No brand wants to confront the news that the U.S. Supreme Court may hear a potential class action lawsuit involving alleged widespread discrimination against female employees. But for Walmart, it’s especially bad news. It’s not simply the fact that the lawsuit could potentially include one million current and former female Walmart employees (that’s one percent of all American females), it’s also that the news has been a springboard for the media to revisit previous stories involving Walmart’s low pay, poor benefits, and cheap and sometimes flimsy products.
Just as consumers evaluate brands based on how they treat the environment (BP, we’re looking at you), consumers also evaluate brands based on how they treat their employees. When a brand declares that it wants to help people “Live Better” by saving them money, it’s only natural that consumers may ask if that brand is helping its employees to “Live Better” as well. Shoppers love a bargain, but as brands associated with child labor have learned, they don’t want to feel guilty about saving money.
Walmart would do well to remember that the lawsuit on hand is far more than just a public relations issue: It’s an employee engagement issue. Walmart’s employees stand front and center in its stores wearing vests emblazoned with the words “How Can I Help You?” They are the face and representation of the brand— something that Walmart needs to remind itself.
Now is the time for Walmart to make the link between its many laudable corporate citizenship efforts and its brand. The question Walmart needs to begin asking itself is this: How is Walmart helping its employees “Live Better” today? There is a story to be told. Let’s hope Walmart begins telling it.