Is Asda ethical?
Our research highlights several ethical issues with Asda and its parent company Walmart. The company has therefore been marked down in our rating system in a number of categories, including: climate change, environmental reporting, habitats & resources, pollutions and toxics, arms & military supply, human rights, workers' rights, supply chain management, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, anti-social finance, controversial technologies and political activities.
Below we outline of some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Asda's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.
Asda and its owner Walmart face several accusations of employee discrimination.
Lawyers acting on behalf of 15,000 current and past ASDA employees have brought an equal pay claim against the company.
In December 2019 we viewed an article entitled 'Asda equal pay case goes to the Supreme Court' and dated to 2nd August 2019.
The article stated:
"An equal pay case against Asda is heading to the Supreme Court after it agreed to consider an appeal brought by the Big 4 grocer."
"The Supreme Court is set to consider whether Asda shop floor workers – most of whom are women – can be compared to predominantly-male distribution centre staff for the purposes of equal pay.
"Dubbed the UK’s biggest equal pay case, it was originally brought by Asda shop floor workers who are represented by law firm Leigh Day.
"Asda has already lost first stage of the equal pay case three times and will have one more attempt to defeat the claims brought by over 35,000 of its staff....
"The Court of Appeal ruled in January this year that the roles of the shop floor workers could be compared to the roles of those in the distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay."
Back in 2017, 9,500 women had lodged initial claims alleging that their roles as shop floor workers were seen as 'women's work' and were paid less than equivalent work carried out by their male colleagues in the company's warehouses.
Asda received our Middle rating for palm oil sourcing and policy. In July 2019 Asda responded to our questionnaire that included questions about its palm oil policies and practices.
The information that we saw stated that all 16,706 tonnes of palm oil used in Asda products was sustainable palm oil from the RSPO scheme.
Asda's parent company, Wal-mart was a member of the RSPO. Wal-mart submitted no figures for 2017 but in 2016 its figures showed that all palm ingredients used were RSPO certified. However, more than half were certified by Book and Claim, the lowest level of certification.
Due to the fact that the company did not take additional best practice measures, such as disclosing its suppliers or working with its supply chain to improve it, and because its standards were not company-wide, Asda received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for palm oil sourcing and policy.
Given that deforestation is such a major issue, we also rated the company on their timber sourcing policy.
Both companies had 2020 targets for deforestation. Wal-mart, which retailed numerous products made from timber and had a commitment to zero net deforestation by 2020. However this target was not accompanied by any detail and so they received a worst rating for their timber sourcing policy.
Asda did a little better - in January 2019 we received a questionnaire from them which stated: "Asda has committed to 100% FSC or PEFC certified timber by 2020." This seemed a result of their joining the WWF-UK forest campaign. As the supermarket had a policy, a target for 100% certification, and was engaged with a multistakeholder forum on the topic, Asda received a middle rating for its timber sourcing policy.
In 2019, both ASDA and Walmart were found to sell several products associated with animals rights issues.
Both companies sold meat and dairy products that were not labelled as organic or free-range.
Asda received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for Animal Testing because it had a fixed cut-off date for ingredients in its own cosmetic and household products, but continued to sell brands known to test on animals.
Walmart, however, received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating, because no animal testing policy was found, despite selling products widely tested on animals.
We gave Asda a worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies in December 2019. Walmart Inc had many holding companies in tax havens in Luxembourg, Switzerland and the British Virgin Islands, and the company was registered in Delaware, which is also considered a tax haven, whilst their executive offices were based in Arkansas. With no country-by-country reporting on tax or finances, this looked suspicious to us so we deducted a mark in the anti-social finance category.
In 2018, Walmart reportedly spent $2,144,415.58 lobbying for tax reforms, compared to $0 lobbying on issues regarding climate change.
In December 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed Walmart Stores Inc.'s lobbying activity on Opensecrets.org. This stated that in the 2020 election cycle the company had already made $993,204 in political donations. $343,898 was said to have been donated to Democrats and $237,568 to Republicans. In the 2018 cycle Wal-Mart Inc made $1,162,000 in political donations - to Democrats: $393,500 and to Republicans: $587,000.