According to Marc J. Epstein (2008), to help understand what sustainability is in the context of corporate responsibility, [Epstein has] broken it down into nine principles.
These nine principles… highlight what is important in managing stakeholder impacts (i.e. the impact of company products, services, processes, and other activities on corporate stakeholders). (p. 36).
Evaluating a large company such as Wal-Mart against these nine principles can give eye opening clues to how much of a leader they are in meeting the needs of their current stakeholders, as well as forecasting and preparing for the needs of their future stakeholders. Many of the principles are entangled within one another, but each is equally important.
The nine principles of sustainability performance
According to Don Soderquist (2010), former long-serving chief operating officer at Wal-Mart, ethics are about simply doing what is right. (p. 14). Wal-Mart has often been criticized for many of its management’s business decisions. From news reports of obtaining goods from countries where employment practices are far from ethical, to taking out million dollar life insurance policies on its terminally ill employees, ethical standards can seem non-existent at the upper levels of this large organization. Prioritizing stakeholder interests is an area that Wal-Mart tends to have major struggles. The steps listed in their “Statement of Ethics” looks like they are trying to establish the correct path.
Governance at Wal-Mart focuses on the Board of Directors, their qualifications and responsibilities. Wal-Mart had been the defendant in numerous class-action lawsuits filed by employees for various discrimination and unfair employment practices. Shareholder’s voiced many concerns over the corporate governance failures. Wal-Mart was also the target of many SEC investigations. Wal-Mart, conversely, has established many new governance and ethics policies to address the issues regarding Wal-Mart’s governance reputation.
The question of transparency in Corporate America, more specifically how transparent should a company be required to be, is a topic of hot debate. Which stakeholders should be privy to a company’s information? Should core stakeholders have access to more information than fringe stakeholders? Wal-Mart is held to all the same transparency laws of any publicly held corporation. Unless there is a true dishonest effort to hide information, Wal-Mart should have no issues with transparency.
Business relations are an area that Wal-Mart has mastered cost with effectiveness and profitability. Obtaining the majority of their goods from overseas producers allows Wal-Mart to continue to rule in the low-cost growth model. Even with public sentiment feeling that the labor laws in the countries where goods are produced may be unethical, consumers are still shopping at Wal-Mart to obtain the lowest price. Wal-Mart currently has no...