Wal-Mart to Step Up Product Quality in China

Will require greater transparency and ownership from its supplier partners

Wal-Mart said on Oct. 22 it would increase its efforts to ensure the quality of products it sources, including in China, where a milk scandal has again highlighted weak standards. "Today, we're asking suppliers to take those standards to an even higher level," Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Mike Duke told a conference in Beijing. "We will require greater transparency and ownership from our supplier partners."

Wal-Mart will begin the move towards improved transparency in November with apparel, gradually expanding it to other product categories in a process expected to be completed by end-2009.

"It will mean that if you sell us tennis shoes, we expect you to know -- and we expect you to tell us -- not just where the tennis shoes were assembled, but which sub-contractors played a role in making them," he said. "Essentially, we expect you to ask the tough questions, to give us the answers and, if there's a problem, to own the solution."

Wal-Mart would also require its Chinese suppliers to clearly demonstrate that they were complying with the nation's environmental laws and regulations, he added.

China, where Wal-Mart sources a large portion of its merchandise, has been rocked by a series of product quality scandals in recent years, most recently over tainted baby formula that sickened thousands of infants and killed four.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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