Shopping as ‘Best Practice’ - Analyzing Walmart’s Debated Sustainability Policies

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Nowadays, companies who want to engage environment-friendly consumers increasingly rely on green-economy oriented campaigns. Such categories of (ethical) consumers are numerically increasing, and expressions evoking environmental friendliness are becoming particularly trendy. In this vein, words such as ‘sustainability’ have been variously recontextualized/reframed and have become an ‘ought to’ for media-savvy companies ‘with a vision’ - Walmart, the American multinational retail corporation, being a relevant case in point. It is no accident that, on the first Google page for ‘sustainability’, ‘Walmart’ proudly surfaces: The company has made an explicit commitment not just to expand the business but also to improve communities and enhance the sustainability of the products they sell, by encouraging more responsible production practices, while at the same time making product choices more affordable for customers, as reported on its website. However, as the world’s largest company, Walmart is an easy target for attack mainly by environmentalists. Sometimes, Walmart gives its critics grounds for some legitimate criticism in a variety of fields ranging from the supply chain emissions to renewable energy and preserving habitat. Such criticism resonates across the media, owing to their ‘lack of closure’ (Laclau and Mouffe 1985), finalized to offer an unbiased perspective. Against this ‘complexified’ (Macgilchrist 2007) background, our study aims to examine, from a broadly Multimodal and Positive Discourse Analysis perspective, the Walmart website ‘sustainability’ pages with their variety of communicative strategies, advertising ‘responsible’ Walmart positive attitudes to fundamental issues like Energy, Waste, Products and Responsible Sourcing.

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1. INTRODUCTION Nowadays, companies increasingly rely on green-economy oriented campaigns, in order to engage the growing number of ethic, environment-friendly consumers. Expressions evoking environmental friendliness are becoming ever trendier and there is a widespread awareness that value-based needs rather than simple material needs must be met, in order to satisfy the consumers’ wishes more effectively. Accordingly, popular words such as ‘sustainability’ have been variously re-contextualized/re-framed and have become an ‘ought-to’ for media-savvy companies ‘with a vision’. Walmart, the American multinational corporation and the largest retailer in the world[14], is a relevant case in point, since its explicit, advertised goals are perfectly in line with the contemporary ‘green-oriented scenario’. Interestingly enough, Walmart’s advertising campaigns seem to echo the Sustainable Development Goals, as declared through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Summit on 25 September 2015. In the words of Helen Clark, the UN Development Program Administrator, “World leaders have an unprecedented opportunity this year to shift the world onto a path of inclusive, sustainable and resilient development”. The dedicated website foregrounds a graphic representation that shows such goals in a captivatingly symmetrical way, with bright colours and catchy iconic images, so as to make them visible/credible (figure 1)[15]. Figure 1. Sustainable Development Goals (retouched here for copyright reasons) In this environment-sensitive scenario, many for-profit companies try to obtain the certification of Benefit Corporations. In order to be recognized as ‘B-Corp’ by the nonprofit B Lab, for-profit companies have to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Nowadays, there is a growing community of more than 1,600 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and over 120 industries, whose unifying goal is working together to redefine success in business[16]. Walmart is increasingly acting as a B-Corp, e.g., in 2005, Walmart took a leading role in disaster relief, contributing $18 million and 2,450 truckloads of supplies to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and in 2010 committed $2 billion through the end of 2015 to help end hunger in the United States[17]. Furthermore, Walmart launched a global commitment campaign to sustainable agriculture, aiming to strengthen local farmers and economies, while providing customers access to affordable, high-quality food, and made a major commitment to environmental sustainability, announcing goals to create zero waste, use only renewable energy and sell products that sustain people and the environment[18]. In gist, the company’s commitments are to expand the business while at the same time improving communities. Part of Walmart’s efforts to that effect include its recent Restorative Justice programmes. Since shoplifters frequently target Walmart’s shops, the company strongly needed to ease the burden on law enforcement by adopting non-coercitive, sustainable methods. Accordingly, Walmart has begun a novel experiment: deal with shoplifters internally by meting out its own version of law and order through an initiative called “Restorative Justice.” The idea is to give some accused shoplifters, such as first-time offenders, the option of completing an online remedial program designed to deter through education, rather than jail time. [Josh Sunburn August 15, 2016, our italics]. Walmart’s choice to turn to Restorative Justice programmes is in line with its social-oriented, discursive, empathic image: Restorative Justice (RJ), envisioned as a new model of coping with crime by changing criminal behaviours, has attracted many adherents over the last decades. [...] The aims of RJ essentially involve re-establishing social equality in relationships by promoting reconciliation and encouraging a sense of agency. Such goals are pursued through a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence cooperatively decide how to deal with its consequences [...] Discursive skills and dialogistic exchange are the par excellence medium in RJ negotiations. The latter are mainly based on the meeting between victims and offenders where the mediators expertise is essential to the positive outcome of such sessions. [Abbamonte and Cavaliere, 2012: 110,117][19]. 2. AIMS Against this background, our study aims to examine the Walmart’s videos on ‘sustainability’ with their variety of communicative strategies, where ‘responsible’ Walmart positive attitudes to fundamental issues like Energy, Waste, Products and Responsible Sourcing are promoted. From a broad Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis (MCDA) approach, we will analyse the ways in which Walmart’s videos convey the messages of ‘sustainability’, and of ‘green-oriented’, ‘environment-sensitive’, ‘consumer-friendly’ productive and commercial activities, for the advertised purposes of creating a better, healthier society in a better and more just world. 3. INTEGRATED METHODOLOGY When dealing with multimodal texts, such as Walmart’s Sustainability videos, which rely on the synergic interaction of many different communicative codes (shapes, images, colours, lighting, composition, perspective, music, words, rhythm, sequence, setting, etc.) the issue of using comprehensive methodology/ies comes to the foreground. Furthermore, since these videos also include discourses and talks in the fields of attitudes, emotion languages and advertising, an integrated methodology (Abbamonte 2012) seems to be the more practical choice. In other words, we need to face the analytical challenge of utilizing the tools and resources from different approaches. Hence, our main approach to the analysis of aspects of contemporary Walmart corporate communication relies on a MCDA perspective (Kress 2010, van Leeuwen, 2013, Martin 2004), which enabled us to analyse both the audio-visual and the verbal components of the multimodal texts under investigation, since it is an intrinsically comprehensive and inclusive methodology[20]. Since issues of social esteem, desirability, pro-active attitudes and change/improvement are entailed in these videos, we utilised additional resources (see below) for more fine-grained analyses. 4. The Appraisal Framework resources A major focus of these videos is on the values of social esteem, which are analytically classified in the Appraisal Framework (AF), within the category of Attitude/ Judgment [21]. In more detail, from an AF perspective[22], Walmart’s goals mainly amount to gain social esteem and avoid social sanction. In White’s account, the AF was developed as some researchers felt the need to define the attitudinal values by which texts apply social norms to evaluate human behaviour. Virtually all evaluative uses of language can be investigated by utilizing the AF resources. For example, such resources can help identify certain patterns by which so-called ‘objective’ texts within the media favour certain values of attitude while excluding others (Martin, 1992: 523, 535). In gist, the system of Appraisal comprises three large interactive systems: 1. Attitudinal positioning 2. Intertextual positioning 3. Engagement and dialogistic positioning The Attitudinal Positioning resources, concerning positive and negative evaluations, are further sub-categorised into: I. Affect II. Judgement III. Appreciation Judgement, in particular, refers to meanings that are analysed to evaluate human behaviour either positively or negatively by reference to a set of institutionalized norms. Judgement can be either explicit or implicit and is divided into two broad categories, Social Esteem and Social Sanction, as shown in Table 1. Table 1 The full system of Judgement* Social Esteem positive [admire] negative [criticise] Normality (custom) ‘is the person’s behaviour unusual, special, customary?’ standard, everyday, average...; lucky, charmed...; fashionable, avant garde... eccentric, odd, maverick...; unlucky, unfortunate...; dated, unfashionable ... Capacity ‘is the person competent, capable?’ skilled, clever, insightful...; athletic, strong, powerful...; sane, together... stupid, slow, simple-minded...; clumsy, weak, uncoordinated...; insane, neurotic... tenacity (resolve) ‘is the person dependable, well disposed?’ plucky, brave, heroic...; reliable, dependable...; indefatigable, resolute, persevering cowardly, rash, despondent...; unreliable, undependable...; distracted, lazy, unfocussed... Social Sanction positive [praise] negative [condemn] Veracity (truth) ‘is the person honest?’ honest, truthful, credible...; authentic, genuine...; frank, direct...; deceitful, dishonest...; bogus, fake...; deceptive, obfuscatory... propriety (ethics) ‘is the person ethical, beyond reproach?’ good, moral, virtuous...; law abiding, fair, just...; caring, sensitive, considerate... bad, immoral, lascivious...; corrupt, unjust, unfair...; cruel, mean, brutal, oppressive... *P.R.R. White (2015). An introductory tour through appraisal theory. Judgement evaluating human behaviour. Retrieved from http://grammatics. com/appraisal/ AppraisalOutline/UnFramed/AppraisalOutline.htm#P186_38019. 5. LINES OF APPEAL Another interesting aspect of the videos under scrutiny is the specificity of the language of advertising with its recognised lines of appeal (Dyer 1988). It has been observed that advertisers utilise different themes proven to appeal to the audience, such as ideal families; glamorous /elite lifestyles, success stories; romantic love stories; beautiful natural settings; beautiful women and handsome men; sex appeal; arrogance; humour; (Fowles 1976, 1996; Dyer 1988). Lately, emotions[23], cyber-scenarios, and beautiful tableaux of (exceptionally) clean, pure natural setting, where healthy, powerful, beautiful human bodies move and shine at ease, are also utilised[24]. It is by now a shared notion that advertisers resort to stereotyping and intertextual references (to/from well-known art works, comedies, movies etc.) to the effect of making their advert memorable and interesting (Dyer 1988, Saward 2012). 6. POSITIVE DISCOURSE ANALYSIS - THE PRO-ACTIVE ORIENTATION The pro-active orientation of the Walmart’s videos also need to be accounted for. Now, CDA is best known for its tendency to deconstruction and its foci on ideologically driven discrimination (gender, ethnicity, social variables), and, typically, has not offered productive accounts of alternative forms of social organisation, nor of social subjects, other than by implication (Kress 1996, 2000). Instead, a recent complementary perspective (Positive Discourse Analysis) has been provided by J.R. Martin (2004) on the potential resources of discourse analysis for promoting positive, pro-active attitudes. In his own words, One face [of discourse analysis], and the better established of the two, I’ll refer to as CDA realis. This is the deconstructive face of CDA, and is concerned with exposing language and attendant semiosis in the service of power [...]. CDA realis continues to make an immense contribution to studies of the interestedness of discourse, across contexts where inequalities of generation, gender, ethnicity and class disrupt humanity [...]. The complementary face of CDA I’ll refer to as CDA irrealis, since I judge it has realised much less of its potential. This face is oriented not so much to deconstruction as to constructive social action [...] to make the world a better place. (Martin 2004: 179-200, passim). The PDA attitude has educational implications as well. In Martin’s words, it can act as a window on the construction of values and the circulation of power through “a discourse which we can use both to monitor and design change - and thus materialise CDA irrealis in the interests of its visions of better worlds” (2004: 19). In the contemporary semiosphere, the languages of advertising typically aim to shape and foreground visions of better worlds, which can also be widely acknowledged and endorsed as authentic and reliable, such as the visions promoted through the campaigns by the Italian 1971 Foundation Pubblicità Progresso. Walmart’s campaigns move along similar lines, yet the corporation itself, its advertised goals notwithstanding, is not exempt from criticism[25]. 7. ECOLINGUISTICS - THE COGNITIVE ORIENTATION For a more complete understanding of our Walmart videos, insights from a complementary approach, i.e. ecolinguistics, were also useful. To some extent, Martin’s PDA notions paved the way for these recent orientations in discourse analysis, which also emphasise the need for transformative narratives (Stibbe 2016)[26]. In the words of Stibbe, ecolinguistics[27]: can explore the more general stories we live by - patterns of language that influence how people both think about, and treat, the world. Ecolinguistics can investigate mental models that influence behaviour and lie at the heart of the ecological challenges we are facing. There are certain key stories about economic growth, about technological progress, about nature as an object to be used or conquered, about profit and success, that have profound implications for how we treat the systems that life depends on. [...In particular, as regards environment-related topics] the language of advertising can encourage us to desire unnecessary and environmentally damaging products, while nature writing can inspire respect for the natural world. How we think has an influence on how we act, so language can inspire us to destroy or protect the ecosystems that life depends on. Ecolinguistics, then, is about critiquing