Our ability to create shared value depends on direct and frequent engagement with our customers, associates and community leaders, as well as the people who supply our products, hold our stock and evaluate our performance. Stakeholder perspectives and feedback help improve the relevance and effectiveness of the products and services we offer and the initiatives we support.
Our 2021 ESG priority assessment included extensive outreach to stakeholders, including customers, associates, shareholders, suppliers and NGOs, to understand their perspectives on which issues Walmart should prioritize. Read more: Our ESG priorities.
Below we have outlined some of the ways we engage day-to-day with our stakeholders. Walmart associates throughout the company who lead our ESG initiatives (including key functional leaders as well as the ESG Steering and Disclosure Committees) routinely consider stakeholder feedback to refine priorities and improve performance.
Understanding the needs of our customers is a top priority. We use a variety of channels to solicit feedback and communicate with our customers. These include:
- Focused research through surveys and in-person discussions
- Social media engagement through managed Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages
- In-person communication in our stores
- Outreach through email and phone, including communication through our customer call centers
Our customers’ feedback regarding ESG issues largely tracks that of the communities in which they live. For example, in the past year, Walmart U.S. customers told us their priorities include health care, jobs, climate change and economic equality, and they look to Walmart to lead on associate training, investments in wage, efforts to combat climate change, racial equity and affordable healthcare.
One of Sam Walton’s rules for building a business was “listen to everyone in your company.” Associate engagement has been foundational to our company’s success, and associate feedback – anonymous and attributed, direct and indirect – continues to create a culture of trust, transparency and engagement. Associates have many avenues to share ideas, suggestions and concerns, including several opportunities to provide feedback anonymously:
- Personal one-on-one interactions
- Team meetings
- Company intranet, Facebook Workplace and other social media
- Formal, periodic Associate Engagement Surveys (confidential resource)
- Open Door process
- The Ethics hotline (confidential resource)
Associate feedback shapes Walmart’s business decisions, including our associate proposition. For example, associate suggestions led to changes to our parental leave policies in the U.S., the decision to close Walmart U.S. stores on Thanksgiving, and the decision to publish a new Code of Conduct to replace our Statement of Ethics.
We also support research to understand systemic gaps and needs in the workforce, which Walmart and other businesses use to enhance workforce strategies. Recent research we supported includes Race in the workplace: The Black experience in the US private sector (McKinsey, 2021), Advancing Frontline Employees of Color (FSG and Policy Link, 2020), and The future of work in Black America (McKinsey, 2019).
Suppliers & people who work in product supply chains
We wouldn’t have a business without suppliers and the people who help create the products and services we provide to our customers. Walmart business teams engage suppliers regularly to share our standards, expectations and specifications; develop new products, packaging, services and more effective business processes; receive their feedback on how we can collaborate and serve customers; help measure performance and improve capabilities; and co-design systems we use to manage supplier and item lifecycles. In addition to such day-to-day collaboration and the 100,000+ contacts we receive annually from suppliers through our call centers, we engage suppliers through specific forums, including:
- Sustainability Milestone Summit: At this event, typically held annually, we bring our suppliers and experts from nonprofits and academia together to discuss product supply chain sustainability, providing a platform to problem solve and share best practices. In September 2020, Walmart hosted more than 5,000 people—including suppliers, NGOs and key stakeholders—during the virtual sustainability milestone event.
- Supplier Growth Forum: Walmart invites suppliers to this annual event, at which Walmart shares the company’s strategic initiatives, key areas of focus and future growth strategies. Typically, suppliers participate live and in-person, and opportunities are provided throughout for suppliers to ask Walmart leaders questions and to provide feedback on the messages they’re hearing. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we held the event virtually with pre-recorded sessions. Suppliers were given the opportunity to submit questions ahead of the event so Walmart merchants could address relevant topics during the sessions.
- Joint Sustainability Planning: Walmart invites top sustainability and business leaders from strategic suppliers to engage in joint sustainability planning sessions on an annual basis. We share experiences, ambitions and feedback with the goal of advancing sustainability initiatives together. These connections continue throughout the year, with dozens of meetings with suppliers on sustainability-related topics.
- Pre-initiative Engagement: We meet with relevant suppliers before launching new sustainability initiatives to get their feedback and insights and seek out their collaboration. For example, before launching our recent pollinator commitments, we met with produce suppliers to understand what steps they were taking already and how a potential change in approach would impact their business. We also met with chemicals suppliers to share our point of view and to hear theirs.
We also seek opportunities to elevate the perspectives of people working in product supply chains to help enhance the relevance and effectiveness of our sustainable supply chain initiatives. For example, we hear directly from workers in supply chains and those who represent their interests through our Ethics and Responsible Sourcing functions; our teams collaborate on engagement and appropriate response. Also, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have supported organizations like the Issara Institute and Polaris, which develop tools and outreach to facilitate worker voice in supply chains and beyond. As another example, in March 2021 the Walmart Foundation published Seeding advancement of women in smallholder farming: insights from the Market Access portfolio, which collects and shares insights into the experience of women smallholder farmers participating in the Foundation’s Market Access program in improving the base conditions for smallholder prosperity, with a particular emphasis on women farmers.
