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Walmart Canada tops diversity and inclusivity study

Its workforce is the leading contributor to consumer perception, followed by its advertising

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Canadians regard Walmart as the country’s biggest champion of diversity and inclusion, according to a new survey conducted by Toronto’s Solutions Research Group (SRG) for phase one of its new Diversity & Inclusion Monitor.

The results are based on a survey of 1,350 Canadians conducted in July, in which respondents were asked to identify the companies or brands they regard as leaders in diversity and inclusion on a top-of-mind basis. SRG also conducted follow-up interviews with 420 consumers in September that drilled down further on the preliminary findings.

Respondents cited the diversity of Walmart’s workforce as the primary reason for identifying it as a champion of diversity and inclusion. For many respondents, the idea of diversity went beyond ethnicity to include other factors such as age and disability. Respondents also pointed to Walmart’s advertising (both from a thematic and casting standpoint) as a factor.

SRG president Kaan Yigit said Walmart had also been at the forefront of advertising to diverse communities since the company first started conducted research around diversity and inclusion about 15 years ago. In addition to running ads in multiple languages, the retailer has consistently represented the diversity of its employee base in its advertising, he added. “I think people notice that and appreciate that.”

“One of Walmart’s core values is respect for the individual, which is centred around inclusivity and diversity,” said the big-box retailer in an emailed statement. “These values extend through our supply chains, to our vendors and into our stores. These basic and fundamental beliefs guide our attitudes and actions every day, always. At Walmart Canada, we strive to create an equitable and inclusive environment where every associate has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is the only pure-play grocery retailer to appear on the list, ranking seventh overall (as well as fourth overall among Western Canadians and seventh among people in Atlantic Canada), while CPG brands Dove (#10) and Coca-Cola (#11) also appear among the top 25. The list also includes all of Canada’s major banks as well as tech companies including Apple (#8), Google (#9) and Amazon (#13).

“Grocery brands are always highly visible, more so during the pandemic,” said Yigit. “And they are still riding a wave of goodwill as they really became a lifeline for so many whether in store or online through the pandemic.”

While many of the leading brands on the list, such as Walmart, Loblaws, Tim Hortons and RBC, were singled out on the basis of their workforce, Yigit said brands with limited or no consumer touchpoints—such as Coca-Cola and Dove—were ranked almost entirely on the basis of their advertising.

Respondents cited Dove in particular for its long-running “Real Beauty” campaign, with the phrase “women of all shapes and sizes” coming up repeatedly in interviews with consumers.

“If anything, the research tells me [that] consistent and authentic advertising works,” said Yigit. “[There are] no non-advertising touchpoints for these brands, and the only way you might associate them with inclusion and diversity is through their communications.”

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