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Is Walmart a leader or follower?

First it was sustainability, then came hunger and the affordability of quality food, women’s economic empowerment and now support of U.S. manufacturing. Walmart contends it has a responsibility to lead in these areas and others, but whether it is truly doing so is the subject of some debate.

The most recent example involves the company’s commitment made earlier this year to source $50 billion in additional U.S. manufactured good over the next five years. Toward that end, Walmart hosted a first-of-its-kind U.S. manufacturing summit in Orlando last month with 1,500 suppliers, nine governors and other state economic development officials that arguably no other company could have pulled off.

On Friday, the retailer sent an email to customers detailing its commitment and featuring a “Made in the USA” logo that asked recipients if they will, “pledge to buy Made in USA at Walmart and elsewhere?” Those who clicked on the “pledge” link were then asked for their name, email and zip code to receive updates on how we can revitalize the American economy.

The company’s efforts, lauded by some, have also been diminished by others who view its actions as another example of Walmart joining a trend that was already well underway. For example, back in 2005 when Walmart first talked about its responsibility to lead and unveiled several broad sustainability commitments, many major corporations already had similar goals and had been producing corporate social responsibility reports for years.

The same could be said of domestic sourcing. The reshoring trend was already in motion for a variety of reasons, most of which related to the cost of energy and rising wage rates in China. Consequently, Walmart was viewed in some circles as joining a movement already underway and then making a $50 commitment largely reflective of purchases it was likely to have made anyway because of anticipated growth and inclusion of grocery categories in the calculation.

Click here to see what Reuters had to say on the subject.