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April 14, 2006
Wal-Mart Discloses Equal Employment Opportunity Data
    by Bill Baue

The company joined six others in the S&P 100 that publicly disclose their EEO-1 report, but Wal-Mart still faces shareowner action on union-busting and selling gems mined in Burma.

Earlier this week, Wal-Mart (ticker: WMT) broke new ground by posting on its website its entire EEO-1 report, a confidential document on worker diversity filed annually by companies with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The move came in response to a shareowner resolution filed by members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors, which withdrew the resolution in recognition of Wal-Mart taking this leadership step.

"This move sets a new standard in corporate transparency not only for retailers but for all Fortune 500 companies," said Barbara Aires, coordinator of corporate responsibility for the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey, the lead filer of the resolution since 2002. "As the largest publicly traded company in the U.S. with the nation's largest workforce, Wal-Mart raised the bar for all companies, both privately and publicly held."

"In publicly disclosing how women and people of color advance within the company and what opportunities they have, the impetus for continued progress in this area becomes more tangible," Sr. Aires added. "Our work does not end with this report, however--we will continue our dialogue with management on shaping human resources policies that set new standards for openness and opportunity."

Wal-Mart joins only six other companies in the US S&P100 index that publicly disclose their entire EEO-1 report, according to a survey by the Social Investment Research Analyst Network (SIRAN). These companies include Citigroup (C), Coca-Cola (KO), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Intel (INTC), International Business Machines (IBM), and Merck (MRK). Another 21 companies provide full EEO-1 disclosure on request from analysts, and another six beyond that provide partial public disclosure.

"It took Wal-Mart a while to get to this point, but they are to be commended for doing exactly what shareholders have been calling upon companies to do," said Heidi Soumerai, director of social research at Walden Asset Management, a socially responsible investing (SRI) firm that co-filed the resolution. Ms. Soumerai also spearheaded the SIRAN survey and "Call to Action" urging companies to disclose their EEO-1 reports. "The first thing I did after hearing about Wal-Mart was alert Home Depot, where we are filing a shareholder resolution requesting more comprehensive EEO statistics--it's very important for them to see that if a company like Wal-Mart can do it, they can too."

Home Depot (HD) used to make its EEO-1 survey available to analysts, but it no longer does so, according to Ms. Soumerai.

"I also think it's interesting that Wal-Mart is doing this while in the midst of a sexual discrimination lawsuit," Ms. Soumerai told "Many companies say that they have concerns that this type of disclosure is the impetus for lawsuits."

"We believe that disclosure and accountability may actually help companies avoid lawsuits," she added.

Wal-Mart publishes its own EEO-1 statistics alongside national and industry statistics to provide easy comparison, a decision Ms. Soumerai praises. Walden typically analyzes the top four categories--officials and managers, professionals, technicians, and sales workers.

"It's clear to see where their numbers lag the industry--for example for women in the officials and managers category--but you can also see that they are ahead of the country as a whole on the other important categories, such as professionals, technicians, and sales workers, which are feeder groups for the official and manager category," said Ms. Soumerai. "As for African-American officials and managers, they have 10.7 percent versus the industry's 8.3 percent, and in the rest of the categories we look, they are better than the industry."

While the lack of historical data prevents shareowners from benchmarking against past performance, this dataset sets a baseline for benchmarking going forward.

"As long-term shareholders, one of the things we do with this information is look at trends over time--that's one of the most important apples-to-apples comparison we try to make, and now we have the ability to do that," said Ms. Soumerai. "We would hope and expect to see progress over a three- or five-year period in areas where we haven't seen progress up until this point."

The move also raises the question of how Wal-Mart will handle other shareowner negotiations. For example, a group of 10 SRI firms and faith-based institutional investors sent a letter late last month to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott asking the company to address its history of union-busting activity. The company has not responded to the letter, according to lead signatory Conrad MacKerron, director of the corporate social responsibility program at the As You Sow Foundation. Company spokesperson Marty Heires did not respond to's requests for commentary.

Wal-Mart also faces investor concern over its sale of jewelry with gems mined in Burma (or Myanmar), a country with a documented history of human rights abuses. SRI firm Boston Common Asset Management sent a letter in late March praising the company for not selling clothing made in Burma since 1992, and asking the company to follow suit by not selling gems mined there, just as Tiffany's (TIF) has done.

"I received a phone call from the company and they are willing to discuss this further in dialogue," said Lauren Compere, chief administrative officer of Boston Common. "I was told that they are examining the issue of Burma sourced gems along with their overall sustainability efforts related to jewelry, and this will become part of a larger policy addressing gold and diamonds."


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