Wal-Mart Stores Inc. released its 2016 Giving Report, which lists the various beneficiaries of the retailer’s corporate largesse, which totaled $1.4 billion last year. The report shows that Wal-Mart wants to help the world while helping its own business by funding retail training programs from Chicago to China.
With its promise to purchase an additional $250 billion in American-made, sourced or grown products by 2023, it behooves the retailer to support research that can drive innovation in U.S. manufacturing. The company’s U.S. manufacturing innovation fund will dole out $10 million in grants by 2019. So far, more than $7 million has been awarded.
Last year, $2.8 million was awarded between five research and academic institutions, including Clemson University for its work on dyeing polyester fabrics; Oregon State University for environmentally conscious fabric dyeing; University of Texas at Austin for on-loom fabric defect inspection using contact impact sensors; North Carolina State University for developing a method to improve weaving efficiency, and Cornell University for recycling post-consumer textile waste and a raw material substitute for a new textile.
Wal-Mart’s philanthropic programs generally fall into three categories: enhancing economic opportunity, enhancing the sustainability of global supply chains, and strengthening local communities. The breakdown by amount for each pillar: $58 million for opportunity, $1.18 billion for sustainability, and $108 million for community giving.
“For our giving programs, we seek out grantees and other collaborators who can play key roles in driving transformational change,” said the report, identifying successful grantees as system architects, idea generators and innovators. They can also be large-scale service providers.
Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation launched a $100 million, five-year commitment to improve tools and practices for hiring, training and advancing people in frontline retail jobs. Alongside the philanthropy, Wal-Mart touted its business initiative of investing $2.7 billion into training, education and higher wages for associates.
It’s a shift from more than a decade ago, when Wal-Mart was criticized for paying workers wages so low they qualified for state welfare programs.
The Center for the Future of Arizona received a grant to help Maricopa leverage the fact that the retail sector is the largest employer in the region. Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, a national workforce development board that helps frontline workers move quickly into middle skills roles, received a grant from Wal-Mart and the foundation.
Wal-Mart said it’s improving the lives of women all the way to China, where the Women in Factories program has trained more than 762,000 women since its inception. Wal-Mart China has pledged nearly $780,000 to a program that will train 200 teachers and 20,000 vocational students for future jobs in retail.
To help provide job training and education for veterans, the retailer committed $20 million by 2015 and an additional $20 million through 2019.
Wal-Mart and the foundation committed $20 million by 2015 to programs for job training and education for veterans. An additional $20 million through 2019 has been earmarked to help veterans transition to civilian life. Organizations receiving grants include the American GI Forum, the National Veterans Outreach Program, Blue Star Families, Hire Heroes USA and Swords to Plowshares.
Wal-Mart has been blamed for the demise of small businesses when it opens a new store in a community, and the retailer has been bending backward to change this perception. Sam’s Club and the Sam’s Club Giving Program unlocked $100 million in new capital for mission-driven lenders for small businesses, and Wal-Mart and the foundation awarded grants to Accion, the U.S. Network, the Community Reinvestment Fund USA and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders.
Wal-Mart in 2015 pledged to help provide four billion meals by 2020 as part of its sustainability initiative. The retailer has donated 1.2 billion pounds of food from Wal-Mart facilities, while Wal-Mart and the foundation have donated $122 million in grants to strengthen the charitable meal system. Wal-Mart and the foundation contributed $14.9 million in 2016 to nutritional education, a $5.75 million grant went to Share Our Strength and $350,000 to the Chef Ann Foundation for a tasting program that introduces kids to new fruits and vegetables.
Much of Wal-Mart’s community work has focused on disaster response and preparedness with assistance provided to 87 communities from Houston to Nepal. An emergency operations center was established in Bentonville to quickly restore business operations and replenish supplies of needed products.
When the news broke that the water in Flint, Mich. was toxic, Wal-Mart said it put together a coalition made up of Coca-Cola, Nestlé Waters North America and PepsiCo to bring bottled water to the area. Then, the retailer with coalition partners came up with a solution for processing the plastic. Working with coalition partners and Keep America Beautiful, a recycling program was designed.