July 26, 2005
Wal-Mart to Take New Approach Towards Detractors
According to a front page article in today's Wall Sreet Journal, Wal-Mart Boss's Unlikely Role:
Corporate Defender-in-Chief, Wal-Mart's CEO will start meeting with activist groups:
When Wal-Mart Stores Inc. became the world's biggest public company, it also became one of the world's biggest targets. The barrage of criticism reached a crescendo last year as Democratic presidential candidates lambasted the company's employment practices.
Over its 43-year history, Wal-Mart typically ignored its critics. But after the primaries were over, Chief Executive Lee Scott went on the offensive. Through Thomas "Mack" McLarty, a former Clinton aide and a consultant to the Bentonville, Ark., retailer, Mr. Scott arranged a September dinner in Washington, D.C., at Mr. McLarty's home with several former Clinton administration officials.
But a couple of years ago, under fire for everything from its health-care benefits to the size of its stores, Wal-Mart decided to wade into the controversy it creates and gave Mr. Scott, 56 years old, responsibility for leading the offensive. So for the past nine months, he has crisscrossed the country as Wal-Mart's defender-in-chief, grappling with activists of every persuasion, including congressmen, environmentalists and Sister Barbara Aires, a Catholic nun and longtime critic. In many ways, his personal evolution mirrors that of the company.
"Over the years, we have thought that we could sit in Bentonville, take care of customers, take care of associates and the world would leave us alone," Mr. Scott said at a Goldman Sachs investors' conference earlier this year. "It just doesn't work that way anymore."
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