WalMart’s ethical issues extend way beyond its relationships with bloggers, reported in the NY Times and in scores of blogs this week. As part of its massive “multi-pronged PR offensive,” Mathew Boyle at Fortune, says that WalMart has headhunters Martha Montag Brown & Associates, seeking WalMart’s new director of global ethics.
“The world’s largest retailer,” Fortune says, ” is trying to get out in front of critics and project a reputable image.”… That Wal-Mart needs to beef up its ethics organization is not too surprising. The Bentonville, Ark. behemoth has been bloodied on several fronts lately — an $11 billion class-action discrimination lawsuit, employee pay and health benefits, and former vice chairman Tom Coughlin’s alleged expense account padding have all provided ample fodder for the retailer’s growing chorus of critics.”
“But whom should Wal-Mart hire? The headhunters aren’t talking, but retail and ethics experts contacted by FORTUNE suggested everyone from former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to Sherron Watkins, the Enron whistleblower.”
How WalMart will give the ethics director, who oversees a department of twelve, teeth, will be the question. Half the Fortune 500 have ethics directors, but there hasn’t exactly been an avalanche of ethical behavior in corporate America.
I hope the new ethics director tells WalMart that it would be ethical to start a corporate blog and engage in conversation with its publics, including its critics.