Sustainability

ECO:nomics: Walmart on Sustainability vs. Profit

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. 


Why Sustainability?

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;

4. It's what our associates want.

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Opportunity

From Leading Soldiers to Leading Walmart Associates

Following in my father’s footsteps, I joined the Marines before I finished high school.

After returning home from two tours of duty in Somalia and Iraq, I found that similar to many veterans, I struggled with the transition to civilian life. Initially I thought I had only two options: police officer or fireman. I decided on becoming a patrolman, but there were a limited number of openings, and the salary would have made it difficult to support my family.

After much research, I decided to work in retail. I took my first position with Walmart not only because of the secure salary but also because Walmart seemed to be a company that offered equal opportunity to every kind of person. Just like the military, I would be able to prove my abilities and possibly be rewarded for high performance.

Several months after separating from the Marines, when I felt the desire to rejoin the military, Walmart encouraged me to return. I joined the Army National Guard and was eventually called back to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was a lead sniper, in charge of training more than 200 Iraqi policemen and 15 Americans. I was responsible for teaching them everything from leadership to gathering intelligence in a combat environment.

My part in the deployment ended after mortar rounds landed preceding a serious firefight in which I suffered several injuries after mobilizing my men to safely return to camp. I was awarded the Bronze Star with valor for my leadership; however, my recovery took months of surgeries. Today, I’m legally blind in my left eye, and still have some memory issues from a traumatic brain injury. But through all those difficult times, my managers at Walmart were really supportive. They helped me work around my limitations and even flew me to Kansas City to receive the Sam Walton Hero Award in front of 5,000 people.

After my recovery, I learned how to translate my military background to the business world even further. It may sound very different, going from staff sergeant to running a grocery department, but leadership skills remain constant. It’s all about establishing routines, simplifying things for associates, leading them and understanding them. Because of that, I’ve been able to grow my career.

I was recently promoted to Fresh Operations Manager and lead more than 1,000 associates. I work in the field, teaching and training fresh operations in our stores and have remained committed to our troops by supporting Walmart’s initiative to hire veterans. I work with HR to help them understand the different military ranks and how that translates to jobs. In the last five years, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 veterans and we’re a stronger company because of it.

I like to stay involved in supporting veterans in any way I can. I co-founded Helping Hands for Freedom, a nonprofit that supports the families of wounded and fallen soldiers. Most soldiers and their families lack the kind of support I was fortunate to receive from Walmart, so we do everything we can.

It’s great knowing I work for a company that supports my involvement with veterans. My plan is to continue to grow within the company and move up to senior leadership on the grocery side of the business. I want to continue to move forward with my development and growth so I can continue to lead and develop associates across our company.

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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

Checking Your Grocery List, and Getting it Right

People want to save money and time, so it's no wonder online grocery shopping sounds so appealing. Open your browser, click the grocery items you need, and let someone else do the shopping for you – right down to loading them in your trunk, right?

That’s exactly why Walmart will be expanding its online grocery service to nine more new markets this month, such as Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Raleigh, North Carolina. But our customers want more than just the ability to click and shop from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces. They want to know the perfect tomato – or better yet, banana or avocado (because those can be especially tricky) – finds its way into their grocery bag every time.

Before we began expanding the service to more markets, we worked tirelessly for quite some time to pilot and modify our online grocery service – and that’s because we’re committed to getting it right every time. The key to how we build a trusting bond with customers rests with our managers and, most importantly, our personal shoppers. We select only the best of the best for this critical role, and each associate undergoes rigorous training.

Selecting great produce and meat is essential. Personal shoppers not only learn the art of selecting these items by look, but also by touch and smell. For example, when a customer selects strawberries, our personal shoppers peek through each side of the carton. Similarly, finding the perfect pineapple or cantaloupe requires extra time – and we make the time. When our personal shoppers are gathering frozen and refrigerated items, they work quickly to select those items and return them to a designated, temperature-controlled holding area to ensure quality is not compromised.

But all the training in the world can’t account for everything. That’s where personal relationships matter.

Our promise to customers is that we’re not just here to gather their groceries. We learn their names.  Over time, we’ll get to know whether they prefer softer or firmer avocados, because we understand that texture makes a difference if you’re adding a slice to a salad or mashing it for guacamole. And as we get to know our customers more, we can begin to know which customers are fans of yellow bananas, and which opt for slightly green for a longer shelf life.

We’re in the business of saving our customers money so they can live better. In our eyes, taking grocery shopping off a customer’s growing to-do list, while ensuring quality and convenience every time – that’s definitely living better.

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Innovation

Open, Scan, Done: The Case for Walmart Pay

Thumbing through multiple gift cards at the register. Scrambling to find the one receipt you need to return an item. Trying to remember whether you need a refill for your prescription or not. We’ve all been there.

But why? We live in a digital world. We receive alerts about news breaking around the world in real time, rather than waiting for the Sunday morning newspaper. We can control temperature in our homes, lock doors and set alarms from our smartphones. So it’s time for the retail industry to step up – to allow customers to shop in new ways.

With the development of Walmart Pay – a new feature built into the Walmart mobile app that allows customers to use a smartphone to pay for in-store purchases – we weren’t focusing on payment for payment’s sake. We set out to marry our physical and digital assets to create a more seamless shopping experience for customers. We designed Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type, even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. And beginning this summer, it will work at every one of our stores across the U.S.

So, if you take a moment to activate the new Walmart Pay feature on your Walmart App, your next checkout really will be as simple as one, two, three.

If you discover the shirt you bought a few weeks ago doesn't fit, there’s no more keeping up with a paper receipt. It’s now stored electronically and at your fingertips because you’ve used Walmart Pay. Have a handful of Walmart gift cards you’ve been meaning to redeem, but hate the thought of handing them over one by one? Load your gift cards into Walmart Pay, and your balance will be ready with a single scan the next time you check out.

The best part is that none of your payment card information is stored on your phone or at the point of sale. Everything with Walmart Pay is stored in a secure, cloud-based environment. No payment credential is ever transmitted at the physical register, so you can rest easy knowing those details are safe and protected.

More than 20 million customers actively use the Walmart app each month, checking in to pick up an online order at a Walmart store, refilling pharmacy prescriptions, finding an item’s location within a store, and tapping into our popular Savings Catcher feature. When we set out to develop Walmart Pay, we’d asked ourselves how we could make shopping even faster, easier, more convenient and secure for our customers.

We’ll continue to find new ways of merging our physical and digital assets to produce a better, more convenient shopping experience. That’s what our customers demand and it’s what they deserve.

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