“What can you say about outsourcing and Wal-Mart’s role in the loss of American jobs in manufacturing plants?”
The room of attentive MBAs fell quiet.Â Eduardo Castro-Wright ’75, the public face of Wal-Mart as its USA Stores CEO, responded without skipping a beat. “If you’re a capitalist, you can’t take the view of separate marketsâ€”the global market is where we live today,” he told the MBA questioner. “We favor U.S. products in our stores, even with a premium, but not to the extent that you’re going to pay for it as a consumer. Competition is a beautiful thing. It makes us better everyday.”
Making life better for consumers is precisely the mission the world’s largest big-box chain embraces everyday. That’s what Castro-Wright told students in a March meeting that marked a return to the Texas A&M campus since his days as an undergrad in mechanical engineering in the 1970s. And for a company that has grown $17 billion in international sales in the past year alone (more than the value of Google, eBay and Yahoo combined), such a human-first message is key to maintaining the chain’s quality growth and valued consumer experiences.
The Sam Walton vision lives on, today’sÂ U.S. CEO explained. Wal-Mart has brought benefit along with change as it settles into the fabric of the communities it serves: from increased purchasing power through the Wal-Mart conglomerate’s scale and scope in 3,550 U.S. stores to community enhancements like green stores run on solar power (Colorado) or wind turbines (McKinney, Texas).
A new Wal-Mart in town can revitalize “urban deserts” and bring traffic to a previously withering retail market even if it might, in other places, threaten mom-n-pop business. Wal-Mart’s recent push for less packaging means the company’s truck fleet will haul less material and use 25 percent less fuel. Sheer size and scale also helps new energy-saving technologies make it to the retail floor, such as LED lights for freezer cases, which have proven costly to manufacture. Enter Wal-Mart’s 6,000 worldwide stores, each putting in LED lighting that creates a viable market for an LED manufacturer.
Benefits ripple out from major corporations Wal-Mart, Castro-Wright said, to affect change in more industry and business and especially within Wal-Mart communities.
“You can’t be successful in improving lives if you just bring products in at lower prices for consumers,” he said. “As the largest retailer in the world, we shoulder some responsibility for helping the world become a better place.”