“Sustainability: Actions Speak Louder Than Words”
SUSTAINABILITY: ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
The purpose of this work is to analyze the mission, values, and core competencies relating to sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line of the corporations Wal-Mart and Starbucks. By analyzing the key differences not only in their values, but the application of their stated values, they can then be judged as to the superiority of their systemic approaches to sustainability. In the case of these two companies, ethics are the most notable difference, which causes Wal-Mart to experience a myriad of dilemmas that Starbucks doesn’t. This key difference is important because “nearly any dilemma an organization faces can be distilled down to simple ethical questions” (Eckmann and Frauenzimmer).
After analyzing both Starbucks’ and Wal-Mart’s mission, values, and core competencies relating to sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line, key differences are noted, not just in their stated values, but with their real-world adherence to their values. Wal-Mart for example repeatedly mentions the cost of their products in their mission statement and values, whereas Starbucks’ primary goals are a positive experience for their customers. There is also a large degree of dissonance between what Wal-Mart claims is important to them, versus what they do. Starbucks however adheres to their stated values. These differences warrant a closer look.
First and foremost, Wal-Mart and Starbucks’ mission statements are entirely at odds. Wal-Mart champions "We save people money so they can live better" (WalMart.com), while Starbucks believes their ultimate mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time" (Starbucks.com). It is clear that Wal-Mart’s main concern is on the low price of their products, whereas Starbucks’ primary goal is to provide a positive experience, not just for their customers, but for their employees and community as well. This key difference can be seen when their core competencies are examined. Wal-Mart’s core competency is getting products onto store shelves as cheaply as possible and passing those savings onto their customers. Starbucks’ core competencies are nearly a polar opposite as Wal-Mart’s, as they focus on providing a consistently high-quality product in an atmosphere that is friendly and inviting. It’s interesting to note however that despite operating in vastly different markets, and with vastly different business practices; both companies have similar stated values when it comes to the ethical treatment of employees and sustainable environmental practices.
Despite having similar values related to green environmental policies and fair treatment of employees, there is a large gulf between what Wal-Mart claims is important to them, verses their actions. Wal-Mart for example claims to want to achieve 100% renewable energy use (WalMart.com). They haven’t however set so much as a timeline for how long this goal might take. In reality, they use less than 2% renewable energy, despite the fact that there are other industry leaders in the grocery market that have already achieved this goal, so it is entirely possible for Wal-Mart to have already done so as well (Mitchell 2011). Starbucks on the other hand sets concrete reduction targets and updates the public on their progress. They have even gone so far as to voluntarily conduct and then publicly release a report on the inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions (Timm 2005). They too seek to operate with 100% renewable energy, and currently over 50% of Starbucks’ energy consumption is derived from renewable energy sources (McDermott 2012). Primarily however, Wal-Mart is most noted for neglecting the “people” portion of the Triple Bottom Line concept, as they are notorious for maltreatment of workers. In opposition to these practices, Starbucks adheres to their values...
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