In May, the Norway fund’s ethics council cited numerous efforts by Walmart to improve working conditions at its suppliers. It pointed to the 13,000 supplier audit reports Walmart said it reviewed last year (that number increased to 14,700 in fiscal 2019), and the 500 investigations Walmart launched into issues reported to it. But as Walmart made many of these changes, it was dogged by reports of labour issues in its supply chain.
In 2015, a report from the Asia Floor Wage Alliance detailed abuses across Walmart’s supply chain in Cambodia, India and Indonesia. Among the issues reported by workers at Walmart’s garment suppliers in those countries were forced labour, wage theft, sexual harassment, crackdowns on strikes and worker organisation, and dangerous working conditions.
In the meantime, even social-minded investors and shoppers — the Norways of the world — give companies the thumbs up. They may do so with the best information and best corporate reporting available. But that info and reporting only goes so far, and critics charge it is incomplete until it is more directly tied to how well workers are actually treated in global supply chains.