Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has received a letter from a broad coalition of labor and environmental organizations urging the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer to carry more sustainable and ethical canned tuna.
Addressed to CEO Doug McMillon, the letter notes: “Walmart is responsible for one-quarter of U.S. canned-tuna sales. Walmart buys tuna from Thai Union Group, a company that has been under the spotlight for its links to human rights and labor abuse, including forced labor and human trafficking, in some of its seafood supply chains. Walmart has also had supply chain scandals and has not provided sufficient assurances that its supply chains are socially responsible.”
To remedy this situation, according to the letter, Walmart “must guarantee the fair treatment of workers and the long-term health of ocean life throughout its supply chain — from the fishing vessels at sea, to factories on land, and to Walmart stores worldwide. This starts with Walmart making a public commitment to improve its own-brand canned tuna, and demanding better tuna from Thai Union.”
While acknowledging that the company has made an effort to provide some customers with more sustainable tuna options through the Bellevue, Wash.-based Ocean Naturals line, the letter notes that “this small step falls far short of what is required to address the chronic human rights and environmental horrors associated with the majority of its tuna offerings, and what is needed to transform a brutal and lawless industry. Walmart must demonstrate a clear commitment with a timeline and comprehensive procurement policy to source sustainable, ethical tuna.”
The letter goes on to advise Walmart to “take responsibility for the products it sells and prevent consumers from unknowingly purchasing seafood in your stores that may have been caught at the expense of human trafficking and labor abuse. Walmart must use its unparalleled buying power now to transform the industry, and demand sustainable and ethical tuna from Thai Union.”
The letter is signed by AFL-CIO; Corporate Accountability International; Environmental Justice Foundation; Greenpeace; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; International Labor Rights Forum; International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations; National Guestworker Alliance; Sierra Club; UFCW; and International Transport Workers’ Federation.
At presstime, Walmart hadn’t responded to a request for comment from Progressive Grocer.
In related news, the company last November joined an antitrust class action alleging price-fixing by the so-called “big three” canned-tuna companies, Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Union Seafoods and StarKist.