One of the things about corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives is that the best programs are those that are part of the core operations of the firm, align to the greater goals, and do not require a constant champion. It is simply embedded into the economics and actions of the firm, and while the firm certainly benefits, the overall benefits are far wider.
The Walmart Direct Farm Program in China is one of those initiatives.
It is for me a program that is actually less about “CSR” and “sustainability” as it defines good business, or as Michael Porter calls it Shared Value:
Corporate policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing social and economic conditions in the communities in which it operates
For Walmart, who sees direct farming in China as a way to improve the quality of product, stability of their supply sources, and reduce their costs, this program will serve its long term business interests (in China) well.
At the same time, in addition to the social benefits that the program is bringing to the women and villages, environmentally the gains will also be very real as Walmart’s team works to educate the farmer(s) about improved agricultural practices and creating co-op that are working together (vs. 700,000 individual farmers) to create consistent products.
Itself a positive externality to the community