In this documentary, Robert Greenwald, who is a renowned filmmaker, reveals the adverse effects of Walmart on mainstream society. Greenwald conducts intensive interviews with the affected workers and other individuals within the regions where Wal-Mart stores are located. This strategy gives the filmmaker insights on the controversies facing the firm. In addition, the film examines the economic pains that Walmart inflicts on other businesses and consumers. This article will show that Walmart’s economic impact on other businesses is regressive, and its ethical conduct is unacceptable in the 21st-century business.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is a documentary film, which was released in 2005 by Robert Greenwald. The film highlights behind-the-scenes business malpractices by the Wal-Mart retail giant corporation in different regions of the world. Greenwald demonstrates a negative impression of Wal-Mart’s business activities via interviews that offer fundamental evaluations of the negative effects of the organization on communities and small businesses. The firsthand testimonials and statistical evidence help in validating this film and exposing the unethical case of Wal-Mart, which exploits workers to produce cheap products to patronize consumers easily.
The beginning of the film features archival footage of commercial adverts that try to convince people that Wal-Mart cares about them for offering affordable prices coupled with depicting an employees’ convention where Wal-Mart CEO, Lee Scott, praises the organization for its success (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price). From these commercials and speeches by the corporation’s administration, one cannot tell whether something is being hidden. However, Greenwald’s film unravels the mystery and lies surrounding this giant corporation.
The producer indicates that in places where Wal-Mart has opened a shop in the United States, small businesses supplying similar products have to quit operations since they cannot manage to compete with its low prices. Workers are offered poor salaries and forced to work for long hours. Workers are exploited to the extent that even buying the purported cheap products becomes unmanageable. In contrast, Wal-Mart boasts of its exemplary health policy and benefits, but in the actual sense, that would cost most of its employees half or more of their pay. At the end of the film, Greenwald convinces consumers to reexamine benefiting from the workers’ misery. In addition, Greenwald reveals how workers in abroad factories like in China are exposed to a poor working environment. This film creates a new impression about how Wal-Mart Corporation abuses the workers’ rights in a selfish bid of making profits that do not benefit the community.
A business cannot claim to address ethical issues if it violates the fundamental rights of its workers and environmental standards, coupled with practicing forced labor, among other business malpractices (Spotts 32). The employees’ working condition is one of the ethical issues that Walmart ignores blatantly. Greenwald shows that Wal-Mart preys on its workers by exposing them to long working hours and, in many cases failing to compensate them for work done over time. Workers are forced to do unusually difficult tasks and for poor pay. It becomes hard to figure out how Wal-Mart manages to evade the legal consequences for the unethical working environment.
As shown in the interviews with former and current employees, Wal-Mart wages are too low to match their medical insurance, and thus the management advises employees to depend on government welfare programs. One of the interviewed managers confesses, “No matter what anybody says they [Wal-Mart workers] are at the poverty level” (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price). Wal-Mart intentionally shows unaccountability by failing to provide subsidized health insurance for its workers.
Wal-Mart lacks integrity in the way it conducts business. Integrity entails conducting business endeavors honestly and treating customers and workers fairly. When the society establishes that a firm is showing wavering concerns to ethical issues, a sense of mistrust develops between the firm and the community it wants to serve (Spotts 22). In the long-term, a disputed relationship between the firm and the mainstream society may lead to the failure of the firm.
Due to the ignorance of Wal-Mart’s management, the crime rates in the parking lots of its stores are on the rise because the management is not willing to spend money on security camera installations. Although this aspect has a negative effect on the customers and workers, ultimately, it will affect the corporation, and by the time it reacts, customers will have left for its competitors. Successful efforts by various communities in the US and across the world to prevent Wal-Mart from setting shops in their localities show how much its integrity has been controversial.
Compliance and accountability are major ethical business practices dominating this film. Businesses are supposed to comply with safety measures, and all civil rights regulations, failure to which they are held accountable for unethical business practices (Dixon 4). Accountability must entail good governance where every employer takes the responsibility of the practices taking place within his/her area of operation. Ethical governance should focus on protecting workers’ and customers’ welfare and ensuring that individual and community values are cherished. However, Walmart did not care about its employees, and as one of the interviewees notes, “I watched so many people go without lunch that I stopped eating lunch in the lounges…because I just couldn’t stand it” (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price).
Respecting the employees’ contribution by motivating them with good pay is necessary for business success. Greenwald highlights how Wal-Mart initially promises jobs, affordable shopping for everyone, and support to family businesses, but within a year of operation, it turns out to be a greedy giant. In a bid to ensure compliance, Greenwald indicates that the first certified worker union in a Wal-Mart store in Canada compelled the corporation to close its operations, claiming that it was not generating profits. This move manifests its unwillingness to operate in regions where people are aware and willing to fight for their rights.
Due to the emerging trends in the corporate world aimed at staying competitive, large companies like Wal-Mart find it hard to contain the growing pressure, and thus they end up ignoring crucial ethical practices. The basis of business sustainability goes beyond providing products that are of low prices, but also ensuring integrity in all levels of production (Dixon 2). This aspect enhances reputation and the ability to retain workers as well as customers. Greenwald’s interviews unearth a lack of sustainable strategies in Wal-Mart since the individuals and communities covered show disapproval and their intention to quit the exploitative stores.
In today’s competitive market, it is hard for companies to mitigate all ethical business practices successfully. Nevertheless, some of the allegations demonstrated by Greenland about Wal-Mart are serious issues that cannot be overlooked. Economic sustainability will only be possible after Wal-Mart takes full responsibility to address the ethical malpractices linked to it. Fortunately, following the film from Greenland, Wal-Mart has improved public relations, and it acknowledges that environmental and social problems threaten its ability to survive and flourish. The activists’ efforts have influenced Wal-Mart’s sustainability strategy, and in the same way, similar companies can improve following such scrutiny.
Dixon, Frank. “Business as Change Agent: Wal-Mart pioneers sustainability strategy.” Oxford Leadership Journal 1.2 (2010): 1-5. Print.
Spotts, Greg. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, New York: Disinformation, 2005. Print.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Dir. Robert. California: Brave New Films. 2005. Film.