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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Strategic CSR - Walmart, Amazon, Apple

One of the arguments I make in class is that "CSR," in essence, can be defined as 'corporations giving society what it wants.' If we think of a 'responsibility' as something for which we are held accountable, then this is the best colloquial definition of CSR that I can think of. The natural extrapolation of this logic, however, is that the most socially responsible company is not a firm like Patagonia, but a firm like Walmart.
Clearly, Patagonia is not giving America what it wants. If America did want what Patagonia is selling, then the company would not have the miniscule market share that it currently does. In contrast, I have seen numbers quoted that 90% of U.S. households shop at a Walmart store at least once a year. It is hard to think of any other company that receives that level of societal endorsement. As such, if you have a problem with Walmart then, at some level, you have a problem with American society since, clearly, Walmart is giving America what it wants. I understand that this is a simple statement that reflects a very complex reality, but I also think it captures the essence of how societies and economies work – we get the companies we deserve (they reflect our collective set of values), just like we get the politicians we deserve. You and I might agree that it would be great for Americans (and the World) if they wanted something different, but that is a secondary argument.
In classes more recently, when I have asked students 'What is the most socially responsible company?' and talked through the reasoning behind my answer, I have seen Amazon being suggested as a possible alternative. I like this answer, although given the way that most CSR advocates react to Walmart, it doesn't have the quite the same dramatic effect. Nevertheless, as Jeff Bezos continues to encroach upon every aspect of our lives, Amazon can lay greater claim to the title. Until now, though, I hadn't seen a convincing quote to support a challenge to Walmart's crown.
The article in the url below changes this. In the most recent All-America Economic survey, it was revealed that 2 out of every 3 Americans own an Apple product:
"The latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey reports that 64% of Americans now own at least one Apple product, and that the average U.S. household now owns an average of 2.6 Apple products. CNBC first asked the question back in 2012, when the numbers were 50% and 1.6 products. Even more impressive is the fact that there are very few demographics where Apple product ownership is below 50%."
Maybe Apple is now the most socially responsible company …
Take care
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64% of Americans now own an Apple product, up from 50% in 2012
By Ben Lovejoy
October 10, 2017