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Net Impact Lecture Series – Walmart China’s Corporate Social Responsibility: Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) Program

Thanakrit (Putt) Thavorn-amornsri, GMBA Class of 2017

 

On March 24th, the Net Impact club at Tsinghua University invited Miss Fiona Lang – CSR Director of Corporate Affairs, Walmart China – to come and share about Walmart’s CSR endeavors and social impact in China. Walmart China is committed to helping Chinese people live a better life through CSR initiatives in four main categories: Women's Economic Empowerment; Education Initiatives; Nutrition, Health & Wellness; and giving back to communities. At Walmart, Fiona oversees the CSR practices, NGO partnership maintenance, as well as CSR related communication. With over 12 years of experience in strategic corporate communication and CSR in various sectors, she spearheaded Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) Program and many other initiatives that promote gender equality and career development for Chinese women in rural areas.

Walmart China was founded in 1996 and has since successfully expanded nationwide with 434 retail units as of 2015. It employs over 1,000,000 associates in China, 60% of which are female. Walmart China strives to become the most trusted retailer by 2017 – seeking to expand 115 additional stores in tier-1 and -2 emerging cities and provide 30,000 jobs for local Chinese. Given a majority of the workforce is female, Walmart China understands the issues of gender inequality and job opportunities of women; hence, Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) was founded by Walmart and Walmart Foundation in 2011 in order to improve the lives of women by providing skills training, market access and economic opportunities.

With over USD $1 billion in grants, WEE focuses on three areas: sourcing, training, and diversity inclusion. First, it aims to increase sourcing from Women Owned Business (WOB) to more than 50%. Second, WEE aims to train and provide jobs for one million women by 2016 through 4 key areas: farming, factory, business support, and retail business. As Fiona explained, one significant portion is the Apple Farming Project which provides opportunities for unemployed women in the countryside. The project raised RMB 91 million in funding and worked with 210,000 Smallholder Apple Farmers to improve the efficiency of apple farming through research collaboration with UC Davis and Cornell University, i.e. lower water usage and more competitive apple yields. In addition, WEE is also involved in providing skill training and financial planning for women in the factory; empowering women for their entrepreneurial business through WEConnect international marketplace; and promoting retail businesses that aim to provide jobs for 36,000 women.

And lastly, WEE aims to promote diversity inclusion to address the social issue of gender equality. WEE believes that through its practice it can help women build their own brands by leveraging on what they are good at, allowing for diversity in the workplace. Since 70% of Walmart’s customers are women, these initiatives not only improve lives of women, but also allow Walmart to better understand their customers as well. Indeed, business helps society and society helps business, and so must all of us future business leaders!

The Net Impact club at Tsinghua is a club for like-minded people who want to make a difference. Net Impact is a network of 60,000 students and professionals who share a goal to create positive social and environmental change in the workplace and around the world. Net Impact at Tsinghua is the first Mainland China student chapter under the global Net Impact organization, which includes key business schools such as Harvard, Wharton and INSEAD. Our mission is to develop top leaders who seek to improve the world and society through best business practices in corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, social enterprises, and non-profit organizations.