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2006-03-02
Bentonville, AR. Wal-Mart Gets Ethics—Worldwide

Just about one year ago, Sprawl-Busters announced that Wal-Mart had introduced a new Office of Ethics for its workers, complete with a toll free number to call to report ethics violations (1-800 WM ETHIC). It only took the company 43 years to find ethics, so you can imagine it wasn't exactly a burning priority at staff meetings. This week the media is buzzing about Wal-Mart's latest efforts to appear ethical and socially responsible. On the one hand, the retailer buys a contract with former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, while at the same time announces it is hiring a Director of Global Ethics. Converting Wal-Mart into an ethical corporation is like turning Pinocchio into a Real Boy. Wal-Mart is advertising for the new Global Ethics position, at a point where the company derives 20% of its revenues from international operations at more than 2,276 stores outside the U.S. Wal-Mart is looking for "an experienced professional to lead its global ethics strategy and oversee ethics-related infrastructure, administration and training." That shouldn't be too hard, since the company doesn't seem to have much of an "ethics strategy" -- except to behave unethically towards its own workers and local communities. The new job calls for someone "able and willing to take a difficult or unpopular position if necessary," with "impeccable reputation for integrity and judgment" and politically savvy. Given the fact that no one in the 1.5 million person Wal-Mart workforce apparently meets those standards, the company is having to go outside to find impeccable integrity."

What you can do: Why doesn't Wal-Mart kill two birds with one stone by announcing that Andrew Young will be their new Global Ethics Director? He can be outstationed in China where many of the company's ethical problems are drenched in sweatshop conditions. Or, Wal-Mart could name Ambassador Young the Ambassador to Saipan, where workers are suing Wal-Mart for the substandard working conditions. Improving ethics at Wal-Mart may be an oxymoron, where everyday, low prices often go hand-in-hand with everyday low morals.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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