Back to Main

A letter from our Chief Sustainability Officer

Last August, Walmart leaders joined the mayor of New Orleans and many others to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – a devastating event that affected the entire U.S. Gulf Coast, including hundreds of thousands of Walmart customers and associates. We remembered the heroes and the victims, sponsored a citywide day of service and led a disaster resilience symposium with the United Nations RISE (Research Initiative for Social Equity) initiative.

We also acknowledged the impact of Katrina on the past 10 years of Walmart’s engagement in addressing tough environmental and social issues. In the days after the hurricane struck, our associates worked with others on the ground to deliver critical supplies and help people find first aid and shelter, and in doing so, we realized the difference we could make by using our strengths to help others beyond our day-to-day business. Our CEO at the time, Lee Scott, challenged us to “be that kind of company” every day. He and other Walmart leaders of the day – including Doug McMillon, who had become CEO of Sam’s Club a month prior to the tragedy—set out broad aspirations for the company to do more by creating economic opportunity through our jobs and purchase orders, enhancing the sustainability of our operations and our products and strengthening our local communities.

Over the past 10 years, our associates have worked hard toward those aspirations. We have celebrated some important milestones and accomplishments and have also struggled with obstacles and failures. We have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to achieving lasting change.

For example, we have learned that lasting change requires collective action to reshape social and environmental systems, and that the most viable programs are those that create shared value—value for business and society. We have been privileged to work with dedicated stakeholders – including our customers, associates, suppliers, community leaders, grantees and government leaders—on ambitious efforts tackling issues ranging from economic mobility to climate change to disaster response.

Over the past 18 months, to sharpen our priorities, programs and reporting, we heavily engaged stakeholders in discussions and surveys, including a 1,750-respondent survey led by Sustainalytics. We are excited to share the resulting perspectives about societal challenges relevant for retail and stakeholder views on where and how Walmart can help.

In this report, we’ll share our approach to whole-system change in three priority arenas of Opportunity, Sustainability and Community, informed by stakeholder perspectives; our key programs and indicators of progress, including the delivery of several commitments that came due in 2015 (such as doubling fleet efficiency and reducing supply chain emissions by 20 million metric tons); some recent stories of impact; and also some of the challenges we are encountering as we go about our work.

Thank you to all who have been working with us and in complementary efforts for the benefit of all. Working together, we hope to accelerate progress in creating economic opportunity, enhancing sustainability and strengthening communities around the world.