Jesus Gutierrez puts a low price dollar sign together at a Walmart store as they prepare for Black Friday shoppers on November 24, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Walmart has embraced the “Made in the USA” ethos and this week hosted its third annual Open Call for products made, assembled or grown in the U.S. It’s part of Walmart’s fourth annual Manufacturing Summit, which is Walmart’s initiative to invest in U.S. industry.
But there are doubts about whether all of the products labeled “Made in the USA” are actually made in the U.S.
Made in the USA is a big program for Walmart which made a pledge to source $250 billion in products by 2023. The initiative is expected to create 1 million new U.S. jobs with 250,000 in direct manufacturing and 750,000 in support and services, according to the company.
Last year, Walmart scrubbed the “Made in the USA” labeling from its website following allegations from the nonprofit group Truth in Advertising that found more than 100 examples of items that did not adhere to thatlabel’s requirements. To claim “Made in the USA,” all of the components must be manufactured and assembled in the United States.
The findings prompted the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation. Walmart pointed to its vendor partners and said it had relied on them to provide manufacturing information, some of which was incorrect or outdated.
Walmart carries hundreds of thousands of products, so it’s not outrageous to count on the accuracy of provided information, but it is against federal regulations. According to Truth in Advertising, Walmart’s disclaimers that“displayed country of origin information may not be accurate or consistent with manufacturer information” do not suffice.
Today, Walmart is today hosting its Open Call looking for new products with a Shark Tank-like event. Some 450 businesses are pitching products with the goal of being sold at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. Nearly all the products pitched will be being featured on Walmart.com as part of the program. “It’s just another way we can give our customers great products while also supporting our commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs,” a Walmart spokesman said in an emailed response to Truth in Advertising.
As for Truth in Advertising’s damning findings regarding Walmart, the spokesman wrote: “These claims are not new, and as we’ve said all along, we will continue to work with our suppliers to help ensure we are giving our customers the transparency and authenticity they are looking for.”
“Walmart’s $250 billion commitment to buy products supporting American jobs is having a tangible impact on communities across the country as factories expand or open to make products for Walmart stores, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club,” according to Michelle Ggloeckler, Walmart executive vice president of consumables, health and wellness.
Walmart also has committed to awarding $10 million in grant and given out $7 million of that already.
It’s a monumental initiative, one being promoted this week ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. But is it truthful? Not according to its critics.