forms of language that contribute to ecological destruction, and aiding in the search for new forms of language that inspire people to protect the natural world. (Stibbe 2015: III and passim, our italics). To some extent, PDA and ecolinguistics share a pro-active attitude and emphasize the need for forming sensitive attitudes. Indeed, communities are formed around attitudes to things (Bourdieu, 1980), and in our times, a strong need for re-shaping communities according to positive values is increasingly felt. To give one example, Pallera (2014), CEO of Ninja Marketing, presented a new approach based on transpersonal psychology, to identify individuals at transpersonal level, i.e. as part of a larger community, rather than as a set of isolated selves[28]. This rhetoric of solidarity is foregrounded in the (video) narratives of Walmart’s sustainability campaigns. 8. CORPUS Our corpus consists in the following Walmart’s sustainability videos (below). Our qualitative analysis highlighted thematic analogies and recurring visual and verbal features, as illustrated in the data sections. 1. Walmart Sustainability 2.0 - Introduction - lje89Y9nWD0 2. Walmart Today: A Sustainable Lifestyle guMjWM_3n-Y 3. How Wal-Mart embraced sustainability - XxC0TOFSIdU 4. Walmart's Sustainability Efforts - 5. Wal-Mart Sustainability Overview - qb8VUZAtNXo 6. Wal-Mart measures sustainability 7. Walmart Drives Sustainability - 8. 2014 Walmart Sustainability Milestone Meeting Highlights - watch?v=WR2jTnxH6D4 9. Walmart Moms for Sustainability - 10. Walmart Drives Sustainability with Oracle RightNow - watch?v=xS89fMHVcZw 11. Walmart's sustainability journey - 12. Goals of Walmart’s sustainability journey - tnh5ug0_5d4 13. Walmart - The Future is Sustainability - tz8FAam_Oa8 14. Walmart - Sustainability Showcase - VrZedWL80Uk 15. Walmart - 2015 Sustainability Milestone Webcast - watch?v=cuz3csDqQuQ These videos are broadcasted through YouTube, which is an intrinsic indicator of relevance and transitive communication. The relationship between YouTube and the advertising world is growing stronger: in the words of Wojcicki and Kyncl, “YouTube pitches itself to advertisers as the medium of the future [...and predictably], in five years, the majority of advertiser-supported videos will take place on a mobile device”[29]. 9. PROCEDURE In our analysis, to better describe how images compose/convey meaning and shape (hyperbolic) visual metaphors, we utilized many of the following notions (abridged from Stinson, 2012; Ascher and Pincus, 2013; Chandler, 2016), as follows: ¨ Composition ¨ Salience (the dominant image that draws our attention) ¨ Gaze vectors (the lines that draw us towards a particular image. Gaze Demand: The eyes of the image demand out attention ; Gaze Offer: The person in the frame could be looking beyond the frame) ¨ Colour and lighting (e.g. red = passion; blue = peace and tranquillity; black = death or fear) monochromatic: Black and white; Saturation: the colour could be bleached out - open aperture of the camera lens so too much light floods in; Chiaroscuro: dramatic use of light and dark shadows. ¨ Symbolism and icons, intertextual allusions (references to other texts and well known symbols/ images). As regards perspectives, we can have high angle shots when the camera is higher and above the subject, for orienting viewers, and low angle shot when the subject is taken from below, so that it appears more powerful/threatening. To compose an image, close up, medium or long distance shots are the more frequent options and establish the landscape and the actors’ relationship to the scene. Canting (the image is tilted left or right on the axis) and two-point shots (a shot of two people together) are also utilized. 10. Data - Walmart Sustainability 2.0 video Among the above listed videos, owing to space constraints, we selected as examples the two that most significantly depict and represent the sustainability themes, according to the criteria of relevance[30]. Here follows the script of the Walmart Sustainability 2.0 - Introduction, which revolves around themes of progress, change for good, development and increase, efficient and pure energy sources. We analysed it along the dimension of the AF Attitudinal positioning, which includes the somewhat overlapping notions of Affect, Judgement and Appreciation, as follows. Legend: Affect [positive+/negative-] Judgement [social esteem+/social sanction-] Appreciation [positive+/negative-] In the decades ahead, a dramatically different world+ will begin to take shape. Powerful forces+ have already begun contributing to this transformation. + The growing+ global economy increased reliance on technology+ and a higher demand for energy. But perhaps more than any others, two trends we have already begun to see will shape our world. First billions of people are lifting themselves out of poverty and joining middle class+, with this progress comes a desire to enjoy the comforts and conveniences of modern life. Second, those of us already in the middle class have begun to develop higher expectations of the product we buy. We will continue to care about costs and quality+. The coming years will see an