(4/23/2012) Two recent New York Times articles have put Wal-Mart and the Walton family's dirty laundry in the international spotlight once again.
The incidents which focus on corporate greenwashing in the United States with Walton family support for anti-fishing efforts in North America, coupled with an alleged $24 million worth of bribes in Central America to speed up the chain's expansion into Mexico, has the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) once again reminding of the ongoing angler boycott of Wal-Mart.
"The latest headlines prove that Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation are no friends of local communities anywhere, and their ongoing efforts to destroy coastal fishing businesses through support of arbitrary marine reserves and privatization of fish stocks nationwide should not be supported by anglers," said RFA executive director Jim Donofrio.
"We're asking coastal fishermen who support open access, under the law, to healthy and sustainable fish stocks to send a clear message to this arrogant corporation that we've had enough of their greenwashing and grafting efforts," Donofrio said.
This week, Wal-Mart is making world headlines following a New York Times story which charges the Bentonville, Arkansas company and its leaders of squashing an internal investigation into suspected payments of over $24 million in bribes to obtain permits to build in Mexico. If proven true, this would put Wal-Mart in direct violation of U.S. major anti-bribery law under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The bribery scandal was exposed on the same day that the Gloucester Times of Massachusetts exposed a reporting lapse in another recent New York Times article about the relationship between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Wal-Mart partnering together for "more enlightened and sustainable operations."
The New York Times had earlier reported that EDF "does not accept contributions from Wal-Mart or other corporations it works for." However, when confronted on the fact that the $1.3 billion Walton Family Foundation (started in 1987 by Wal-Mart's founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and directed presently by the Walton family) has been underwriting EDF's successful effort to replace the nation's mostly small-business, owner-operated fishing industry with a catch shares model designed to cap the number of active fishermen by trading away ownership of the resource to those with the deepest pockets, the author of the New York Times report conceded by email that in her rush to meet deadlines, she had not considered the relationship between the Walton family and Wal-Mart.
"I didn't think to check the EDF board for Walton family members, or Walton Family Foundation donations," said reporter Stephanie Clifford, adding "None of the third parties I'd spoken to had mentioned that connection, which isn't an excuse - I should have thought of it myself, but didn't.
While the New York Times' story on the bribery scandal has sent Wal-Mart's stocks tumbling in early Monday trading, RFA is hoping that saltwater anglers and fishing business owners will help send Wal-Mart stocks tumbling even further in the days ahead by refusing to shop at the corporate giant any longer.
"The Walton family uses their fortune to buy off friends who'll cover for their despicable business practices, whether it's corporate greenwashing with EDF, rebranding efforts through national trade association campaigns, or apparently by way of directed bribes to local officials in other countries," Donofrio said. "Don't just stop buying fishing tackle at Wal-Mart, stop supporting this company altogether and let's quit supporting complete buyouts and takeovers of local communities."
Last August, RFA asked fishermen to publicly boycott Walmart stores following issuance of a news release from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas where the Walton family announced investments totaling more than $71.8 million awarded to various environmental initiatives, with over $36 million alone handed over to Marine Conservation grantees including Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund and EDF.
The RFA pointed out that by contributing over $36 million towards marine reserves and catch share programs, the Waltons have turned their back on local fishing communities. "Shopping for fishing equipment at Wal-Mart is contributing directly to the demise of our sport, it's supporting lost fishing opportunities and decreased coastal access for all Americans," said Donofrio in originally calling on the national angler boycott of the corporate giant.
"I realize that Wal-Mart offers cheap stuff for consumers and provides a tax base for local towns, but it's time for coastal Americans to ask themselves, at what cost are they're willing to allow this takeover to move forward," added Donofrio.
"We know that the Walton's support for marine reserves and catch shares represents a complete takeover of our coastal resource, and now with the rest of these headlines it's pretty apparent what we're dealing with in terms of corporate greed," he said.