Since its inception Walmart has been associated with delivering the lowest available prices to consumers, often at the expense of low wage jobs that lacked basic benefits and disregard for sustainable stewardship. News headlines exposing Walmart for locking nightshift employees inside a store and not allowing them to leave, wages that compromise worker living standards, and non-existent employee benefit plans are still a part of the company’s brand perception.
Recently, Walmart has begun to change its attitude toward not only its employees but also sustainable supply chain management. The company has raised its minimum wage for workers to $9.00 an hour compared to the national U.S. minimum wage of $7.25. Additionally, Walmart released a proactive 2015 Sustainability Report redefining its corporate mission from delivering everyday low prices to making the world a better place. The larger initiative includes strategies to reduce waste-to-landfill, and greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing worker safety and economic mobility, as well as improving food safety.
Why is Walmart making sudden changes to showcase its corporate social responsibility? There is a growing consumer segment who value sustainable business practices. As competition in the retail sector heats up, Walmart is getting serious about making changes to improve its image. The company recognizes the ongoing shift in consumers’ values and is beginning to incorporate other benefits into its image other than just providing the lowest possible prices on consumer goods.
In today’s market every successful company has some element of corporate social responsibility present within their branding efforts. In an age of information and transparency, companies appreciate the need to be seen as corporations that are doing the right thing and giving back to current and future generations. How will the recent actions taken by Walmart impact the company’s brand perception? Is a company that has had a vilified brand up till recently doing enough to change its brand perception? What will it take for the average consumer to begin perceiving Walmart as a sustainable brand?
Walmart is committed to exhibiting qualities that are consistent with social responsibility and health consciousness. However, a company’s brand perception always lags behind actions taken. Walmart started its social responsibility campaign behind many of its competitors. To make a meaningful change that will be acknowledged by stakeholders and turnaround its brand perception, Walmart must show a steady promise to the newly found sustainable vision.