July 29, 2013
According to the Fortune 500 list for 2013, Walmart is America’s largest corporation, with $469.2 billion in revenue. As a multinational company with 10,800 stores, it’s clear that the retailer can have a significant impact on workers, the environment and natural resources.
Beginning in 2005, Walmart started actively addressing its global impact, adopting a sustainability program in which it revamped everything from building materials to light bulbs. To become more eco-friendly, Walmart designed new stores to be more energy efficient and produce fewer greenhouse gases. Additionally, the company added solar panels to many of its stores, installed fuel-saving technologies in its fleet of vehicles, improved its routing system to cut down on fuel consumption and purchased millions of kilowatt-hours of wind energy.
Walmart is among a growing number of companies that have stated their commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). A July 2012 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project noted that globalization was bringing greater urgency to the issue of CSR.
“The moral obligations and competing values of corporations have been debated since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution: How do corporate leaders drive for profit maximization while ethically meeting the needs of communities and citizens?” stated the report, The Future of Corporate Responsibility.
In its 2013 Global Responsibility Report, Walmart said it has a responsibility to lead and an opportunity to make a difference on “the big issues that matter to us all.” The company further noted that it is “committed to using our size and scale to help the world live better.”
Walmart has implemented a number of initiatives, which focus on four key areas:
1. Social responsibility – Promoting women’s economic empowerment, giving more Americans access to healthy food and helping relieve hunger
2. Local responsibility – Making microloans, implementing school nutrition programs, assisting with disaster relief and promoting local farming
3. Environmental responsibility – Reducing energy use and plastic shopping bag waste, eliminating landfill waste and requiring stricter product sustainability guidelines
4. Company responsibility – Stakeholder engagement, promoting basic values, worker safety, corporate compliance and governance
In each of these areas, Walmart cites a number of pledges and successes:
As the case of Walmart demonstrates, corporate social responsibility continues to gain attention as globalization provides not only new challenges for businesses but also new opportunities to make a difference in their communities and beyond.
“Economic uncertainty around the globe demands greater commitment, adaptability, and courage on the part of corporations,” the Council on Foundations stated in its 2012 report Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value.