even greater demand for products that come to us efficiently, ethically and sustainably. + We will need to alter the ways we take natural resources from the earth and make the products we sell. We will need to refine how we move those products and ourselves around the world. We will need to rethink how we buy and use those products and ultimately how we reuse them. Making these changes will require a total transformation of business as we know it. We need to look at our businesses more holistically+ and ask questions about everything necessary to make them productive+. How do we run businesses more efficiently using energy sources that don’t pollute+ our air, water and soil. How do we eliminate the concept of waste from our processes and begin to reuse the resources we have thrown away for so long. How do we make products that are not only recyclable+ but also more durable+ and that can be used multiple times and in multiple ways? The solutions+ to these many challenges represent opportunities for innovation, ingenuity and partnership+ one a scale unprecedented+ in human history. There are opportunities to do the right thing, + right not only for the planet but also for the billions of people who call it home. There are opportunities for small and large businesses to prosper and grow. + Not only can businesses succeed, in the future, they can also lead the way. + Some have already begun. [Sustainability 2.0.] Apparently, affect is the overarching dimension, finalized to engage the viewers in being/feeling part of the presented activities, mainly through the use of the inclusive we and the repeated question form, through the medium of a persuasive voice over accompanied by an empathic music. Both the need for change and sustainable opportunities are foregrounded, so as to meet with Social Esteem judgements. Apparently, such opportunities can be achieved through cooperative efforts under Walmart’s leadership. The following table synthetically highlights the main notions and techniques we identified in the video under analysis. Table 2 Walmart Sustainability 2.0 - Introduction - analysis Lines of appeal (verbal+visual levels) Salient Positive NOTIONS/ MYTHS (verbal level) Scenario of sustainable activities (verbal+ visual levels) Techniques (audio-verbal) Composition/perspective Colour and lighting Iconicity/ Symbolism PROGRESS/ BETTER LIFE/ IMPROVEMENT: Billions of people... out of poverty joining the middle class.... and beyond TRANSFORMATION, CHANGE, GROWTH: Unprecedented in human history, Different, Growing, Increasing, Trends, Shape, Begin, Partnership, Opportunities Alternative energy use and production (solar panels, eolic turbines, waste recycle) Ethical, efficient, sustainable use of the planet resources [social esteem] Voice over; Empathic music; Hyperbolic language: Dramati-cally, Higher, Greater Mostly verticality and low angle shot Green, White, Light-ness Clouds, Blue sky, Humanized landscape, domesticated machines, Human cooperation, man+machine synergy To give a few visual examples, here follow some pictures taken from the video (all retouched for copyright reasons). In picture 1, the notion of progress coming from cooperation among individuals is represented. Natural colours contribute to foreground the synergy between the work of man and nature. Picture 1. Partnership, Opportunities In pictures 2 and 3 alternative sources of energy are displayed through a skillful dynamics of gaze vectors and angle shots, against engaging (sunset, moving clouds) natural settings. Picture 2. Eolic turbines Picture 3. Eco-skyscraper Picture 4. Re-use- Reduce- Re-cycle Picture 4 foregrounds a phase of the much emphasised WALMART re-cycling processes, set against the background of a clean, blue sky. 11. DISCUSSION Apparently, the path to a cleaner, safer and righteous world passes through the purchasing of Walmart’s products. The 4 “R’s” of WALMART sustainability Re-use- Reduce- Re-cycle- Re-think are the verbal/visual iconic leit-motif of the campaign. The pragmatic value and the persuasive force of the video sinergically rely on both the visual and the linguistic levels, which utilise a variety of resources, as shown in both table 2 and pictures 1-4. As highlighted in terms of AF (see above Walmart Sustainability 2.0 script), a captivating narrative is thus built that, in terms of PDA, could function as an influential story for the virtual audience of the potential Walmart customers. Indeed, influential stories (and metaphors) do influence the way we live; as Stibbe (2016)[31] made clear, such stories influence how we think, talk, and act. However, its persuasive advertising rhetoric notwithstanding, Walmart’s credibility has been variously questioned by its critics[32]. 