Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every company out there pushed itself to be a corporate social responsibility example? It would make life so much easier for employees and customers alike. Also, if every company made the commitment to be purpose driven, imagine how much better our world would be. All those people and organizations, all working towards sustainable solutions to society’s problems.
The reality is, not every company is or wants to be a stellar corporate social responsibility example. Some, it seems, go out of their way to be non-examples. They treat employees as an extra cost to be managed, not as human beings with unique contributions to make. We believe in examining these companies from time to time, in order to show aspiring csr leaders what not to do and how not to act. This is just as important as understanding what good csr companies do right. Learning from the mistakes of others is far less painful than learning from our own.
Forever 21 is a clothing retailer worth about $4.4 billion in annual sales. In 2016, the Huffington Post ranked Forever 21 as the worst place to work in America. We aren’t sure about the scientific validity of HuffPo’s rankings, but they were based on employee reviews and documented cases of mistreatment.
Forever 21 even became the target of a lawsuit in 2012. Five employees claimed they were forced to remain in the store long after closing. They also alleged that managers routinely detained them and searched their bags for stolen merchandise. This humiliating ritual was part of the company’s official loss prevention policy.
Wal-Mart is another company that is sometimes in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. TV cameras capture employees gathering and protesting for better wages and benefits. Wal-Mart could learn something from its chief competitor, Costco. Costco is recognized as one of the best places to work. CEO Craig Jelinek pays his employees what they are worth, knowing that they drive public perception by interacting with customers each day. Costco is a great corporate social responsibility example; treating employees as partners and not as resources leads to less turnover and a more efficient workforce.
Forever 21 and Wal-Mart, though financially successful, have a lot to learn about employee empowerment and sustainability. Costco continues to grow its employees and make its customers happy every day. Now it’s your turn. What kind of corporate social responsibility example will you set for the world?