The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Strategic CSR - Walmart vs. Apple

The article in the url below discusses Apple’s recent supply chain difficulties and makes the argument that Tim Cook (Apple’s current CEO) is more engaged on this issue than his predecessor:

Mr. Cook’s appearance at a facility where Apple devices are made was an illustration of how differently Apple’s new chief relates to an issue that first surfaced under his predecessor, Steven P. Jobs. Since Mr. Cook became chief executive in August, shortly before the death of Mr. Jobs, Apple has taken a number of significant steps to address concerns about how Apple products are made.

The article got me thinking about an emerging narrative I have seen in recent coverage of Walmart that the firm is beginning to slide on its commitment to sustainability (e.g.,

In October 2005, Walmart announced plans to transform itself into one of the greenest corporations in the world. Then-CEO Lee Scott called sustainability ‘essential to our future success as a retailer.’ I visited with Lee Scott numerous times between 2005 and 2008 to discuss, evaluate and advise on Walmart’s sustainability strategy. Several years after Scott’s departure as CEO, something has gone seriously wrong. … Michael Duke became CEO in February 2009, replacing Scott. Duke joined Walmart in 1995. I believe that, from the day Duke started, the initiatives that Lee Scott championed, but never saw come to fruition, stalled and then slowly unraveled.

The contrast between the two articles identifies the importance of the CEO in supporting a firm’s commitment to CSR (Chapter 5: From The Top Down, p127). In particular, the articles present a stark contrast between two firms that appear to be moving in opposite directions on CSR by demonstrating how a change from a disengaged CEO to an engaged CEO (i.e., the shift from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook at Apple) can alter a firm’s CSR profile, while the reverse shift (i.e., the change from Lee Scott to Mike Duke at Walmart) can ruin a lot of good work.