Sustainability

Notes from the Milestone Meeting

When Walmart began our sustainability journey, I never thought it would lead us to trucks like this.

We’re just beginning formal testing, but this Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience concept truck will be 20 percent more aerodynamic than our current trucks and have a micro-turbine hybrid powertrain that can run on diesel, natural gas, biodiesel and probably other fuels still to be developed. It may never make it to the road, but it will allow us to test new technologies and new approaches. I share it because it gives you a sense of how sustainability is helping us see things in new ways.

This was just one of the innovations we discussed at our Sustainability Milestone Meeting on Monday. We also talked about new ideas around less photogenic topics like air filters, buttons, and even landfills. By seeing through the lens of sustainability, we are accelerating the pace of innovation across our business.

We also heard from several leaders in our company about the progress we’re making against our goals to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain people and the environment.

A few thoughts after my first Milestone Meeting as CEO:

Leaning in on Products
We’re going to continue the good work around energy and waste while really leaning in on products. As we grow to a planet of 9 billion people who all want to live like we do, Walmart needs to provide access to food, clothing, and household goods that are sustainable for the planet at prices people can afford. It’s a huge challenge, but it’s right in line with our mission of saving people money so they can live better.

Thinking Holistically
We need more whole systems thinking. One of the great things about sustainability is that it helps you step back and see the big picture. Our responsibility to the planet is about more than the time a product is in our store. It’s about how it was grown or manufactured, how it was transported, and whether it can be reused or recycled. I especially want to thank the suppliers, NGOs, other retailers, and community members who attended on Monday because this type of effort takes all of us working together.

Caring about People
Sustainability is ultimately about people. Peter Seligmann from Conservation International joined us to share what his group is working on. They have a bold new campaign that will shake people up by pointing out that people need nature more than nature needs us. And they’re right. As a father, one of my “a-ha” moments around sustainability occurred when talking to my sons at the dinner table years ago when they were just boys. I asked them if Walmart should lead on sustainability, and they replied: “Duh, dad.” They’re going to need this planet long after I will.

Sharing the Excitement
Finally, I was reminded that this is important work but it can still be fun. I love innovating for our customers. I love seeing our organization get passionate about big issues. I love the difference Walmart can make. We had so many people from across the business stand up and share the projects they’re working on, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

It’s an exciting time to be at Walmart. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we’re working hard every day to get better.

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Opportunity

Through Academies, Bettering Careers and Customer Service

I joined Walmart 13 years ago because the opportunity seemed limitless. I started as an overnight stocker and worked my way up to a number of different positions in operations. And this year, I made another move to a job I never saw coming but that has since been so right for me.

In February, I transitioned from the sales floor to leading a team of nine trainers responsible for Walmart’s first training academy, housed within a Walmart Supercenter in Carrollton, Texas. The idea was to create a program that brings together department managers and assistant store managers from 18 stores in the area for up to two weeks of structured training by a dedicated staff.

Walmart has always had great people. The challenge has been the right balance of instructional and hands-on training to ensure everyone is on the same page. There’s a why to every single thing we do – and it helps to discuss the reasons in person. Customer service is critical, so Walmart is making a major investment in training academies like ours to ensure a consistently positive in-store experience for customers and a rewarding career path for associates.

This is not a temporary thing. My store went through several months of rigorous preparations and training just to become a certified academy. A portion of the building has been permanently renovated into dedicated classroom space, complete with flat-screen monitors and iPads for every associate in the program. The space is equipped to serve up to 68 associates at a time. We’ll first focus on the deli, bakery, produce and meat departments, but later we’ll bring in managers across the entire store. There will be a mix of interactive classroom sessions and hands-on store experience.

A second Academy recently opened in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and a third opened afterward in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with more locations opening the rest of this year. By the end of 2017, more than 200 Academies – each one drawing students from an average of 26 area stores – will be open across the country, training an estimated 140,000 associates annually. Each location has been chosen to make it convenient for the majority of students to commute to and from the training sessions.

It's a whole new experience and the feedback from associates has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I’ve made my career in our stores, so I know the value and the need for something like this. Leading this academy really plays to my greatest strengths. It's so rewarding to be a part of paying it forward.

In the end, it's about putting people in a position to advance and succeed – not only in their own careers, but in creating an outstanding shopping experience for the customers who shop with us each day.

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Sustainability

In eCommerce Packaging, Sometimes More Equals Less

About a year ago, Walmart assembled a team from all over the company to focus on ways we could continue improving the online shopping experience. The feedback we received was tremendously helpful, but there was a surprise. An overwhelming majority of customers took it upon themselves to elaborate on an unsolicited topic: The size of our boxes.

Over and over again, our customers expressed a desire for us to reduce our packaging. That’s what they were talking about, so we immediately shifted our focus to follow their lead. And that shift has created the potential for huge results.

In the world of e-commerce, several factors have to be taken into account when reducing packaging. Because these items are being shipped great distances and handled multiple times, we must ensure the proper amount of cushion and protection. Ultimately, it’s about the product arriving at its destination undisturbed.

