In early 2004, residents of Inglewood, California, a working-class community just outside Los Angeles composed primarily of African- and Hispanic-Americans, were preparing to vote on a referendum that would change the city charter to allow Wal-Mart to build a supercenter on a huge, undeveloped lot in the city. Walmart had put forward the measure after the city council refused to change the zoning of a sixty-acre plot on which it held an option to build. Numerous community and religious groups opposed Wal-Mart's entry and campaigned against the referendum. Walmart promised low-priced merchandise and jobs, but these groups were skeptical about the kinds of jobs and compensation that would be offered, the healthcare that would be provided to employees, and the broader impact Walmart would have on the community. Inglewood was a pro-union community, so there was also opposition based on Walmart's anti-union position. On April 6 Inglewood residents voted to reject the referendum by a margin of 60.6 percent to 39.9 percent. Though smaller, less organized, and with fewer resources than Walmart, this coalition of community and religious leaders had defeated the global retailing behemoth.
After students have analyzed the case they will be able to (a) appreciate the importance of nonmarket factors to execute growth and market entry strategies, (b) understand how the decisions of political institutions depend on the issue context and the alignments of coalitions of interest, (c) formulate and assess strategies to overcome nonmarket barriers to entry.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005, Wal-Mart initiated emergency operations that not only protected and reopened its stores, but also helped its employees and others in the community cope with the disaster's personal impact. This response was part of a wider effort by the company under CEO Lee Scott to improve its public image. Wal-Mart's efforts were widely regarded as the most successful of all corporations in the aftermath of the disaster and set the standard for future corporate disaster relief programs.
Move beyond the operational dimensions of disaster response and appreciate how disaster response is connected to the company's strategy and its position in the market place. Understand how disasters are different than other types of reputational crises and are subject to different expectation from the public. Understand how a company can do well by doing good: how it can do the right thing and benefit its business at the same time. Discuss the changing expectations of companies to act in the public interest.