Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Wal-Mart move ratchets up accountability debate

Wal-Mart’s continuing ban on Uzbek cotton extends retailers’ acceptance of responsibility far further than ever before

The Uzbek government’s September 12 decision to ban children in the cotton harvest was greeted with widespread scepticism and many Web accounts that the practice was continuing.

Wal-Mart announced on September 30 it had instructed suppliers to continue excluding Uzbek cotton, but that the ban would go if the plan to ban child labour was being independently verified.
Previously, most retailer ethical standards were applied only to garment and raw material factories, with practices in cotton fields widely ignored. Inspection programmes were mainly aimed at individual countries. Wal-Mart has now not only extended the concept of compliance into developing-world agriculture, but has in effect publicly announced it mistrusts a sovereign state.

Objectively, Wal-Mart are probably right. But no retailer has ever publicly confrfonted an entire nation before, and the likely reaction from an unaccountable dictator who tolerates no dissents at home is far from predictable.