Walmart Asia CEO Scott Price addresses APEC CEO Summit: “Social responsibility must be integral to business strategy to succeed”

“Corporate social responsibility must be an integral part of the business strategy to be successful and sustainable,” said Scott Price, CEO of Walmart Asia. “By stepping up to the right social responsibilities, a company is honoring its commitment to its owners and shareholders. By focusing on social commitments related to the business, the company can have a greater impact economically, socially and environmentally and at the same time prosper.”

Mr. Price made the comments during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit held in Yokohama, Japan Nov.11-14.

Price’s comments came hard on the heels of Walmart unveiling its global sustainable agriculture goals where it will help buy more from small and mid-sized farmers around the world; reduce food waste and sustainably source key agricultural products.

“Walmart’s CSR activities have become so entwined in our business strategy that you rarely hear the term “CSR” at Walmart,” he said. “Being socially responsible is simply a part of our business consideration.” To highlight his point Price cited an example of how Walmart will help small farmers around the world by selling $ I billion in food sourced from one million small and medium farmers by end of 2015.

Walmart, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, has a legacy of giving back to the communities in which it does business.

To be effective, Price said he believes social responsibility efforts must be focused, impact the most people, be long-term, address causes (not symptoms) and relate to the business.

“There’s an abundance of legitimate opportunity to give back, to do right, and you want to be able to help anyone and everyone who calls. But over the last several years, we’ve built a model for making a big difference on big issues,” he said.

“At Walmart, we’ve narrowed our focus to a few global platforms: education, sustainability, economic development and empowerment, and health and nutrition. Around the world, we want our operations to align around our global business/CSR platforms, and they are,” he said.

Tackling big issues and establishing global platforms does not mean taking a “one size fits all” approach to CSR, Price explained. “There’s plenty of latitude to act locally within those global platforms. It’s a matter of meeting the unique needs of your local country, business and communities.”

Each country has its own culture, its own needs, its own challenges, and within each there are dramatic differences in how the social safety net is managed, Price said.

The challenge is to develop a global platform that is flexible enough to be relevant locally. Price cited Walmart’s recently announced sustainable agriculture program as an example of innovation, global focus and flexibility. It’s long-term and it ties directly into the business, he said.

It also tackles a huge social issue. “More than one billion people around the world rely on farming and hundreds of millions of them live on less than $2 a day. Globally, with a booming population, food production must increase roughly 70 percent to feed 9 billion people by 2050,” Price explained.

Through sustainable agriculture, Walmart, as the world’s largest grocer is uniquely positioned to make a big difference in food production — for local communities, local economies and families everywhere. “We see this as an opportunity to lead,” Price said.

Walmart’s sustainable agriculture strategy is divided into three broad areas each containing specific supporting goals to help the company track and report its progress as part of our overall business goals:

  • In emerging markets, Walmart will help many small- and mid-sized farmers through training, by gaining access to markets and by increasing their income through sourcing.
  • Walmart has one of the world’s largest food supply chains, but almost nothing is known about the resources required to produce that food, Price said. In order to produce food with fewer resources and less waste, the global strategy will drive transparency into the supply chain
  • Farming practices are having unintended side effects, from deforestation of the world’s rainforests to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Walmart will focus on two of the major contributors: palm oil and beef production.

“We’re truly excited about our sustainable agriculture platform. We believe we can make a huge difference, that we can feed more people, healthier food, that we can empower farmers, build local economies, protect the environment, while at the same time strengthen our business,” Price said.

“We want to be a part of the solution to a better, more sustainable future for our customers, our children, our stakeholders. We want to be part of the much needed social innovation. We believe that irrespective of East or West what is most important is that corporations working in close collaboration with governments attempt to make life better for the communities in which they operate. And we believe that this is fundamental to doing business. Given the challenging times we face it is not just common sense. It is also good business sense,” concluded Price.

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