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23 Jun 2011

Christine Bader, Advisor to UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on business & human rights, on Reuters "Great Debate" blog

Wal-Mart and the gap in corporate policy

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart on Monday hinged on the fact that the company had a policy forbidding sex discrimination. In rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims that Wal-Mart disproportionately rewarded and promoted men, Justice Scalia reasoned that the existence of such a policy showed that the company could not have “operated under a general policy of discrimination”. But this is misguided — and sets a dangerous precedent. It is not the existence of a statement that matters, but how it is implemented and enforced...[There] is ample proof that good corporate policies don’t prevent bad corporate behavior. A corporate policy should be seen as an indication of whether an issue is important — not whether it has been resolved. [also refers to BP, McDonald's, ExxonMobil, Freeport-McMoRan]