Through data analysis and extensive testing of potential solutions, we’ve developed a way to improve cardboard box utilization by more than 30%, without sacrificing product protection. If scaled over our entire e-commerce operation in the U.S., this effort has the potential to reduce cardboard box consumption by 7.2 million cubic feet annual, roughly enough to fill 82 Olympic-size swimming pools. It also translates into the ability to pack more products into the tractor-trailers we put on the road.

We took everything from order trends and history, to the size of boxes used at our fulfillment centers, into account. We developed several new box sizes and put them to the test – first with a couple of hundred orders, then with 10,000 orders. Then we piloted the program across an entire fulfillment center and, ultimately, concluded we could maximize efficiency by expanding our assortment of box sizes from 12 to 27.

Soon, we’ll implement the program at a second e-commerce fulfillment center and, eventually, across the organization. But the key to success will be our ability to customize the program to the needs and orders of every facility. In fact, this program will have to be continuously monitored and adjusted to meet changing needs. What is achievable at one facility with an assortment of 27 boxes may require an assortment of 40 boxes at another. And we’re up to that challenge.

The bottom line is, we recognized an opportunity by listening to our customers, and we acted on it. Great things happen when you take time to listen.

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Opportunity

Achieving My Dreams and Paying it Forward

Ever since I was little, I dreamed of working for a big company. I pictured having my own car, my own apartment, and a great job. That’s what success looked like to me. Turns out, there’s a lot more that goes into success.

I started my career at Walmart as an intern in global business intelligence where I helped the team understand more about our customers. I did a double major at the University of Oklahoma, so I was used to hard work and big challenges. But on my first day at the home office, I was pretty overwhelmed and intimidated.  

When you begin as intern, you’re assigned a mentor – an experienced associate who can answer questions, give advice, help solve problems, and offer guidance. I was amazed at how helpful everyone was. As a nervous newbie, it helped tremendously to know there were people who had been in my shoes before, and who were there to help me navigate the ups and downs of my newly developing career. 

With the help of those around me, I was hired as a full-time rotational analyst in information technology, where I began exploring project management. I discovered a passion for managing IT projects that span several different areas of Walmart. Then, I became a project specialist.

As a full-time associate, I’ve found even more mentors. Like any relationship in life, every mentor offers something unique. Some reached out to me, and others are colleagues I found myself. But they’ve all had an impact on my career in one way or another, whether it’s giving me honest feedback or helping me organize my priorities.

In addition to personal mentors, Walmart also has mentoring circles to give us access to more leaders who we may not have interacted with otherwise. This is where associates can meet up, talk about issues, and learn from others’ experiences. There are circles for all types of people; for example, I’m a part of a circle that’s just for women.

Not only did mentors impact my career, but they inspired me to do the same for others. I’m now a mentor to summer interns, and others around the company who want some guidance.

I’ve even taken these mentoring skills into other areas of my life, and use them to give back to my community. I teach a class called SMART Girls at the Boys & Girls Club where I help young girls develop positive relationships.

It feels good to help associates and teach them how to leverage their relationships within the company, but most importantly, I just want to be helpful and give them tools to succeed like my mentors did for me, and still do even now.

Now, I do have my own car, apartment, and a great job. But after three years at Walmart, success has an additional meaning to me now. It also means helping others be the best they can be.

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Opportunity

Freedom to Work My Own Way

I’ve always been the kind of guy who does his own thing and doesn’t take the traditional path. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17. I really wanted to support myself and be able to figure things out on my own.

I was obsessed with computers from an early age. I took coding classes at my high school, and spent most days after school messing around on my computer. One day, my coding teacher suggested an internship at Sam’s Club involving computer support due to my extreme interest in computers and programming.

So at 17 years old, I started my internship at Sam’s Club in what they called club support. I hadn’t even graduated yet. I was going to high school in the morning and working at Sam’s Club in the afternoon.  Walmart wasn’t thought of as a tech company back in 1998, but I got with a group of associates and interns to start automating some of our office work and data entry. Then we just started writing programs for anyone that might need them. It was pretty crazy. After I graduated high school and finished my internship, I thought, I helped make this software – why don’t they hire me so I can make even more?

At the time, Walmart hadn’t hired anyone this young with just a high school diploma to be a programmer. However, they were open to try, which is what really mattered to me. They listened to me, and they created a position for me as a programmer. I had shown them my drive and my abilities, and they really believed in me.

As the years went by, I did my best not to disappoint them. I was promoted several times.  Eventually Walmart bought two smaller tech companies and created Walmart Labs. We set out to bridge the shopping experiences at Walmart.com with the physical stores. We wanted to allow people to use online search to look for items in physical stores and more. It was a big undertaking, and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished.  

Eighteen years after that high school internship, I’m now the Director of Big Fast Data for Walmart Labs. I am responsible for the Big Data infrastructure that enables Walmart.com to do things like Savings Catcher and help personalize the site for everyone. Technically I work in San Bruno, California now, but my wife and I didn’t want to move our family out of Bentonville, so Walmart allows me to work from Bentonville and fly out to San Bruno a few times a month.

Like I said, I like to do things my own way. And I probably wouldn’t fit in at some other companies, but Walmart is perfect for a guy like me. I feel lucky to be where I am today. 

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