Wal-Mart issued a release last week reporting on its own annual meeting, where CEO Lee Scott said that Wal-Mart has benefited in the marketplace from its recent focus on solving social problems.
Five years ago, Wal-Mart was saying, essentially: "If we take care of our customer by giving low, low prices, everything else will take care of itself. So leave us alone." Now, Wal-Mart is saying it’s going to help take care of social problems its customers face; it’s set ambitious goals to help reform U.S. healthcare and achieve environmental sustainability.
A pretty amazing shift, even considering it was inspired by an unbelievable torrent of bad publicity over the last few years, in which the press portrayed Lee Scott as a robber baron and Wal-Mart as a monopoly. Finally the biggest company in the world is acknowledging that it must consider the effect it has on the societies in which it operates.
But big companies are like big drunks: They over-correct, and they sway dangerously. Get a load of this, from the Wal-Mart press release:
also talked about the company’s efforts to help solve some of the toughest challenges facing its customers, such as rising
energy prices and high out-of-pocket health care costs. He said that American voters who will be the focus of the upcoming
elections are Wal-Mart shoppers who are concerned about these very issues.
"We see it in our stores every day—working
men and women living paycheck to paycheck and making more and more difficult decisions," Scott said. "We serve millions of
customers like this every week in the U.S. We understand them."
The company’s chief executive added: "Regardless of
who wins the election in November—and what party they are from—we stand ready to work with the new President and the
next Congress. We believe we can be an effective partner, and leaders who want to get things done will seek Wal-Mart as a
Woah, hold on there big fella. Five years ago you wanted to be left alone with your efficient supply chain. Now you’re publicly stating that the road to social reform runs through Wal-Mart?
Needed in America: Someone with a sober vision of how companies large and small should participate in public policy. How they should help, how much they should help—and when they should step off. Has anybody ever seen such a vision articulated? I’d like to see it if you have.