12. Data - Walmart Today - A Sustainable Lifestyle In the second video we are going to illustrate, the emphasis is again on Walmart’s role in ‘making the world a more sustainable place’[33]. Within this video, a major focus is on the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ programme taking place at ASDA stores, the Walmart’s associate company in the UK [34]. The ASDA efforts to reduce food waste, thus improving their ‘Green Britain’ Index[35], are engagingly represented by showing pleasant and collaborative interactions among ASDA shop-assistants and selected customers. Assistants teach parents and children how to reduce food waste by utilizing quizzes, recipe cards, stickers etc. Here follows the script of the video, which revolves around themes of cooperative teaching-learning, finalized to enact the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ and ‘Save money, Live better’ mantra. We analysed it along the dimension of the AF Attitudinal positioning, which includes the somewhat overlapping notions of Affect, Judgement and Appreciation. Legend: Affect [positive+/negative-] Judgement [social esteem+/social sanction-] Appreciation [positive+/negative-] As you know, Walmart is a leader in making the world a more sustainable place+. [...Two written slogans appear, with white lettering on green field, and the yellow logo, in the shape of an asterisk/flower:] «ASDA Save money, live better+». «Community life - ASDA. We love+ food and hate waste+». [Amy Downes - Community Life coordinator informs the viewers about the ongoing ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ activity.] “It is something we do as business to reduce waste+ from our stores. The idea of reducing food waste+ is really important to us.”[Then speaks Laura Babbs - Sustainability manager] “This is really good focus+ to me because the average family with children waste 60 pounds a month on food.- So [...we want to] make sure that great quality food+ that we give to our customers+ is best+ stocked, to really live in the save-money-live-better+ mantra.” [Then speaks June Thurston, Hereford] Hi, I am June, I am a Community Life Champion+, today [we are doing an activity...] the little lads+ can choose little stickers to see what size portions they should actually be eating+.” [A little boy speaks] “I had never known you can freeze baked beans.” [A smiling elderly woman speaks] “I think it is important for us to do these things+.” [A smiling younger woman speaks] “It helps parents+ find new ways of teaching children all these good tips+.” [Then June Thurston is heard again, as a voice over, while images of smiling faces and of a girl with the Down syndrome are sequentially shown] “I think it is really important to engage+ the customers in this way. It is a one to one. We have got the paper work, the recipe cards, the quiz . Everything is designed to teach them. If I can learn just a little something every day, it’s a job well done+.” The overarching dimension here is Social Esteem, as related to the promotion of pro-active initiatives, aimed at generating change at both individual levels and community level towards a more sustainable use of food. An inspiring story of empathy with the needs of the families (of customers) is thus developed through the alternation of the lively, practical, sympathetic speakers, who aim at making ASDA’s efforts visible through the use of smiles, facial expressions, gestures, (enthusiastic) voices and uniforms. The following table highlights the main notions and techniques we identified in the video under analysis. Table 3 Walmart Today - A Sustainable Lifestyle - analysis Lines of appeal (verbal+visual levels) Salient Positive NOTIONS/ MYTHS (verbal+visual levels) Scenario of sustainable activities (verbal+ visual levels) Techniques (audio+visual levels) Composition/perspective Colour and lighting Iconicity/ Symbolism Progress/ Better Life/ Improvement: Smiling interactions shop-assistants-children; Slogans: Quality food, Save money Transformation, Change, Growth: Better lives; Love food, hate waste; Teaching children to consume better food [Social esteem] Inspiring visual narrative in UK ASDA friendly setting [Social esteem] Lively music; Harmonious alternation of committed individual speakers: Cheerful presenters & collaborative ASDA assistants & customers (mums +children) Mostly eye-level shots, canting, two points shots Bright blue, fluo green + bright colours Foregrounded logo and colours, green uniforms, colorful stickers with vegetables To give a few visual examples, here follow some pictures taken from the video (all retouched for copyright reasons). In pictures 5 and 6, we can see the campaign slogan and the ASDA logo, which are often foregrounded in the video with their captivating bright colours (fluo-green, white and yellow) and iconic words/phrases, effectively framed in a meaning bearing visual composition. Picture 5. Love food/hate waste Picture 6. ASDA logo Picture 7 displays the stickers used in the activity to teach children the right amount of vegetables that should be eaten a day, which are emphasized by the photo framing and the brilliant colours (mostly shades of green). Picture 8 is an eye-level shot of the sustainability manager, which emphasizes her interactive attitude. Again, the ASDA logo and the green-tinged background frame the visual composition. Picture 7. Food portion stickers Picture 8. Sustainability manager 13. DISCUSSION The Walmart Today - A Sustainable Lifestyle video encompasses a variety of ways in which Walmart’s corporation engages the communities towards more sustainable lifestyles. The focus of