In recent years, Walmart has been both praised for its corporate sustainability campaign and criticized for some questionable business practices. Most recently, Walmart operations in Mexicowere found to be corrupt, with money changing hands illegally to speed up construction efforts and cut through the red tape, actions which bring the company’s leadership development practices into question. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review ponders the affect of these most recent allegations on Walmart’s attempts to operate more sustainably.
The article praises Walmart’s efforts on the sustainability front in recent years, for challenging the status quo and going green:
Walmart listed some impressive accomplishments, from diverting 80% of waste from landfills, to doubling the amount of local food sold, to generating over 1 billion kilowatt-hours of renewable energy onsite (the second most of any corporation in the U.S.). These achievements, along with a 5-year record of pushing the sustainability agenda harder than almost any company, are real and demonstrate leadership in responsible business.
However, it also expresses concern over unethical corporate practices, even if those practices are not in the area of sustainability. The bottom line? The article argues that even though the good and the bad in Walmart’s practices are unrelated:
The totality of a company’s actions does matter. We should demand consistent, ethical behavior and a real commitment to doing what’s good for people, planet, and profit, which includes not compromising on ethics. We can expect more from companies we buy from and work with and for, especially the very large ones that show such promise and leadership.
Basically, it is great for a company to be committed to challenging the status quo in an arena such as sustainability. But to really make an impact in terms of leadership development and brand image, a company needs to clean up its act in all areas. Do you need to do the same thing in your workplace? Consider these ideas to get you started.
Challenging the Status Quo in Leadership
1. Focus on making a lower environmental impact.
2. Stick to strict ethical standards.
3. Practice your corporate values.
4. Prioritize a family-friendly workplace and excellent employee benefits.
5. Invest in innovative solutions to old problems.