Sr. Barbara Aires of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, New Jersey, who has led the Walmart engagement for over 20 years, writes “We have a tremendous investment in this company in terms of our time, expertise and yes, capital, and find these allegations deeply disturbing on so many levels. Should these reports be confirmed, we deem this a significant breach of trust and a loss of management credibility.”
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of faith-based and responsible investors that have been actively engaging Walmart on social, environmental, and governance issues are dismayed by recent reports in the New York Times alleging systemic bribery and corruption to facilitate the rapid expansion of their retail operations in Mexico.
In a 1999 letter to Walmart management that was endorsed by nearly 400 organizations including institutional investors, NGOs and academics, the group emphasized their concerns that Walmart’s global expansion and financial performance goals would “leave the door open for potential abuses.”
The unparalleled growth of Walmart as an aggressive and competitive global retailer raises serious concerns that the company’s strategic vision to achieve success in the marketplace comes without an ethical standard of measurement on which to base decisions.…The globalization of the economy has heightened already fierce competition, both here in the U.S. and in developing countries, to produce for less and sell for less at the expense of meeting the basic needs of people and communities.
Said David Schilling, ICCR’s Program Director for Human Rights and Resources, “As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart influences the way business is done and that has an enormous impact on local economies and communities. The company has taken positive steps on a number of issues and it would be a shame if its progress was overshadowed by charges of criminal activity. We hope that in its rush to establish a dominant market position Walmart haven’t placed its commitments to ethics, oversight and transparency in jeopardy.”
Continued Aires, “We are most concerned about reports that management participated in impeding a more thorough, independent investigation into these allegations of corruption. We pray that this is not the case.”
ICCR members also stressed that they view company support of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as critical and oppose the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s attempts to weaken the law.
Said Margaret Weber of the Basilian Fathers of Toronto, “We expect Walmart to publicly endorse FCPA and to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice’s investigation. A culture of ethics and corporate responsibility and sustainability begins at the top and must be enforced throughout the company and in all countries where it does business.”
ICCR Director of Communications