Walmart’s former President and CEO Mike Duke was at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference last week. He sat down with WSJ Editor in Chief Gerard Baker to discuss Walmart’s sustainability journey and our responsibility to lead.
Mike explains that our sustainability journey began and continues today for four main reasons:
1. It's the right thing to do for our communities, our stores and the planet;
2. We listened to our customers and recognized that they want more sustainable products from an environmentally responsible company;
3. It's good for our business, in that we've found new ways to grow profits through saving resources;
When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.
Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.
While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.
Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.
With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.
For Juan Carlos Urquia, there was always an excitement associated with finishing his homework. It meant he could join his father on their small, 3-acre farm in the tiny rural community of Ocotal, almost three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.
As young as 5, he enjoyed helping his father raise and harvest corn, beans and cucumbers more than anything. He immediately sensed the responsibility of producing food people needed to survive. More than three decades later, Juan Carlos still finds joy in the field. Only, these days, his passion has evolved into an opportunity for his extended family and a growing number of others in the community to make a living.
Juan Carlos’ care and attention to detail sparked an opportunity to begin filling orders of several hundred cucumbers per week for Walmart in 2006. That opportunity has since grown to more than 25,000 cucumbers per week, and the family farm has spread to nearly 100 acres.
With access to stores across Honduras, Juan Carlos has created full-time jobs for 20 people, many of them siblings and cousins. And that has created work for nearly 100 others in the community who work to clean, process and transport the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions he grows, as well as those who supply fertilizer and other materials to sustain the operations.
The care was always there, even in the days when Juan Carlos was learning from his father. But, through support from Walmart and other organizations committed to delivering training and best practices to farmers in the areas of sustainable agriculture, efficiency and optimization, they’ve seized an opportunity. In fact, Honduran farmers sold more than $148 million in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and other perishables to Walmart in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 6.5% of the national agricultural gross domestic product and helped boost the country’s agricultural exports.
When Juan Carlos was a boy, he and his extended family all lived under his father’s roof. Through their commitment to the farm, he, his siblings and cousins all have their own homes today – and that’s something they’re extremely proud of. They're not just producing food. They're creating opportunity and raising the quality of life for those around them.
Small and medium-sized farmers around the world will be counted on to meet half the increased global demand for food and clothing through the year 2050, and Walmart has committed to specific goals to improve their livelihoods. You can read more about this work in our Global Responsibility Report.
When I arrived in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in 2009, I knew putting down roots would come with its share of challenges. A native of Peru, I didn't speak much English and couldn't even help my 9-year-old daughter with her homework. But I was willing to do whatever it took as long as there was an opportunity.
Walmart store #5079 extended me that opportunity as a part-time associate in the deli. Being able to make a living in my new country not only motivated me to learn English, but also pursue my GED certificate so I could better provide for and assist my daughter. Looking back, doors have continued to open for me from the very first day I was hired. I’ve made lifelong friends, earned U.S. citizenship, been promoted to full-time training coordinator, and built a life I'd always envisioned – which includes long walks with my family along the Gulf Coast.
Today, my English – and confidence – have grown so much that I’m pursuing my new dream of becoming a human resources manager with Walmart. Taking inspiration from my store manager, Lynn Day, I’ve started working toward my associate degree through Walmart’s partnership with American Public University.
Encouragement and support from people like Lynn helps me continue to realize my goals. She’s such a great mentor to me – and that’s what I want to become for the people around me.
I believe that knowledge is power. And I believe if I have the knowledge, I have the power to help people.
It may seem like an unlikely career path, going from working at the Auto Care Center at Walmart to becoming a professional eye doctor.
Ten years ago, I would never have guessed that I would be headed into optometry. Ten years ago, I didn’t even really know what optometry was.
What I did know was that Walmart offered its associates opportunities to experience different types of jobs throughout the company. So once I completed our Management Training Program, I worked in several different departments. Each of them was interesting in a unique way, but nothing felt like the perfect fit.
Then a friend mentioned an opening in the Vision Center, and it was like a lightning strike. I immediately knew this was the direction I wanted to take. A colleague who was mentoring me saw my excitement and urged me to go back to school. My wife and I talked about it over the next year, and finally I took the plunge.
Within two years I had become a licensed optician, able to dispense glasses and contact lenses. It was a big step, but I knew I wanted to go further. So we packed up everything and moved to Memphis, hoping that I would be accepted to The Southern College of Optometry. Sure enough, our faith paid off and now I’m an associate doctor of optometry – finally doing something I’m passionate about.
I love helping people. I love putting that first pair of glasses on a kid, and watching his or her eyes light up, being able to see clearly for the first time.
Even though I have a lot of responsibilities, I still have the flexibility to spend time with my family. I’ve been incredibly blessed. And I can say with complete honesty had I not had that job changing tires at Walmart, I would not be where I am today.