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MHHE008866Walmart’s environmental sustainability initiatives have made big news for the past several years. At the start of the new year, its big announcements shifted the focus of its corporate social responsibility efforts to a new realm: employing more American workers.

First, the company committed to purchasing $50 billion more of the products it sells in its U.S. stores from other U.S. companies. The plan is to increase U.S.-based spending in categories it already stocks, such as paper products, basic apparel, storage containers, high-end appliances, games, and sporting goods. According to Walmart, approximately two-thirds of its products already “are made, sourced from, or grown in the United States.” Such moves should help U.S. manufacturers expand their businesses and hire more workers.

Second, Walmart itself plans to hire more workers, concentrating its mhhe010480efforts on recently discharged veterans of the U.S. military. Specifically, any honorably discharged veteran, within a year of leaving the service, will receive a job offer from Walmart. This plan includes a goal of hiring up to 100,000 U.S. veterans over the next five years, to fill the 15,000–50,000 jobs that Walmart has open at any one time.

As history has shown, Walmart rarely makes a move without invoking controversy. Thus critics quickly responded by noting that international trade agreements create a lot of leeway in the definitions of products made in or sourced from the United States. If Walmart wants to maintain its famously lean supply chain, it could relatively easily find loopholes that allow it, for example, to purchase products from low cost nations and perhaps have them assembled in the United States. Such moves would have less impact on the country’s bottom line and its employment rates. With regard to the hiring of veterans, critics also argue that Walmart remains a problematic employer that pays low wages, provides only part-time wage work, and actively seeks to exclude union activity among its workforce.

But even as its critics persist, Walmart keeps introducing new ways to highlight its responsibility and concern for the broader community.

Source: Jessica Wohl, “Walmart Announces $50 Billion Buy American Campaign,” The Huffington Post, January 15, 2013