Case Detail

Case Summary

Wal-Mart's Katrina Aid

Case Number: 5-406-750, Year Published: 2011

HBS Number: KEL556

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Authors: Daniel Diermeier; Robert J. Crawford; Charlotte Snyder

Key Concepts

Crisis Management, Public Relations, Disaster Management, Leadership, Corporate Communications, Media, Strategy, Security Management, Emergency Response


After Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005, Wal-Mart initiated emergency operations that not only protected and reopened its stores, but also helped its employees and others in the community cope with the disaster’s personal impact. This response was part of a wider effort by the company under CEO Lee Scott to improve its public image. Wal-Mart’s efforts were widely regarded as the most successful of all corporations in the aftermath of the disaster and set the standard for future corporate disaster relief programs.

Learning Objectives

• Move beyond the operational dimensions of disaster response and appreciate how disaster response is connected to the company’s strategy and its position in the market place.
• Understand how disasters are different than other types of reputational crises and are subject to different expectation from the public.
• Understand how a company can do well by doing good: how it can do the right thing and benefit its business at the same time.
• Discuss the changing expectations of companies to act in the public interest.

Number of Pages: 7

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Management, Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Industry: Retail

Organization Name: Wal-Mart

Organization Size: Large

Year of Case: 2005