Opportunity

Walmart On the Street: Shareholders Edition 2

Every June, thousands of associates from Walmart locations all over the world are invited to Arkansas for our annual Shareholders meeting. And all of them have a story. Read on for personal perspectives from a few of this year’s attendees in this second edition of Walmart on the Street. 


Watch the replay of the 2014 Walmart Shareholders Meeting 

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Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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Opportunity

How Honeybees Landed Me a Career in Online Grocery

For a lot of people, there’s nothing like getting lost in a good book. Personally, I’ve always had a thing for maps.

There’s something about being able to see specific locations and everything in between, mapped out across a landscape. Ever since I was a little girl, that’s been my happy place. As the years passed, that fascination led me to Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where I studied – and mapped – the patterns of migratory birds and foraging dynamics of honeybee colonies.

The one thing I’d never mapped out was the correlation between movements of non-human species and my ability to play an instrumental role in Walmart’s growing online grocery business. But it happened.

In addition to growing a network of honeybee hives and bee enthusiasts in the Bay Area for the past three years, I’ve begun using my doctorate in geographic information systems to help Walmart map its online grocery footprint. Whether it’s bees foraging for nectar, or humans trying to get their groceries, the bottom line is migratory patterns are influenced by geographic spaces. As a geospatial analyst, I plot data on a series of very detailed maps, rather than into spreadsheets. That’s always helped me visualize the whole story – and it’s helping Walmart see the bigger picture today.

I’m studying and plotting the similarities and differences in each of the markets we serve. I’m interested in how topography, density and other factors determine how we can serve customers in each market. I look at geographic trends to help make informed decisions on where we’ve launched the service, and how our presence will impact patterns over time.

The whole process is very scientific – and what’s especially exciting to me is the access to data. While conducting ecological studies on the migratory and foraging patterns of birds, I had to gather every ounce of data on my own. Sometimes, that meant spending an entire year to gather a few specific pieces of information. Here, I have access to a mix of data that’s already there. My job is to put it into a framework and come up with a conclusion. It's unlike anything I’ve been a part of before.

As Walmart continues to expand its online grocery service – and as we experiment with new capabilities – geospatial mapping will continue to play a prominent role. And that’s my happy place.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about Associate Heather Gamper in this recent article, “7 Fortune 500 Jobs That Seem Too Good to Be True.”

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Sustainability

One ‘Perfect’ Solution for Saving Ugly Apples

As the world’s largest grocer, Walmart knows food waste is a big issue.

For more than a decade, we’ve been doing our part by changing the way we do business and working to create a zero waste future, especially where fresh produce is concerned. Last week, my colleague Frank Yiannas wrote about our dedication to reducing food waste in the U.S., outlining our progress and the ways we’re making a difference with innovative date labeling, as well as the Spuglies potato launch and our wonky veg program at Asda.

Now, we’re excited to announce that after months of discussion, a brand of apples from Washington state, called “I’m Perfect,” will make its debut in Walmart stores this week. One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits. While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.

These “beautifully imperfect” apples will eventually be available in 12 varieties from Granny Smith to Red Delicious. For now, about 300 stores in Florida will offer the apples in five-pound bags.

From helping our growers find alternate uses for these less than gorgeous fruits, such as making apple juice or selling small apples for lunch kits, we are committed to identifying options to get less than perfect fruit to market and thereby reduce this type of food waste.

What excites me the most about the launch of these “I’m Perfect” apples is that it is a result of working with our suppliers to build the infrastructure and processes that create a new home for perfectly imperfect produce. Because ugly produce can occur unexpectedly in any growing season or crop, we want to have the systems in place to offer this type of produce whenever it may occur.

The “I’m Perfect” product is just one example of the ways we are aiming to reduce food waste, supporting growers, and providing value to our customers.

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Community

Making Room to Provide the Gift of Vision

The ability to see is personal for me because my vision began to deteriorate when I was a child.

One day, I couldn’t see the chalkboard anymore. I couldn’t read the letters. Since then, I’ve had to wear either glasses or contact lenses. So I can relate to someone who does not have the ability to see. Vision and its connection to daily function and providing for your family is significant.

My distribution center, Walmart Optical #7054, started donating warehouse space to RestoringVision – a nonprofit that helps get glasses to those in need – two years ago, and recently, RestoringVision received a massive gift of eyeglasses that they had nowhere to house. Because ours is the only optical-focused distribution center within Walmart’s supply chain, I knew we would be uniquely equipped to help.

When major donations arrived, Walmart volunteers got to work in preparing these donations for shipment around the world. As we continue to work on this, the Walmart Foundation matches our volunteer hours with donation money that is passed along to RestoringVision.

When I hear the stories of how people can now provide for their families because of the work of RestoringVision, I instantly feel a sense of pride that we are a part of that mission. Helping people live better is what we do at Walmart. The partnership that we have established with RestoringVision is one way that we are better able to achieve that goal.

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