The convenience. The roll-backs. The cute smiley-face mascot. It’s hard to believe that anything bad can be said about Walmart. But North America’s favourite superstore is anything but flawless. While everything is cheap on the surface, the following list shows that the repercussions are certainly costly.
1. Bribery Cover Up
Walmart is currently investigating allegations that the company bribed Mexican officials in an effort to speed up expansion south of the border. A report claims that to build up their empire, Walmart spent $24 million greasing the palms of willing bureaucrats, contractors and construction workers. What’s more, according to the New York Times, details of such bribery had been surfacing as early as 2005 and even CEO Michael Duke was aware of such claims.
Using bribery to speed up construction and planning takes the power out of the hands of citizens who should have a say about having a Walmart nearby. This crime sets a precedent of cutting corners; one can only hope the same shortcuts aren’t taken with site health and safety.
2. Renewable Failure
Walmart advertises itself as a model corporation in terms of its commitment to using renewable energy. They claim sustainability when it comes to both products and production. But according to what standards? The Food and Water Watch organization published a study claiming that in 2011 Walmart derived less than 4% of the electricity it used from renewable sources. At this rate, it will take Walmart decades to reach their apparent goal of being 100% dependent on renewable energy. If one of the world’s largest companies doesn’t need to comply with sustainability expectations, who should?
3. Greenhouse Gas Gung-Ho
While other companies are scrambling to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Walmart’s are on the rise. Between 2005 and 2010, the total greenhouse emissions rose 14%. The company has promised to cut down on waste, packaging and reliance on carbon-based fuel, but has not delivered. In fact, they are dumping over 22 million metric tones of pollutants into the air.
4. Market Domination
Walmart is the undisputed champion of mass productions; in 2008, their annual sales were a whopping $405 billion. This company gobbles up any competition. Small businesses and local stores cannot compete with their scale and prices, leaving the throne open for Walmart. Their monopoly is unfair; the consumer is held hostage and has no choice but to shop at their local superstore.
5. Cheap Products
The famous affordability of Walmart comes at a cost: product quality. Durability becomes a back-bencher when speed and mass-production are prioritized. The company sells disposable commodities; they wear out quickly, and the demand renews itself. Toasters costing as little as $6.24 means that if it breaks the simple solution is to buy another one. This alters the consumer mindset to that of a ‘throwaway nation’ meaning more and more products are destined for landfill. In fact, in 2011 consumers threw away a reported 83 pounds of textiles per person which has a deep environmental impact.
6. Death of the Local Store
Walmart is reported as the globe’s largest company; in 2011 they had over 2 million employees worldwide. However, unemployment becomes a major concern for communities as soon as the company moves in. At a local level, niche stores cannot compete with the superstore’s supplies or prices. The suppliers that work with local stores, too, fade in necessity. Even if those affected are able to find employment at Walmart, the jobs often come with fewer hours, benefits and dollar bills. It isn’t just local businesses that lose customers, but whole communities who lose their identity.
7. Undervalued Employees
Considering its scale, Walmart should be a leader in employee experience. However, the company has had a controversy filled past. Employees have spoken out against the lack of health care benefits and the uncompetitive wages, but Walmart is adamantly anti-union. Abroad, the trend continues; in 2009, the company was rocked by child labour scandal.
8. Land Consumption
Since 2005, with the launch of Walmart’s sustainability program, the company has pledged to be a leader in environmental responsibility. Since then, Walmart also opened up over 1,100 one-level supercenters in the US alone and has increased its store footprint by one third. Land is a limited resource and should not be used unwisely, superstores come and go, but we only get one planet.
9. Farm Squeeze
Since Walmart supercenters consolidate food markets for mass-consumption, local food has been devalued. The company had over $140 billion in grocery sales in 2010, and has caused countless vendors to merge in order to keep up with demand. Buying local food helps cuts down on fuel, funds small communities and makes available fresh produce. However, as a result of the mass-grocery fad, local farms are losing business. The little guy is suffering.
10. Organic Façade
In an age where it is considered more important than ever to avoid food that is tainted by pesticides and hormones, and where obesity, cancer and diabetes are on the rise, many people take organic food seriously. Walmart, though, uses the term ‘organic’ as a buzz-word to market items. The term is widely used and even more widely misunderstood, In lulling consumers into a false sense of healthiness, Walmart reaps the rewards of charging higher prices for ‘organic’ food while feeding shoppers the same old product. For example, their ‘organic’ milk is such that the cows are only grain and grass-fed before they are milked. A balanced diet is crucial to the health of North Americans, and consumers should be able to trust what it says on the label.