ウォルマート:新たなワシントン

画像 米国で最も従業員数の多い企業は最近大統領のために動いているようにみえる。エネルギーを節約し、医療システムを改善すると広範な約束をしている。今後3年で消費エネルギーを25%削減すると発表した。議会が医療費高騰に手をこまねいてる間に、処方薬価格引き下げで今年1億ドルの医療費を削減すると誓約し、既にジェネリック薬品を4ドルで売っている。
 数十年間、理由もなく低賃金、低い健康保証であった。2005年の内部文書で、1年に100億ドルの利益が出ていたが、従業員の子どもの46%が無保険またはメディケイドであった。(2008年には140万人従業員の半数を健康保険がカバーする計画である)
 米国最大の小売り業者は、ハリケーン・カトリーナの際に善行が実際に商売になることを学んだ。水と食料品など、スケールとスピードでどんな政府機関よりも適切な対応が可能であった。こうした努力が商売につながり、悪いこととは思えない。かつて、ゼネラルモーターズによって果たされた役割「ゼネラルモーターズにとって良いものはアメリカに良い」という、スケールメリット、医療保障、企業の寛大さ、といったことを考え始めている。大きな企業が授けるという責任を負おうとしている。しかし、ウォルマートに良いものがアメリカに良いことを皆が確信するわけではない。低価格販売が米国人を助ける一方で製造業従業員を痛めつけている。2年前から電球型蛍光灯の強力な販売活動を行い、1億4500万個を売り、3つの石炭火力発電所を不要なものにした。
 ウォルマートへの米国民の支持は90%にのぼり、医療問題や環境問題への取り組みが評価されていると、副社長は言っている。
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ジェネリック薬品とウォルマート効果/米国医療事情
http://kurie.at.webry.info/200709/article_52.html
ウォルマート従業員医療保険を大幅に改善/米国医療事情
http://kurie.at.webry.info/200709/article_40.html
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Wal-Mart: The New Washington
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/weekinreview/03barb.html?fta=y
By MICHAEL BARBARO
Published: February 3, 2008

The nation’s largest private employer sure sounds like it’s running for president these days.

It’s making sweeping commitments to reduce America’s energy use and improve its health care system. It’s obsessively polling voters, boasting of a higher favorability rating than Congress. It’s even touting an “economic stimulus plan for American shoppers” in the form of steep price cuts made last week. (Four 12-packs of Pepsi? $10.)
That last one may be slightly tongue in cheek ― even discount retailers have a sense of humor ― but the bigger message is not: after years of running afoul of the United States government on labor and environmental issues, Wal-Mart now aspires to be like the government, bursting through political logjams and offering big-picture solutions to intractable problems.
As the federal government debates how to wean the country from its addiction to oil, Wal-Mart just announced it would require suppliers to make major appliances that use 25 percent less energy within the next three years.
While Congress wrings its hands over higher health care costs, Wal-Mart vowed to save companies $100 million this year by processing their prescription drug claims. (It already sells generic versions of prescription drugs for just $4, well below the national average.)
Sounding like a politician, the chief executive of Wal-Mart, H. Lee Scott Jr., said in an address to employees two weeks ago, “We live in a time when people are losing confidence in the ability of government to solve problems.” But Wal-Mart, he said, “does not wait for someone else to solve problems.”
In Wal-Mart we trust? After years of criticism that it was a poor corporate citizen and miserly employer, maybe.
The company’s transformation from a laggard to a leader on issues like health care and the environment can arguably be traced to two epiphanies. The first was that a wave of negative publicity threatened to alienate consumers and block the opening of new stores.
For decades, Wal-Mart was associated with low wages, skimpy health insurance coverage and poor treatment of workers ― and not without reason. An internal memorandum in 2005 showed that though Wal-Mart earned $10 billion a year, 46 percent of its workers’ children were uninsured or on Medicaid.
(There is even progress on that front: a new, more affordable Wal-Mart health plan has persuaded half of its 1.4 million workers to sign up for coverage in 2008, up from 45 percent several years ago.)
The second epiphany? Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, discovered that doing good was, in fact, good for business. That was the lesson of Hurricane Katrina. Wal-Mart’s rapid response ― truckloads of water and food, much of it reaching residents before federal supplies ― won it widespread admiration.
All of this encouraged Wal-Mart to think bigger. If the company was such an effective problem solver ― more effective, at times, than the federal government ― why not tackle the big issues of the day?
“With their unique combination of scale and speed they are able to leave any government agency in the dust,” said Amory Lovins, chairman and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy research group.
Certainly, Wal-Mart’s efforts are savvy business decisions with a profit motive ― it’s making money on the health care services it markets and green products it sells, for instance. But that is not considered such a bad thing.
“You wouldn’t expect that Wal-Mart’s business objectives are perfectly coincident with what the government should do,” Mr. Lovins said, “but there are large areas of overlap.”
In some ways, Wal-Mart has begun to assume a role once played by General Motors, whose large size, healthy profits and corporate generosity inspired the slogan, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”
“Wal-Mart is trying to assume the responsibility that their size confers on them,” said Len Nichols, health economist at the New America Foundation, which supports universal health coverage. “It’s a challenge to the government to step up to the plate.”
Not everyone, however, is convinced that what’s good for Wal-Mart is good for America. Critics still contend that, because of its enormous size, the retailer’s low-price business model has depressed wages and exported manufacturing jobs overseas, hurting Americans as much as helping them.
Even some of those who applaud Wal-Mart’s progress say it is not enough, particularly in employee health care. “They have taken the first steps, but they are nowhere near the finish line,” said Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.
Still, it’s hard to argue with results. Take the case of electricity-sipping compact fluorescent light bulbs. Since Wal-Mart began heavily marketing them two years ago, it has sold 145 million bulbs, saving enough electricity, it says, to forestall the need for three coal-fired power plants in the United States.
No wonder, then, that the giant company now sees itself ― and at times talks about itself ― as if it were a government. Last week, when it announced price cuts on a range of products, it playfully likened the plan to Congress’s latest economic stimulus package. Then there are those polling numbers.
In a recent presentation to Wal-Mart store managers, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, Leslie Dach, explained that 90 percent of Americans shop at Wal-Mart and that, among them, Wal-Mart’s “favorability ratings” are 91 percent.
He attributed those numbers, in part, to progress on big issues like health care and environmental sustainability. “Any politician in America would trade their soul for these numbers,” he said.
Again inviting comparisons to the government, Mr. Dach added that the President Bush’s approval rating is 35 percent and Congress’s 25 percent.
“As they see their elected leaders doing less to solve problems they care about,” said Mr. Dach, “people are looking to businesses to step up.”
Wal-Mart’s next big challenge? Finding a running mate.

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