our analysis was on ASDA stores ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ activities. The video utilizes lively music, bright colours, and the speaking head techniques to foreground the message that a kind of community is gathering, with the expressed goal of reducing food waste and promoting healthier and better lifestyles. In particular, the Asda Logo is repeatedly shown: an asterisk or flower, symbolizing the friendliness and outstanding quality of the brand. The shape of the logo stands for the ‘organic’ and environmental-friendly nature of its business. Its bright colours underline the companies’ commitment to quality, and to the wellbeing of its customers. Additionally, the use of simple colors (yellow, green and white) depicts the passion and the basic nature of the business, and evokes the freshness of their produce[36]. Significantly, the assistants keep smiling, and the customers react accordingly, thus, in terms of PDA, a persuasive narrative of fruitful teaching, resulting in positive cooperation between the Walmart-ASDA corporation and their customers, is shaped. From an ecolinguistic perspective, both the notions of spreading green-oriented awareness and of real improvement in sustainability-oriented behaviour are repeatedly shown at multi-modal level. Making explicit the themes of cooperative teaching-learning in the ASDA campaign, by contrast, mainly relies on the verbal level. 14. CONCLUDING REMARKS Apparently, Walmart Corporation and its associates’ promotional communication prioritises their green-oriented, sustainable image. Their advertised efforts tend to encourage more responsible production practices, which (should) provide high quality, more affordable products, as reported on the websites and videos. As we have seen, Walmart’s videos shape attractive and empathic multimodal narratives of vibrant, dynamic interventions, which include the production of clean energy, and reprocessing cycles. The development of Community Life-based programme also plays a strategic role in Walmart’s campaigns, which aim at reaching out to the local communities (of customers). Indeed, the rhetoric of solidarity is straightforward in Walmart’s sustainability campaigns, as Walmart’s recent Restorative Justice (RJ) programmes also show. Such programmes aim to promote a socially engaged image of the company. Furthermore, the fluid YouTube medium, by fully exploiting the grammar of visuality, allows Walmart sustainability campaign to achieve an all-pervasive effect and make its goals visible. The multimodal messages from the videos come down to this: by purchasing the advertised goods, metaphorically laden with positively configured and evolving values of sustainability, billions of people can ‘save money, and live better healthier lives’, thus emerging out of poverty, and ultimately saving the planet. In gist, shopping as best practice. In terms of PDA, Walmart advertising displays positive production and distribution models to imitate, through the exploitation of multimodal representational resources, so as to render a persuasive vision of a better world. The contemporary (stereotypical) all-pervasive perception of the need for ‘sustainability’ and ‘green-washing’ is thus skillfully and synergically foregrounded both at verbal and audio-visual levels for advertising purposes - one level enhancing the other. From an ecolinguistic perspective, we can notice how Walmart’s communication tends to align the virtual customers by getting them onside with the widely shared sustainability values, especially by representing its actions as an inspiring ongoing story of progress. Which further contribution can ecolinguistics provide to the analysis of communication on the human relations with the environment? Apart from identifying the linguistic and visual resources and workings of such communication, can ecolinguistics make a difference? Largely, ecolinguistic scholars share a strong ideological motivation to promote positive change on the anthropic impact on the planet. As Stibbe (2016) made clear, “Scholars who study environmental communication are particularly concerned with the ways people communicate about the natural world because they believe such communication has far-reaching effects at a time of largely human-caused crises [and thus they encourage] the search for new stories to live by [our italics]”. Now, in the advertising of Walmart’s sustainability efforts, the sustainability challenge is prioritised, and the goal to give billions of people better and healthier lives is captivatingly foregrounded. Hence, an alluring new story to live by is provided. However, credibility is an important issue in this and analogous stories, thus the next step for an ecolinguistic research on Walmart’s sustainability videos could be to verify the influence of such stories on the audiences through cross-media investigations. © Lucia Abbamonte, Flavia Cavaliere, 2017

About the authors

Lucia Abbamonte

Second University of Naples

Viale Beneduce 10, 81100, Caserta, Italy

Flavia Cavaliere

University of Naples Federico II

Via Porta di Massa 1 80133 Naples, Italy


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