Walmart's efforts (and failures) to make its massive global supply chain more sustainable get a deep look by in the latest issue of Mother Jones. China, where 70% of the goods Walmart sells are produced, attracts much of the attention. The independent auditors Walmart hires to ensure labor and environmental standards are met are demonstrated to be easily corruptible, and Mother Jones finds that those Walmart suppliers who are regulated outsource much of their work to "shadow factories," which operate outside of regulators' reach.
Walmart's campaign to green everything from its break rooms to its global supply chain is one of the most publicized, and controversial, experiments in American retail. The company had made a halfhearted attempt in the '80s and '90s, with a few green products and ecofriendly stores. But this latest effort was different. It was sweeping, embracing every part of the company's business. It emanated directly from the CEO's office.
Almost seven years into the program, many environmentalists remain convinced that Walmart is serious about sustainability—and that its actions can have a major impact on the world economy because of the gravitational pull of its vast network of suppliers, customers, and employees... My reporting—more than a year of research that took me from Arkansas to China—suggests a more complex, less flattering story: Walmart has made laudable though modest progress on many of its goals. But with the global economic slowdown tugging at the company's profit margins, people involved with the environmental campaign say the momentum seems to be stalling or vanishing entirely.