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Reports: Wal-Mart Suppliers Use Child Labor, Illegal Wood

Gifts and Dec  |  December 13, 2007  |  Share  |  Source article

Washington, DC - Advocacy groups accused Wal-Mart of exploiting both the environment and sweatshop labor. The National Labor Committee released a report that claims ornaments sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, AR, were made under sweatshop conditions. The report asserts that the ornaments produced at the Guanzhou Huanya factory in Guangdong are made using child labor, without safety gear, by workers who work seven days a week and 10-15 hours per day, 92 percent of them for less than China's minimum wage of 55 cents an hour, without paid sick days or medical assistance.

Richard J. Coyle, director of international corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, said in response, "As soon as Wal-Mart learned about the Christmas tree ornament report, we contacted the National Labor Committee, and they have not returned our call. Now that we have a copy of their report, we have launched an immediate investigation. Wal-Mart aggressively deals with any allegations of improper conditions at our suppliers' factories. Wal-Mart maintains a very strict Supplier's Code of Conduct, and employs over 200 people to monitor our suppliers and their designated factories' adherence. Our program is the largest of its kind in the world - last year, we conducted more than 16,000 audits at over 8,700 factories."

Meanwhile, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released its own report claiming that Wal-Mart is selling wood products made from illegally logged timber, threatening the habitat of the highly endangered Siberian tiger. EIA claimed Chinese manufacturers made 200,000 baby cribs for Wal-Mart (subsequently recalled for baby deaths) from high-risk Russian wood.

In response, Tara Raddohl, senior communications manager for Wal-Mart, said, "Sustainable wood sourcing is important to our business and our customers. We encourage and advise our supplier partners to source from sustainable and ethical sources. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart published guidelines for our Wood Furniture Supplier Preference Program. These guidelines encourage all of our suppliers to embrace transparency for wood fiber and raw materials by 2010. Through this program, Wal-Mart already gives preference to suppliers who can verify their use of sustainably harvested and recycled wood fiber. When we discover sustainable sourcing or factory issues, we are committed to seeking alternatives, or even removing products from shelves." 

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