Graeme Newell

Corporate Social Responsibility: Walmart vs. Target

Making the List

Where does Walmart belong on a list of companies with social responsibility? Would it crack the top 100? Or would competitors, like Target, push Walmart out of the running?

No matter who you are, you probably have a Walmart store within driving or walking distance. As the world’s largest company by revenue, its presence is almost impossible to escape. Looking at Walmart’s ads, you may wonder why anyone would want to escape. The ads drive home Walmart’s focus on the customer. Prices, location, inventory and store layout are all designed to make customers feel they are getting the deal of a lifetime with every purchase. Walmart owes most of its success to this nearly obsessive customer focus. It is what drives those sales figures.

If we are judging only by revenue, Walmart tops the list of the most successful companies. But for all its success, we would most likely not include Walmart on our list of companies with social responsibility. We know this is a strong statement, but we make it in light of Walmart’s history and public image. For decades, news stories have appeared showing Walmart workers protesting for higher wages, better benefits, and a better work-life balance. Walmart’s suppliers tell stories of being undercut and pushed out of contracts. Corporate social responsibility is not compatible with a culture that values any one set of stakeholders over other groups. Companies with social responsibility place a high value on all stakeholders.

Target’s Winning Example

We have found Target, Walmart’s competitor, to be a much better example of corporate social responsibility. Target has never been involved in protests or litigation, as Walmart commonly is. Surprisingly, Target does not pay its employees more, on average, than Walmart does. Target may even pay less. What Target does do is offer a better balance between work and life outside of work. There are also plenty of opportunities for employees to give back by helping their communities. When asked, Target employees say they value their coworkers and team members. It seems that companies can get away with paying lower wages if they offer other psychological rewards for employees.

CVS is another retailer that has unlocked the secret of employee satisfaction, by practicing basic social responsibility. CVS employees know they are part of a group that is doing serious good. CVS stopped selling tobacco products and shifted much of its focus to solving the health care problem through its Minute Clinics. When was the last time you saw any CVS employees complaining about how much money they make?

What About You?

CVS and Target are just a couple of companies with social responsibility we have researched. To learn more about CSR or to get in touch with Graeme, use the contact links that appear at the end of the video. 602 Communications is committed to helping companies become more purpose driven and find their own focus areas for corporate social responsibility.

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Check out Graeme's latest book called "Red Goldfish"

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