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Resolving Ethical Dilemmas in Business

Go beyond the core to change the system

While it is important to operate the core business in a way that delivers value for society and the business, a healthy, high-performing company can and must go further. The world faces social, environmental, and financial challenges of unprecedented magnitude and complexity. No one actor can resolve these issues single-handedly. Governments and civil society are increasingly calling business to the table.

Meanwhile, globalization and technology have heightened interdependence in our social, environmental, and financial systems. Even seemingly small actions can have serious consequences for others far away in space and time. Globalization and technology have also greatly increased transparency. Actions and their consequences, however far removed, are much more visible to all.

These forces have increased the opportunities—and the responsibilities—of business. If in the past 20 years the discussion has been about the need for business to serve stakeholders beyond just the customer and the shareholder, the next 20 years will be about the need for companies to improve the networks and systems they depend on. Leading businesses are actively using their scale and their particular assets to accelerate progress on tough social and environmental issues.

So, how can companies define their unique contribution to making society stronger? At Walmart, we use five screens.