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Wal-Mart's Lee Scott says retailers must work to improve society

Wal-Mart's president and chief executive Lee Scott has used his last public speech in his current role to appeal to retailers to help play a part in solving current economic and social ills.

Speaking during a keynote session at the National Retail Federation convention in New York, Scott said that bold and decisive action was needed to get the US economy moving again.

Though he approves of the fiscal stimulus and liquidity-improving measures being put in place by the US government, Scott said retailers have an important role to play as the industry closest to the man on the street.

In addition to tackling the recession, Scott said that the United States must address issues such as healthcare reform, immigration, education and an addiction to foreign oil.

He said he had learnt lessons at Wal-Mart that are applicable to society today: "The hard questions rarely get asked during the good times.

"People are not willing to make sacrifices and put their own interests aside."

However, Scott said that retailers have the chance to make a "unique, powerful and meaningful difference", and to do so does not have to be at the expense of profitability. He claims that there is no conflict between delivering shareholder value and solving community problems.

As an example he referred to a sustainability summit Wal-Mart held in Beijing recently with suppliers, the Chinese Government and non-governmental organisations, to explain the position it would be taking on issues such as workers rights and environmental standards.

Scott said that this is not just good for society or the environment, but the company as well, as a supplier who cheats its workers or the taxman, will also try to cheat customers such as Wal-Mart. He said that such action would also enhance the companyís reputation with its customers.

He brushed aside suggestions that there is a place waiting for him in the new Obama administration, saying that he has committed to continue working for Wal-Mart for the next two years, nurturing young talent and going back to the shop floor.



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