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23 Feb 2007

Kris Hudson, Wall Street Journal

Wal-Mart Presses Suppliers To Enhance Their Diversity [USA]

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says it wants its suppliers to hire more women and minorities... Wal-Mart...does business with 61,000 suppliers globally... Wal-Mart has had a series of public-relations black eyes in recent years, including a massive class-action lawsuit leveled by current and former female employees who allege they were denied promotions by the retailer and paid less than male counterparts... Wal-Mart General Counsel Tom Mars said Wal-Mart's expanding diversity initiatives have "nothing whatsoever to do" with the lawsuit... Many aspects of the diversity program remain undetermined by Wal-Mart, including how many suppliers will be asked to comply and what, if any, requirements will be binding... The initiative...stems from a similar effort undertaken since 2004 by Wal-Mart's legal department... [Wal-Mart told its] top 100 outside law firms that they would be graded...on the diversity of their staffs serving Wal-Mart. In the wake of that mandate, Wal-Mart has fired three outside firms and reduced the workloads of two others for failing to show progress on diversity matters... Wal-Mart [also] said last year it would begin granting preference to suppliers who make their products more environmentally friendly... [also refers to supplier diversity requirements at Ford, General Motors]