Over the past few years much has been written about Walmart and whether its efforts towards being more sustainable and socially responsible are credible and whether they are having a positive effect on reputation. Personally, I believe its efforts are credible, for the most part, and have been effective on many levels.
Of course, my depth of understanding about what Walmart has been and is doing from a sustainability standpoint is greater than that of the general public. I read, write and strategize about sustainability as a function of my job. So, it’s always of interest to me how efforts are perceived by my friends and family who aren’t in the business of sustainability. After all, the objective of a corporate reputation strategy is to positively affect the perceptions of stakeholders—including the general consumer— about your business.
I was lucky to observe this firsthand over the past weekend as we visited with some friends from Chicago. In the past, when we’ve spent time together, our friends have always made a point to highlight the fact that they only buy organic and shop at those stores that only feature organic food. This time, I was shocked to hear my friend point out that the blueberries she was serving us were just bought from Walmart—but they were “local.” (Note: We were visiting them at their cottage in Michigan.)
That fueled a discussion about supporting local farmers and eating healthy, all in a way that makes economic sense for families. And, at some point, my friends realized that’s exactly what Walmart is selling both in terms of its products and reputation. I was shocked.
That’s not to say that they will now shop exclusively at Walmart. That’s not the point. The point is that people realize there is room for options. And it seems Walmart’s sustainability efforts are clearly being perceived by more and more consumers as credible, positively impacting its reputation and place within our communities.