Wal-Mart Shows Heart As Well As Muscle
By George Anderson
Even its many critics must admit that, when it came to standing up for those who saw their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina, no person or group was more stand-up than Wal-Mart.
As the degree of the devastation was just becoming clear, Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott told company executives, “I want us to respond in a way appropriate to our size and the impact we can have.”
To date, reports The Washington Post, Mr. Scott’s marching orders have meant “an unrivaled $20 million in cash donations, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers.”
The retailer has been setting up mini-Wal-Marts in affected areas handing out items such as diapers, baby wipes, toothbrushes and food. In New Orleans, it delivered truckloads of ice and water. The company is also sending 150 Internet-ready computers to shelters to help evacuees find loved ones or contact family and friends to let them know they are alright.
“Wal-Mart has raised the ante for every company in the country,” said Adam Hanft, chief executive of Hanft Unlimited, a marketing and branding consulting firm. “This is going to change the face of corporate giving.”
Wal-Mart’s Scott knows that the company’s effort to help Katrina’s victims will not end the criticism of the company.
“We have never claimed to be flawless. But on the other hand, we have always demanded that we as a company do care. If anything, this week has shown we do care,” he said, adding: “We can’t do any more than our own part. We are not the federal government. There is a portion we can do, and we can do it darn well.”
Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, indicated Mr. Scott might be selling his company short in the comparison to what Wal-Mart can accomplish versus the federal government.
“They were ready before FEMA was,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: Will Wal-Mart’s efforts on the part of the victims of Katrina improve its public standing and soften the criticism the company has
received from some for the way it treats employees? –
George Anderson – Moderator