Human Capital & Careers

Wal-Mart: Good Corporate Citizen?

Recently the company has made a flurry of new proposals that address health insurance, the environment, the minimum wage, and workforce diversity.
Stephen TaubOctober 25, 2005

Is Wal-Mart Stores becoming a better corporate citizen?

The world’s largest retailer has been a lightning rod for a number of advocacy groups regarding its policies on pay, benefits, and work conditions. In recent days, however, Wal-Mart has proposed a flurry of new policies that attempt to address those complaints.

For example, although many companies have recently increased the health-insurance premiums that their employees pay, Wal-Mart announced a plan that would enable some workers to pay as little as $11 per month in premiums, according to news reports. This works out to between 40 percent and 60 percent less than under the company’s current plan, reported the Associated Press. Many the employees, however would pay $25 per month as individuals, or $65 for a family.

In addition, noted The New York Times, Wal-Mart’s health-insurance plan would require a $1,000 deductible, but it would allow participants three doctor visits before they would begin paying it.

The Times also reported that Wal-Mart plans to reduce energy use in its stores, double its trucks’ fuel efficiency, minimize its use of packaging, and pressure thousands of companies in its worldwide supply chain to follow its lead. Chief executive officer H. Lee Scott Jr. told the paper that these goals will improve the company’s bottom line while heeding its customers’ wishes.

Meanwhile, in a teleconference with employees, Scott called on Congress to raise the minimum wage from the current $5.15 per hour, according to The Los Angeles Times. Scott reportedly said that “While it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.”

In yet another initiative, Wal-Mart has changed 40 of the relationship partners at its top 100 law firms in an effort to increase the racial and gender diversity of its outside counsel, according to the Fulton County Daily Report. which cited the company’s associate general counsel, Samuel M. Reeves. “In each case, it was a shift from a non-diverse to a diverse attorney,” he reportedly asserted. Nationwide, just 17 percent of law firm partners are women and only 4 percent are minorities, the newspaper noted.