Those that follow Corporate Social Responsibility usually fall into one of two categories: Walmart haters or Walmart supporters. As you might recall from some of my earlier work, I fall into the latter camp, brought mostly into the fold by their now famous Sustainability Index. Walmart’s approach is proactive and respective of environmental needs. No, they are not perfect (labor relations issues remain controversial and it looks like one way or the other they will pay heavily for sub-par employee relation practices that reportedly discriminated against women). But, on balance, I remain proud of the company’s efforts for social responsibility, no matter how unpopular that view might make me in some circles.
In addition to the aforementioned index, Walmart commits to the greater green in other ways. In 2005, Walmart launched Acres for America in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The stated goal was to conserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the U.S. for every acre it develops for commercial use, with a final goal of preserve 138,000 acres by 2015. As reported earlier this month however, the company has surpassed that goal, already saving 625,000 acres with few signs of slowing down.
Also on the green front, the company announced plans earlier this year intended to drive more sustainable agriculture. The plans are organized around three broad goals: increased support for local farmers; less waste in food supply and sustainable sourcing of key agriculture commodities. Specific targets within these goals include, but are not limited to:
- Increasing income of small and medium farmers by 10 to 15%
- Investing $1 billion in global fresh supply chain
- Requiring sustainably sourced palm oil for all Walmart private brand products by the end of 2015
Moreover, the retail giant remains one of the biggest donors in the world. In 2009, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walmart was the biggest cash contributor, giving $288.1 million in cash, and almost $200 million more in products. The combined giving is 14.4% more than in 2008, even though the cash-only portion dropped year-over-year. The company is on track to meet or exceed these numbers in the years to come. For instance, earlier this year the retailer pledged $2 billion of support over the next five years to support the nation’s food banks. It is estimated that the food will provide about 1 billion meals.
As with people, I generally take companies as they are: good and bad, warts and halos, yin and yang. There are no perfect corporations as there are no perfect people. Walmart is no exception. I will continue to applaud and support their efforts to encourage their sustainability and motivate other corporations to follow in their rather large shoes.