Walmart has spent more than $141 million on ethics and compliance systems since 2013, to manage and track efforts that include appointing over 2,300 ethics and compliance professionals, ensuring compliance is up-to-date and accurate, and creating a board-level Global Ethics, Compliance & Risk Committee, the company announced this week. Walmart says its ethics and compliance focus is part of its efforts to grow in this “new era of retail” and to position the business for sustainable growth and shareholder returns.
So how is Walmart improving its approach to ethics and compliance?
Organize compliance staff into one global organization
Walmart needed a clear, global view of its ethics and compliance issues. The company decided its ethics and compliance function should be consolidated into one global group, rather than establishing separate compliance teams that reported to its market or divisional business leaders. The company appointed chief ethics and compliance officers, as well as anti-corruption directors, within each of its retail markets.
The company organized them and their staff into one global organization; the teams were arranged to support but operate independently from local business management. The company gained a clearer view into ethics and compliance issues and increased consistency in its standards and processes.
Walmart has assigned 300 associates to monitor and track compliance across the company’s 56,000 licenses and permits.
Significant training for ethics and compliance leaders
In restructuring its ethics and compliance program, Walmart wanted each of its businesses to have both subject-matter experts and teams that were well trained and able to put policies into practice, given local conditions and laws. Walmart invested in a multi-year effort to appoint and train ethics and compliance associates throughout its business. Its dedicated ethics and compliance staff now numbers over 2,300 associates.
Invest in technology
In order to reliably and efficiently track its governance programs, Walmart knew technology would be essential. The company developed and deployed electronic systems to implement anti-corruption policies, obtain and monitor licenses and permits, enhance food safety, track donations to the community, provide training to associates, and comply with anti-money-laundering obligations, among other functions. Walmart says that since 2013 it has invested more than $141 million in global ethics and compliance systems, including building and deploying its own centralized licensing system.
The system allows teams to monitor and track licenses and permits in each market, reducing the risk of error or wrongdoing by organizing workflows and implementing safeguards such as requirements for approvals and documentation for paying required fees. The system also provides a repository for licensing information, thereby creating transparency and enabling the company to monitor compliance with both global policy and local procedures.
Ensuring food quality and safety
For several years, Walmart says it has been deploying an electronic system to monitor the temperatures of the foods in its stores in order to maintain the right temperature for each type of fresh food. Over the last year, Walmart has installed the system in 630 additional stores. The system is active throughout the US and in many of its international markets. It records over four million food temperatures each month in the US alone. These electronic data help the teams track trends, identify issues, and maintain food at optimal temperatures.
Seeking recognition for results
Walmart points out that the New York Stock Exchange Governance Services recognized Walmart for having “the best governance, risk and compliance program at a large-cap company.” The external validation helps the company know that it’s on the right path, Walmart says.
External validation is also important to help the company overcome the situation that has hounded it since 2012, when the New York Times uncovered a history of bribery in Mexico that Walmart had been engaged in to help expand its business there. The company’s stock value dropped by $17 billion following the report; Walmart began reporting its on global ethics and compliance shortly thereafter, according to Compliance Week.
Walmart is still facing a potential $600 FCPA settlement.