Corporations addressing ethical sourcing concernsRepresentatives from Wal-Mart, Philip Morris, Coca-Cola and other large corporations recently met with labor advocacy groups and government officials to discuss labor standards within their supply chains, the Huffington Post reported.

Meeting to discuss standards
The meeting was proposed to address strategic sourcing and fair labor practices. It was sponsored by Wal-Mart, human resources giant Manpower Group and anti-human-trafficking organization the Katie Ford Foundation.

The workshop was not open to members of the media, and most corporations did not disclose their participation. However, a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Huffington Post the corporation has had long-standing involvement and dedication to ethical sourcing and labor practices.

"Wal-Mart is committed to strong ethical sourcing standards for suppliers and we have worked diligently to help ensure the products we sell are produced in a way that provides dignity and respect for workers in our supply chain," Lorenzo Lopez told the source in an email. "As part of this commitment, we are looking to develop a program for suppliers that will include education, training and resources to help ensure compliance with our standards."

Corporations under scrutiny
As consumers have become more aware of labor practices around the globe, there has been more of an incentive for large corporations to develop and publicize their ethical sourcing practices and fair labor standards. In order to keep manufacturing costs low, employees sometimes work in less-than-ideal conditions.

Some labor groups have been openly critical of the treatment workers are exposed to, and it has left some multinational companies scrambling to repair their images. Oxfam and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee released a report that slammed working conditions in the North Carolina tobacco industry last year, leaving consumers questioning the industry's policies.

Change for the future
Labor advocacy group Verite coordinated the event, and CEO Dan Viederman told the Huffington Post that the event consisted of "a group that potentially can achieve concrete change."

Many corporations already have ethical sourcing and worldwide labor practice guidelines they promote. Wal-Mart, for instance, lists standards for its suppliers and conducts ethical sourcing audits in an attempt to ensure its supply chain is free of substandard labor practices. PepsiCo also has publically stated its commitment to responsible sourcing and social responsibility.

Consumer attention and labor organization criticism has already led some large corporations to make changes to their supply chains, source strategically and invest in guidelines for their suppliers. With continued pressure, more companies may begin to make similar changes to promote their corporate social responsibility.
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