Supply Chain Matters along with other social media outlets has raised the awareness to the recent incidents of tragedy and alleged labor abuses concerning garment workers in Bangladesh. We have featured a number of commentaries related to the consequences including the tragic Rana Plaza fire that took the lives of over 1100 workers. Readers are welcomed to access our Supply Chain Matters commentaries by clicking on the Category-apparel supply chains or searching on the term Bangladesh.

Thursday’s U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart has been fielding concerns from its own shareholders regarding its sourcing practices in Bangladesh. Wall Mart’s Vice President of Global Investor Relations is quoted in the article in indicating that the retailer continues to receive questions on supply chain sourcing, and specifically Bangladesh. This global retailer actually had a briefing with shareholders to respond to these concerns.

Wal-Mart’s web site includes its statement of ethical sourcing and Bangladesh that clearly outlines a zero-tolerance for any company that subcontracts work to an unauthorized supplier, along with its commitment for increased transparency of the global supply chain. The retailer now makes available a downloadable list of unapproved factories in Bangladesh.

Supply Chain Matters along with other business media has noted that after the most recent tragic fire in Bangladesh, We also called attention to increased perceptions that troubling industry norms in contracting processes have now increased visibility to other apparel industry players including Inditex and Li & Fung. Wal-Mart elected not to join a coalition of a number of European based major retailers to prevent future disasters by investing in factory safety and more widespread, consistent safety standards. Instead, the global retailer joined forces with more than a dozen U.S. based retailers to form a separate coalition and framework for a five year improvement plan concerning apparel factories in Bangladesh. That opens up the possibility of different or conflicting standards that garment factories must adhere to.

We trust that both consortiums will strive to converge on key core of workable global standards.

The takeaway for supply chain leaders is that if there were any doubts on the importance of incorporating robust social responsibility practices in global supply chain sourcing, take heed to what is transpiring at Wal-Mart and other global retailers.

Shareholders are indeed watching.

Bob Ferrari