppliers’ facilities through audits, Walmart investigates certain alleged violations of our Standards for Suppliers. These allegations were the results of audits, internal referrals and worker grievance mechanisms such as the Walmart Ethics hotline. Each case is reviewed, and follow-up may include worker interviews and onsite visits. Responsible Sourcing may also engage directly with the supplier. This issue-response process typically includes a discussion regarding the allegations, a clarification of expectations, and review, approval, and follow up with the supplier on a remediation plan. However, substantiated findings may result in consequences for suppliers, facilities or both – up to and including termination of business with Walmart and its subsidiaries.
Read our 2020 ESG Report for information.
We are committed to making responsible recruitment the standard business practice by 2026. One of Responsible Sourcing’s primary areas of focus is combatting forced labor 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 labor brokers. We want responsible recruitment to be the standard business practice for employers throughout the global supply chain by 2026. To help make this happen, we are working with other businesses, suppliers, governments and members of civil society to confront root causes of forced labor and trafficking.
Responsible Recruitment Statement of Principles
Walmart believes in the Employer Pays Principle: No worker should pay for a job, and the costs of recruitment should not be borne by the worker, but by the employer. Our Responsible Recruitment Statement of Principles includes a public commitment in support of the Employer Pays Principle.
A Responsible Recruitment toolkit is also part of 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.
Walmart expects our suppliers to provide a safe working environment. To help address systemic issues affecting worker conditions more broadly, we collaborate with industry, NGOs, worker organizations and local governments. To put it simply, we expect our suppliers to provide a safe working environment.
Safety in Bangladesh
Walmart became a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in 2013. The Alliance concluded its mission at the end of 2018 after training nearly 1.6 million factory employees on basic safety and providing more than 1.5 million workers in 1,000 factories access to a helpline they could use to anonymously report safety or other job-related concerns. Furthermore, 93% of total remediation items across Alliance-affiliated factories are now complete — including 90% of items most critical to life safety.
Even though the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has ended, we’re staying involved in the region. We continue to monitor safety in our suppliers’ apparel facilities in Bangladesh, and we are working with other brands and retailers through Nirapon, an organization focused on monitoring ongoing safety compliance and maintaining the progress made on safety in the industry.
Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices
Walmart was also part of the group that led the creation of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices in produce and agricultural supply chains.
We helped bring together two of the largest produce associations and their members (produce suppliers and buyers) to agree on guiding principles for worker treatment, including forced labor and worker safety.
Since launching the charter in 2018, its endorsers have been working 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 approach will be piloted with selected suppliers in 2020, and the learnings from the pilot will be shared with the industry associations of the charter.
Dignity of Workers in retail supply chains
We are also committed to addressing potential risks to the dignity of workers in 10 retail supply chains by 2025. Such efforts reflect our commitment to engage with partners to address potential risks to the dignity of workers in a minimum of 10 retail supply chains by 2025, focusing on reducing forced labor and promoting worker safety and gender equity. We have identified five supply chains to date:
- Apparel in Bangladesh
- Produce in the U.S. and Mexico
- Shrimp in Thailand
- Tuna processed in Thailand
- Electronics sourced for the U.S. retail market
We are working to improve the lives of women around the world by providing more training, market access and career opportunities. Walmart is committed to promoting the dignity of women in the supply chain, including by reducing the risk of harassment and abuse.