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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Health & Wellness

Walmart Associate Conquers North Pole Marathon

Some people will go a long way to support charity. For Dorn Wenninger, vice president of global food sourcing for Walmart U.S., not even the North Pole is too far.

Dorn was one of 56 runners from 21 countries who participated in the 14th annual North Pole Marathon on April 9. Dubbed the “World’s Coolest Marathon,” the 26.2-mile race not only challenges endurance athletes with its snow-covered, icy terrain and bone-chilling weather, it also supports a variety of worthy causes with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised each year.

Crossing the finish line after five hours and 17 minutes, Dorn captured first place and secured his spot in an exclusive group of 428 people worldwide who have completed the marathon since 2002.

This year’s competitors ran to raise money for a variety of causes worldwide. Dorn, who has been with Walmart almost six years, serves on the boards of two nonprofit organizations: Cobblestone Farm in Northwest Arkansas and Amigos de las Americas. He will continue to raise money for Cobblestone Farm, which produces organic produce that is then donated to local food banks.

“I’m passionate about healthy eating, farming and produce,” he said.

His passion also extends to running. In January, he participated in a marathon in Trinidad and Tobago, where the temperature was 130 degrees warmer than the lowest temperature he experienced while at the North Pole.

Knowing that running on snow and ice would be different, he trained for the North Pole event on dirt and gravel trails. But the terrain wasn’t his only concern. With temperatures between -25 and -43 degrees Fahrenheit, his respiration froze and built up on his face mask. He used three different masks throughout the five-hour run and ended up with early signs of frost bite on his nose.

His North Pole adventure was supposed to last one and half days, but a crack in the runway prevented Dorn from flying out for three days. Despite the delay, he said the trip was an amazing experience.

Running is a great way to deal with stress, he said – even on 6 feet of ice floating on 14,000 feet of Arctic Ocean. It also can have a positive impact on other areas of life, from personal to business.

“Achieving the seemingly impossible helps demonstrate that almost anything is possible, even when others don’t believe it is,” he said. “Determination, focus and persistence go a long way in achieving goals.”

Dorn never imagined he’d win the North Pole race, but with that victory in hand, he now has his eye on a few other challenges just as difficult – or more so.

“It's incredible what people are capable of when they put their mind to it,” he said. “The thought of running a marathon at the North Pole sounds so extreme that it's virtually unbelievable. I welcomed the challenge of proving, to myself, that it is possible.”

Photos courtesy of North Pole Marathon.

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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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Innovation

How Lab 415-C is Changing the Shopping Experience

Technology is changing the way people live.

At Walmart’s Lab 415-C, we look for disruptive, innovative technology that has the potential to change the way people shop. But not just change that part of their lives – make it better.

From augmented reality to robotics, our team discovers and tests emerging technology that powers the shopping experience our customers want. In fact, we’re even named after an early innovation in Walmart’s heritage: Sam Walton’s 415-C airplane, which he used to scout real estate from the sky (a business-growth tactic that was unheard of in the 1950s).

How do we bring these innovations to our customers and associates? It starts with research. You wouldn’t buy a car without researching its capabilities, safety and reliability, right? We research between 700-750 technologies a year and make sure we know the technology’s maturity, use cases, comparisons and how it can improve shopping for customers. We look at everything from technology that helps associates run stores more efficiently to capabilities in the internet of things (connected devices that communicate without human interaction, such as a smart thermostat).

But what good is research if it isn’t shared with others? That’s where our showcasing team comes in. More than 5,000 people come through Lab 415-C each year. Our showcasing team helps plan discussions, brainstorms and events within Walmart and the greater entrepreneurial and academic community to accelerate how we find innovative technology.

Testing technologies for how they’ll work within Walmart is another aspect of Lab 415-C’s capabilities. We’ve tested technologies internationally, at local stores and within our lab at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Failing fast is key, so we don’t see failure as a roadblock; we see it as a way to finesse the solution to fit Walmart’s needs.

An important way we find solutions that fit our customers’ needs is by sourcing innovations from technology suppliers. This October, we are doing that in a big way through our Technology Innovation Open Call, an event where our leaders will meet with companies creating the latest technology for retail, logistics, big data, security and social media.  

Our open call event is a great opportunity for companies to pitch their innovations to the largest retailer in the world. I can’t wait to see what ideas and inventions we’ll discover! Together we will transform the shopping experience.

Submission deadline for potential selection in the Technology Innovation Open Call is July 22, 2016, or the first 250 submissions. For details and an application, click here.

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Opportunity

A Brother, a Sister, and Success in Parallel

Editor’s Note: With this post, we follow up with two associates who previously shared their stories on video.

Proximity brought Nicholas Qualman to Walmart, but his personal drive has since taken him far.

In 1998, the then 16-year-old was working for a fast-food chain located in the parking lot of the Walmart store in his hometown of Marinette, Wisconsin. He was tired of making burgers and wanted to work the counter, but with no positions open, he had to look elsewhere for a new challenge.

He applied at Walmart and was hired as a cashier, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. 

By the time he was featured in this 2011 video, he’d earned 10 promotions. After that, he lost count.

“I’ve had many careers within the same company,” he said, reciting every title he has held, which comes to about 16.

His ambition has taken him from cashier to department manager to a role leading education for other associates and many – many – points in between. In the summer of 2015, he began helping to support the rollout and day-to-day operations of online grocery, which includes store pickup and home delivery – a job that he says is his favorite thus far.

“It’s a completely new way of us serving the customer,” he said. “I equate it with being the supercenter of this generation. It’s a game changer for stores and for our customers.”

As Nick moved up in the company, he also moved around. “One of the great things is you get to experience different people and the company in different geographies,” he said.

He transferred from Northeast Wisconsin to Minneapolis for college, then worked in Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston; and Scottsdale, Arizona. He now calls San Bruno, California, home.

Like Brother, Like Sister

Nick’s drive can only be matched by that of his sister, Jessica Crow. It took her only five years to do what he did in 17 years, Nick said with pride and a bit of brotherly frustration.

“We’re kind of in competition,” he said, “and I’ve got to tell you, I’m struggling to keep ahead. She’s told me several times she wants my job.”

Jessica joined the military after college and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she returned to the States, she toured the country with the Pentagon to share her experiences.

Despite what she’d gained in the military, finding a satisfying job in the private sector was difficult, Nick said. She worked in logistics but didn’t feel happy or challenged. That’s when Nick offered to share her resume within Walmart. But, he told her he wouldn’t push it: Getting hired was up to her.

It wasn’t long before Jessica was offered the position of developmental store manager. She made it to store manager in three months and moved to a new store after a year and half. A few promotions later, she is now a divisional manager – also surpassing the story she shared in this 2013 video.

After talking about his sister, Nick was quick to point out, “My story isn’t unique – it’s one of many, many stories of Walmart associates. Not everyone has had a chance to tell their story.”

Nick doesn’t want his story to end here. He achieved his last goal of joining the e-commerce team, and now he’s setting his sights on Walmart International, the one area he says he hasn’t yet touched. For now, Nick sees himself sticking with online grocery for the next five years or more – if he can keep his sister at bay. “I’m just worried about my job,” he joked.

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