Walmart Bribery Scandal: How Ethical Are the Stores You Shop?

Walmart Scandal
Walmart Scandal

The Walmart (WMT) bribery scandal has shined a harsh spotlight on corporate misdeeds.

A media firestorm erupted following allegations this week that the world's biggest retailer's Mexican division bribed government officials to secure building permits in the country, as reported in The New York Times.

But do shoppers really care about the integrity and moral compass of the stores they shop? Apparently, they do -- and increasingly so, says Carol Cone, managing director of brand and corporate citizenship for Edelman, the public relations firm. "In a world of radical transparency and 24/7 instant communications, what a company stands for and how it behaves is more important than ever," Cone told DailyFinance.

Edelman's goodpurpose study -- which explored consumers' attitudes about their expectations of brands and companies' commitment to social issues -- revealed, for one, that 87% of American consumers surveyed think businesses need to place at least as much weight on society's interests as they do on business interests.

And as the Internet has opened up seemingly limitless shopping options, consumers turned off by a firm's corporate behavior can now "easily protest by shifting their spending dollars elsewhere," says Brian Schaffer, vice president of mergers and acquisitions and crisis communications for CJP Communications, a public relations and investor relations firm.

While one can never really know the possible shenanigans brewing behind the scenes at any given company, there are ways to probe the policies and track record of your favorite stores and brands to shed light on questions like: What are a company's business ethics? Is there a history of corporate improprieties? What's their track record on issues like labor and human rights or the environment? Does the company do right by their employees, the communities they serve and consumers? And are their political leanings in line with mine?

If you subscribe to the theory that we all vote with our dollars, everyday consumers can consult these eight sources (cited by Cone and others) to vet the brands they buy and the stores they shop.


Get info on stocks mentioned in this article: