Wal-Mart’s dramatic CSR cleanup and the gift of exposure

I’ve just been pinged an eye-catching report from a fellow member of CSR Chicks: it’s The Covalence Retail Industry Report: a barometer of how multinational retailers are perceived in the ethical field. Wal Mart’s jump from last to 4th on this list has merited a news announcement from Covalence itself, illustrating how “laggards can become leaders” in the area of corporate ethics.

It immediately occured to me as an example of how good exposure or ‘enforced tranparency’ (i.e.: outside interests being vocal about a company’s practices) can help even a large organisation take bold moves to clean up its act and win back the trust of communities. It would be even more impressive and interesting if they  were talk in an open way about the journey they took to get to that point and shared those best practices with various publics.  Rather than positioning the organisation as a leader in retail CSR, it would show their ability to take a position on how important it is to ‘share the wealth’, and illustrate that no matter what your past was like, your future can be different.  Like Seventh Generation did last year in their 2007 Corporate Consciousness Report, following the ‘cancer chemical’ scare.

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One comment

  1. S Aaron · December 12, 2008

    I take issue with some of the good press Wal-Mart is getting for CSR/Green. Wal-Mart is trying to build a 158,000 square foot store in Brooklyn, CT – the town has only 7,800 folks. They have a plan for stores every 20 miles even if it the stores do not fit the character of the town or disrupt the local environment.

    When speaking to those in charge – they told us they are not going to use green practices or products as it “costs too much.”

    We need to look closer at how much this company really needs to do – rather than place them on the list of good guys.

    There are still so many issues around crime (just this black Friday a worker who trampled while opening the doors in Long Island), low wages, no health care, so much outsourcing and cheap products that are hurting our country. They are not the answer we need if they cannot build green stores, retro-fit their existing stores and fix human rights/worker rights issues.

    Wake UP America – we need to help restore a living, local economy and to our towns and decent work for all.

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