Read more: People in supply chains.
With approximately 11,400 stores and other physical locations backed by a strong online presence, Walmart is an important part of many communities. We are focused on earning the trust of our stakeholders and strengthening the communities in which we live and work. We engage to understand community priorities in several ways.
Our State and Local Government Relations and Community Relations teams are deployed geographically throughout the United States and—partnering with our operators in those communities—are responsible for interacting with state and local government leaders, community leaders and local organizations to help ensure our business meets community needs. Typical issues discussed include store siting and remodeling plans, disaster preparedness and response, legislative issues and community engagement.
For example, in 2020, Chicagoans navigated the global pandemic while confronting systemic racism and discrimination. After local protests in late spring, five of Walmart’s eight stores in the city temporarily closed due to damage and to protect our associates and customers. Walmart considered whether and how to reopen the stores, and listened to community feedback as those decisions were being made. We engaged with city and community leaders, people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the stores and our own associates to hear about what they wanted, which included bringing health offerings to the neighborhood, offering more products from local suppliers, doing more to support local workforce development, and having remodeling and ongoing maintenance work performed by local contractors. We took steps to make these a reality, including opening two Walmart Health facilities, commissioning murals at stores from local artists which reflect the neighborhood and its values, and broadening our process for soliciting contracting bids to ensure awarded bids reflect diverse and local representation. We continue to work through the process of meeting other expectations, including bolstering workforce development and identifying local suppliers.
Walmart’s Constituent Relations team facilitates the company’s collaboration with organizations close to underrepresented and underserved communities on issues of mutual concern. For example, we regularly host a stakeholder summit that brings Walmart together with partner organizations representing different constituent groups, including the National Urban League, UnidosUS, OCA National, National Congress of American Indians, Women Impacting Public Policy, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, LULAC, NAACP and DisabilityIN. The summit consists of two-way sharing: Walmart shares with the organizations the work Walmart is doing for our customers, associates and communities and lessons we’ve learned, and attendees have an opportunity to provide Walmart feedback and insights to help shape our work. Our April 2021 virtual event was attended by 130 individuals representing 89 stakeholder groups. We invite many of the same groups to engage through annual partners meetings and roundtables to hear directly from them about their priorities and their priorities for Walmart. Recent examples of feedback received and action taken from these engagements include setting aside grocery pickup slots for customers with disabilities after hearing that they experienced lack of access, hosting a special vaccine event in the Houston market targeted towards the urban Native American population after hearing feedback about difficulties accessing the vaccine, and changing our marketing materials review process to include a review by a diverse associate base—including Associate Resource Group members—to help ensure marketing materials reflect the diverse communities and associates that we serve.
Our Public Affairs team solicits input from community members, including Walmart customers, on issues that are important to them and their perceptions of Walmart initiatives. We use this to be a more aware and involved member of the community. For example, customers, community members and civic leaders all identified COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy as an issue and indicated support for Walmart playing a role in helping promote vaccination efforts. So, we collaborated with churches, community groups and cultural influencers on campaigns to reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase community trust. These efforts have included engaging leaders in the Somali community in Minneapolis, the LatinX community in Las Vegas, Native American communities in Houston and Black communities in Chicago.
Our shareholders include large asset managers, other institutional investors, individual retail investors, and our own associates (in 2021, 41% of our active full-time and salaried U.S. associates participate in at least one of Walmart’s stock ownership programs, including equity awards and our Associate Stock Purchase Plan).
We engage with shareholders on ESG issues in several ways, including:
- Formal communications: Quarterly and annual earnings materials, Forms 10-Q, Forms 10-K and annual reports, proxy statements, ESG reporting and news releases.
- Live events: We engage with shareholders during our annual and quarterly earnings release calls, investment community meeting, participation in investor conferences and our annual shareholders’ meeting. These typically involve question-and-answer sessions.
- Shareholder outreach programs: Shareholder outreach is conducted to discuss corporate governance, executive compensation and other matters related to Walmart’s enterprise strategy. Since our 2020 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, we invited shareholders representing approximately 520 million shares to participate in our outreach program, and our management team ultimately engaged with shareholders representing approximately 470 million shares, or about 33% of our public float. During these conversations we discussed strategy, governance, executive compensation, sustainability, economic opportunity, diversity and inclusion, our efforts to keep our associates and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared value.
- One-on-one engagement: Discussions and written interactions with individual institutional investors—at their request—on topics of interest, including ESG topics.
The ESG team also regularly engages with ESG analysts and researchers that prepare ratings shareholders and others use to assess Walmart’s ESG performance. These specialists offer diverse perspectives that inform our initiatives. In these communications, we discuss Walmart’s strategy, governance practices, compliance programs and other ESG-related matters.
Read more: Corporate governance.
Stakeholder ESG priorities
|Civil Society (NGOs, advisory councils & grantees)||Topics differed by group, but generally our civil society stakeholders prioritized: |