A Good Corporation?

I am the first to point out the shortcomings and travesties of large corporations that put profits above people. One of the major corporations that heads the list because of its treatment of its employees and its inclination to buy cheap goods from third world countries is Walmart. There is no end of the bad press this company has received over the years, and deservedly so. Among other things, during the latest violence in the stores on Black Friday, the name “Walmart” kept coming up and there is no question they took the lead in encroaching on Thanksgiving in order to get customers out early buying their product. And this is not the first year Walmart has been in the headlines on the day after Thanksgiving.

But, then, there is another side to the story and it is a relief to read that Walmart partners with “Second Harvest,” a Twin Cities food bank that feeds the hungry and does immense good each year. In fact, Walmart has helped provide 197 million meals of late in the form of meat, fresh produce, and other nutritious foods. In addition, they have pledged $2 billion in cash, equipment and food through 2015. As the director of Second Harvest says, “That’s just a mind-blowing investment.” It comes in the form not only of food but also refrigerated food trucks that play an essential part in food-rescue efforts.

Walmart has long been involved in charitable giving, including millions of dollars in scholarships. But these gifts often seemed like a publicity ploy designed to off-set the image the company was getting as an exploiter of its own employees and one of the most greedy of the profit-seekers. This latest step has been taken on the quiet and dwarfs previous efforts in the good it will do for people in a time of real hardship.

Cynics will say this is a huge write-off for the company, and this is true. But, again, it is also an act of generosity that will help feed hungry people in an economy when their numbers are growing. We need to see this as a good thing to balance out the picture we have of large corporations that can’t see beyond the bottom line. Those companies are still out there and they dominate the landscape. But it is nice to know that there is some good hiding amidst all the short-sightedness.

2 thoughts on “A Good Corporation?

  1. Good post and great question. I do not think it is entirely altruism either. Yet, in the book “Built to Last,” one of the tenets of successful companies is “being more than profits.” The issue with Walmart is bettered portrayed in the book “Nickeled and Dimed in America” where they are the poster child for perpetuating poverty with their hiring and pay practices. So, is the “Second Harvest” donations a make-up grant? The other issue is the choice of charities. Food will go to waste in a supermarket. In fact, one out of every seven trucks of fresh food spoils. So, they may be timing their donations based on prospective end dates.

    • Good points. I waffle on the Walmart question. Clearly, they profit by the exploitation of their employees. But they do a remarkable amount of good with their charities — but many of their employees (as my son points out) are the ones who benefit from their largess at the other end!


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