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Oxfam calls on Walmart to commit to human rights impact assessments

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Oxfam America, part of the global Oxfam organization fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice, has filed a shareholder resolution urging Walmart to publish human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) that examine the actual and potential human rights impacts of high-risk commodities in the company’s supply chains. By conducting HRIAs, Oxfam argues, Walmart could not only remedy and prevent human rights abuses in its operations and supply chains, but also better mitigate the potential reputational, legal, operational, and financial risks associated with these high-risk sectors.

This marks the second year that Oxfam has filed a similar resolution with Walmart. 

As the largest private employer in the country, Walmart has a unique responsibility to ensure that its operations and supply chains are free from human rights abuses, and the public has the right to know the results of those assessments,” said Hana Ivanhoe, Private Sector Advocacy and Campaigns Manager at Oxfam America. “HRIAs cost relatively little but could spare the Company and its shareholders significant costs in the form of public relations crises and scandals – not to mention the obvious benefit of securing dignified working conditions for Walmart employees and those of its suppliers. It’s a win-win.”

Walmart continues to garner negative attention surrounding its substandard working conditions, both within the U.S. and throughout its global supply chains. Reports have revealed evidence of forced labor and child labor in Walmart’s supply chain, with one recent investigation exposing widespread use of trafficked labor on fishing ships and forced labor in processing plants producing seafood sold by Walmart. The Company has also received criticism for the poor treatment of its workforce and has faced repeated accusations of insufficient sick leave policies, mistreatment of pregnant workers, and insufficient wages. As of last year, at least half of Walmart’s hourly workers earned less than $29,000 annually – an income that makes it effectively impossible to achieve a reasonable standard of living.

Oxfam’s resolution outlines how comprehensive human rights impact assessments would give Walmart a vital tool to identify, analyze, and address the root causes of these risks and protect shareholder value. Beyond identifying the actual and potential adverse impacts associated with the product or operation, HRIAs should also include Walmart’s connection and level of responsibility to the risks identified, as well as time-bound action plans presenting how the findings will be implemented to prevent, mitigate and/or remedy impacts.

“Without conducting robust HRIAs, Walmart exposes itself to the risk of adverse human rights impacts throughout its own operations and workforce, as well as across the global supply chains it relies on to produce its products,” said Ivanhoe. “It’s crucial that Walmart respond to the mounting public scrutiny and show its shareholders and the public that it values the health, safety, and dignity of its workers. HRIAs are a great place to start.”

Oxfam's resolution is expected to be put to a shareholder vote at Walmart’s annual general meeting in May 2024.

Oxfam is a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice. We offer lifesaving support in times of crisis and advocate for economic justice, gender equality, and climate action. We demand equal rights and equal treatment so that everyone can thrive, not just survive. The future is equal. Join us at oxfamamerica.org

/ENDS

Notes to editors:

The full text of the resolutions is downloadable here.

Walmart is America’s largest private employer with a national workforce of 1.5 million people.

Rick Wartzman's 2022 book, Still Broke: Walmart's Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism, notes Walmart's history of chronically underpaying a significant number of its employees. At least half of the Company's hourly workers earn less than $29,000 annually.

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