Wal-Mart Stores Inc has instructed its global supply base to cease sourcing cotton and cotton materials from Uzbekistan in an effort to persuade the Uzbek government to end the use of forced child labor in cotton harvesting.
This action follows months of work with industry trade associations, government agencies, non-governmental organisations and socially responsible investment groups to form a common position in condemning the Uzbek government’s practices.
“We have formed an unprecedented coalition, representing 90 per cent of the US purchases of cotton and cotton-based merchandise, to bring these appalling child labor conditions to an end,” said Rajan Kamalanathan, vice president of ethical standards. “There is no tolerance for forced child labor in the Wal-Mart supply chain.”
With Wal-Mart’s active participation, four industry trade groups, the American Association of Footwear and Apparel, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel sent a joint letter to the Embassy of Uzbekistan on August 18, demanding an immediate end to the use of forced child labor in cotton harvesting.
In response, the Uzbek government issued on September 12, a National Action Plan which details steps to eradicate the use of child labor.
Once these steps can be independently verified, Wal-Mart will modify the direction to its suppliers.