Walmart beats Whole Foods in a new report on workers' rights, and it reveals how Amazon has become the new villain of big business

Justin Sullivan / Getty ImagesA new report from Oxfam puts Walmart above Amazon-backed Whole Foods on workers’ rights.

A new report from Oxfam puts Walmart above Amazon-owned Whole Foods on workers’ rights issues throughout the supply chain.

On Thursday, Oxfam released the second edition of its Behind the Barcodes report. The report graded 10 major supermarkets on transparency, as well as the treatment of workers, farmers, and women who work throughout the supply chain in producing groceries and other goods.

Walmart had the highest marks on the “scorecard,” earning 23% of all possible points. Whole Foods had the lowest, with just 3%.


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While Whole Foods has long been an industry leader on fair-trade-certified goods, it failed to meet most of the markers examined by Oxfam. Walmart earned points for things such as publishing labour rights policies for its supply chain and making a specific commitment to support small-scale farmers, both things that Whole Foods has failed to do.

“We have found that human rights abuses continue in the supply chains of Whole Foods and other supermarkets,” Oxfam states on its website. “And those abuses aren’t isolated to some far-flung corner of the world; they are occurring everywhere, including on farms here in the United States.”

Whole Foods said in a statement that the report “does not accurately reflect Whole Foods Market’s long-standing efforts to address human rights and labour issues in our supply chain.”

“We have a proven track record of taking immediate action with suppliers when potential concerns surface and remain committed to supply chain transparency and ethical sourcing, which are areas we continue to invest in,” the statement reads. “We are disappointed that Oxfam chose to selectively publish the information we provided on our business practices in response to their report, and that they chose not to initially share any level of detail on the allegations made against specific farms.”

Whole Foods and its parent company, Amazon, have faced controversy around their treatment of workers. Whole Foods recently faced backlash after Business Insider reported last month that it plans to cut benefits for part-time workers in 2020. Amazon has also been criticised for the working conditions of its warehouse workers and delivery drivers.

Meanwhile, Walmart’s reputation as the industry’s biggest villain has waned.

“The fad to hate Walmart has been overshadowed,” Eleanor Fox, an NYU antitrust law professor, told Axios in a piece published on Thursday.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ status as richest man in the world has inspired criticism, while the billionaire-packed Walton family have faded into the background. Meanwhile, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has received positive feedback from the progressive press for making changes such as limiting the sales of guns and ammunition.

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