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The Wal-Mart We Know

Okay, here’s my Walmart story.

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About 18 months ago Wal-Mart wanted to do business with Seventh Generation, offering us a chance to sell to customers we have struggled to reach. There are two distinct schools of thought in the company. One is that we as a company, do a poor job serving middle and low-income people and that to do business with Wal-Mart would open these markets, increase profits and provide a larger piece of the population with environmentally friendly products. Sounds attractive, right? And then, there is the bigger picture.

As a socially responsible business we can’t ignore the behavior of all the companies we do business with. I had read that for every job Wal-Mart creates, one and a half jobs are lost in this country as Wal-Mart, in its quest for lower prices, forces manufacturers to move overseas.

And even though Wal-Mart calls this characterization a myth and cites a study from Marshall University that shows that Wal-Mart “increases employment, wages and the number of retail establishments in the markets that we enter and the communities we operate,” I still had my doubts.

Then there is always the issue of what Wal-Mart pays its employees. Underpaid workers have to rely on public assistance. We know people can’t live on the wages they make at Wal-Mart. Who really subsidizes low costs at Wal-Mart? We do as taxpayers. Of course, Wal-Mart also defends its pay and benefits offerings, saying that their wages and benefits are competitive in each community they serve…

I still wasn’t convinced and Seventh Generation said “no” to Wal-Mart. The discussions aren’t over, but for now, I think it is the right business decision.

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