Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Does JCPenney buy merchandise from North Korea?

I saw that allegation here and decided to ask in an email through their website. A couple of days later, here is the answer:
Thank you for contacting us online.

Your concern about goods made in countries which allegedly violate human rights matches our own. Our concern is reflected in the stringent requirements to which we hold suppliers accountable in our contractual agreements.

We buy apparel and shoes from the world's foremost fashion suppliers, many of whom manufacture extensively in the Far East. We require them to scrupulously obey the laws of the countries where they operate, as well as to abide by normal human rights conventions. As with all our suppliers, we monitor their operations periodically and promptly investigate any evidence or allegation of non-conformance with their contractual agreement to comply with our code. Imported goods come from countries around the world, including many items that are manufactured partially in the U.S. and partially in another country.

Indeed, we shop the international marketplace to find the best values in the world for our customers. For 96 years JCPenney has followed its founding principles, not only to do all we can to ensure such value, but to test every policy, method and act in this wise: does it square with what is right and just.

We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention. We are doing our best to satisfy you as an American consumer and citizen. We hope you will continue to shop JCPenney.

We welcome your comments and suggestions, and encourage you to write to us anytime.

JCPenney Internet Customer Service
Interesting. What I would have liked to have seen was something like "No, our policy is that we do not knowingly purchase products or services from North Korea, and we take the following safeguards to prevent violation of this policy...." It would seem that there is fair amount of wiggle room - who knows what the laws of the other countries permit, or what JCPenney has in their contracts? I'm not sure what "normal human rights conventions" means either.

This is not to accuse JC Penney of anything. After all, anyone can make allegations, and given the problems the govt is having with other trading practices of North Korea it seems inappropriate to place too high a burden on JCP's compliance programs.

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