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The primary issues facing Wal-Mart relate to its relationship with the public. The company is so massive that it has a profound effect on the nation’s economy and the quality of life of those in communities where Wal-Mart operates, whether it is businesses or the people (Hayden, 2002). This puts it at the center of criticism, and the company is consistently ridiculed. The public relations efforts were not there from the start, but the firm sought to address the public perception of it being an irresponsible company. An increase in environmental awareness and the ability to organize lobby groups through mediums such as the Internet, has increased the power of those who oppose Wal-Mart (Hayden, 2002). This is an evolution that Wal-Mart wasn’t prepared for. The practices that Wal-Mart had would have likely been relatively undetected until the 1990s, but social media has increased its exposure to the public and has increased the power of lobby groups (Hayden, 2002). Small businesses were opposed to Wal-Mart, and so too were the unions, NIMBY groups and organizations aligned with the unions. The Service Employees International Union pledges $1 million to fund a campaign against Wal-Mart. Six unions also funded a $25-million campaign against Wal-Mart (Hayden, 2002).
Since the outbursts against the major corporation, Wal-Mart has made changes to its practices. The company now completes economic impact studies, and it has to have a close eye on its environmental footprint (Hayden, 2002). It also changed its lunch break policy, as well as the practice of hiring illegal labor. This has kept negative press about Wal-Mart largely out of the news, and the company has been viewed as helping Americans support themselves and find work during the recession. Efforts at Hurricane Katrina, where the company donated millions in relief, also appear to have helped the perception.
Hayden, P., et. al. (2002). Wal-Mart: staying on top of the fortune 500 a case study on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs Lecture. Retrieved from allman.rhon.itam.mx