Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon is not letting a stalled Congress hinder progress. He's taking a proactive stance to get American people back to work—veterans in particular—and is also investing in U.S.–based businesses.
Following bad press about its practices in Mexico last year, Simon recently announced three major initiatives that analysts say should improve Walmart's image as a leader in corporate social responsibility.
1) Walmart will hire any returning veteran who wants a job within the first 12 months of coming off active duty. The company's goal is to hire 100,000 veterans over five years.
2) The company will increase its sourcing of American-made products throughout the organization by $50 billion over 10 years.
3) Walmart will help more of its staffers become full-time employees. This means more workers will have access to health benefits.
"The election clarified for me that it's time for those of us outside politics to get to work," Simon said. "I find it fascinating that during the campaign we all waited with bated breath each month for the government to tell us how many private-sector jobs were created. After all, it's the private sector that creates jobs."
"We believe Walmart is already the largest private employer of veterans in the country, and we want to hire more," he added. "I can think of no better group to lead in revitalizing our economy than those who have served in uniform. Through their service, veterans give us a land of freedom. When they return, it must be to a land of possibility."
Most of the jobs offered to veterans, Simon noted, will be in Walmart stores and Sam's Clubs, while some will be in distribution centers or at corporate headquarters in Arkansas.
Walmart and Sam's Clubs have about 1.3 million employees in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 51.3 percent of all veterans (10.8 million) are part of the civilian workforce, accounting for approximately 6.9 percent of the total workforce (155.5 million). The jobless rate for veterans is 7.0 percent, which has decreased 9.0 percent since December 2011. The national unemployment rate currently is 7.8 percent.
"If someone's unemployed, that's an issue," said Michael Dakduk, Executive Director, Student Veterans of America. "There are a lot of homeless veterans and a lot of veterans that are not employed. It's certainly a step in the right direction, and I think that's important to acknowledge."
As for the company's "Made in America" initiative, Simon said that already two-thirds of the company's goods are made, grown or sourced in the United States.
Walmart has gained praise for these initiatives from leaders including First Lady Michelle Obama. Scott Paul, President, Alliance for American Manufacturing, called the announcement a potential game-changer because of the retailer's influence on industry trends. "Ideally, Walmart's and Sam's Club's pledge of increased domestic sourcing will include higher-ticket items like appliances and apparel, and not simply more of the current paper goods and vegetables that are made in the U.S.," Paul said.