TOKYO — Mike Duke, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said the world’s largest retailer is stepping up factory inspections and safety measures in Bangladesh.
“We are allowing third-party companies to inspect and approve factories from a structural standpoint,” Duke said Friday, just after giving a speech on integrity and business practices at The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit here. “We now are trying to redouble the efforts on the areas of auditing, inspecting and training. I will say, though, that we didn’t quickly…you know, jump to a conclusion of abandoning the country. I think in some cases helping markets like Bangladesh to raise the standards is better than abandoning a market like that.”
Duke said Wal-Mart is implementing a zero-tolerance policy in terms of its suppliers using substandard factories. “We don’t own factories in Bangladesh. We will purchase from suppliers who then may contract and sub-contract so the supply chain may have multiple layers. We’ve also implemented a zero-tolerance approach.…If unauthorized factories are found to be used, then we terminate relationships with that supplier and intend not to do business with them again.” He went on to specify that even prior to April’s factory collapse in Savar that killed 1,129 people, Wal-Mart had made a “standard decision” not to purchase from “multibusiness, multilevel factories” like Rana Plaza.
Duke’s statements on Bangladesh emerged from a brief Q&A session at the forum. After giving a speech in which he extolled Wal-Mart’s mission to improve people’s lives by offering them low-priced goods and stressed the importance of integrity, Duke sat down to speak with summit moderator Alex Thomson, British presenter and chief correspondent for ITN’s Channel 4 News.
Thomson asked Duke a few questions about integrity before addressing the Bangladesh issue. “When you look at [the factory collapse], what do you think personally, but also in terms of business? What can and should be done to make sure that stuff is consigned to history?” he asked.
The Wal-Mart executive said that he had an initially emotional reaction to the disaster and couldn’t “even comprehend a tragedy like that.” The executive said he thought of the workers’ families and recalled his own past visits to Bangladesh’s factories and villages.
Earlier in the Q&A, before addressing the Bangladesh issue, Duke spoke candidly about Wal-Mart’s food labeling snafu in China. In 2011, Chinese government officials alleged the retailer was selling ordinary pork and fraudulently labeling it as organic. The incident temporarily closed down 13 Wal-Mart stores in China. Wal-Mart China’s president and chief executive officer and the vice president for human resourcesresigned shortly afterward — although Wal-Mart said they left for “personal reasons” and did not mention the pork issue.
“Mislabeling can be accidental but it’s hard to tell. The product has to be labeled properly. So we had a mislabeling issue that became world news,” he said, adding that Wal-Mart has since stepped up its training and compliance in this area. “I don’t think you get a yellow card. You get a red card on any mistake like that. So we had to really raise our standards.”
Duke spent much of his time at the summit speaking about the importance of integrity in business.
“Tuesday’s sales weren’t so good. Wednesday was OK. You can say our sales are kind of average for the week. In the area of integrity, you tend to be measured at the lowest point. You know when you have let that slip, that becomes that person’s standard of integrity.”
Duke said he is all for transparency. “Bring it on. You know, I think it’s fantastic,” he said.
“Some people have said ‘Gosh, you know, Wal-Mart, if you’re the largest retail company in the world, you have more sales, you have 2.2 million people.’ And guess what? None of those 2.2 million people are perfect. So we’re going to have mistakes and it gets publicized. And some of our own people will say sometimes we’re held to a higher standard,” Duke said. “I’ll say ‘Isn’t that wonderful? Don’t you love working for a company that’s held to the highest standard? Why would you want to work for a company that’s held to anything less?’”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast