As the U.S. slowly recovers from the Great Recession, all eyes are focused on companies' attempts to accelerate economic rebuilding through job creation. In fact, according to the 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study, economic development still remains the top priority for companies to address, ahead of issues such as the environment, education and health and disease.
Last week, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced a new five-year, $10 million fund to provide grants to innovators seeking to create new "processes, ideas and jobs that support America's growing manufacturing footprint." This initiative complements last year's commitment by Walmart to buy an additional $50 billion in American-made products over 10 years, which Boston Consulting Group has estimated will result in the creation of 1 million new jobs. Walmart recognizes its philanthropy and participation alone can't single-handedly solve the nation's unemployment rate – despite the fact that it represents nearly 3 percent of total U.S. GDP. Instead, the company is partnering with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to ignite manufacturing ideas from across the nation. To that end, Walmart has also announced it will host its second U.S. manufacturing summit in August with the goal of bringing together parties to discuss "opportunities to create jobs, restore communities and drive economic growth."
Although we're beginning to see a light at the end of the recession tunnel, companies are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in long-term job creation. Walmart's recent announcement shows a deeper commitment to economic development, beyond pledging to purchase American-made goods and make donations. The retail giant is bolstering the U.S. manufacturing industry through the investment in innovation and collaboration, looking beyond its own supply chain to provide industry-changing solutions.