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.
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, 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
- Leadership facility visits
- Company intranet, Facebook Workplace and other social media
- Formal, periodic Associate Engagement Surveys (confidential resource)
- Open Door process
- The Ethics hotline (confidential resource)
In an effort make it even easier to speak up, Walmart U.S. launched the Associate Satisfaction Survey (ASAT)—a new way to gauge associate sentiment in real time—in 2021. ASAT is available on the Me@Walmart app and allows more than one million users—mostly frontline, entry-level associates—to share feedback through a monthly survey with questions designed to identify how associates feel about their job, leaders, team, tools, schedule, pay and benefits. Walmart also launched an Open Door and Ethics Portal for US-based associates in 2021; this digital platform is designed to be an intuitive, self-service site where associates can share ethics concerns and open door submissions in one place.
Associate feedback shapes Walmart’s business decisions, including our associate proposition. For more information on how feedback has led to meaningful change, see our Human Capital: Good Jobs & Advancement for Associates brief.
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 nonprofits together to discuss product supply chain sustainability. In October 2021, Walmart hosted more than 5,000 people virtually from dozens of countries around the world—including Walmart associates, NGOs, and suppliers—during the sustainability milestone event.
- Supplier Growth Forum: Walmart invites suppliers to this annual event, at which Walmart shares the company’s—and our merchandising team's—strategic initiatives, key areas of focus and future growth strategies for the year ahead. In 2022, we welcomed more than 500 supplier representatives in Bentonville, Arkansas and streamed the live event to more than 3,000 supplier representatives online. Suppliers were provided opportunities before, throughout and after the event to ask Walmart leaders questions or to share their feedback on the messages they're hearing.
- Joint Sustainability Planning: Walmart invites top sustainability and business leaders from strategic suppliers to engage in joint sustainability planning sessions where we share experiences, ambitions and feedback with the goal of advancing sustainability initiatives—including Project Gigaton, packaging, and place-based 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 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 10,500 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.
- Disaster Response: We engage with state and county emergency operations center contacts throughout the year to ensure we have points of contacts if a community need occurs and we can be a resource. When tornadoes struck Kentucky in December 2021, these relationships allowed us to coordinate with the Governor’s office, mayors of impacted communities, and county emergency operations centers to understand how Walmart could be helpful and respond to their needs. Walmart, Sam's Club and the Walmart Foundation provided more than $1 million in grants and in-kind donations to nonprofit partners, including through parking lot activations, deliveries to shelters and holiday pop-up events to support families impacted by tornadoes.
- Community Champions: Since 2020, more than 200 Walmart stores have appointed Community Champions to improve engagement between the store and the community. With the help of our Community Relations team, store leaders build relationships with local government officials, nonprofits and civic partners to understand and address the unique needs of the neighborhood.
- Supporting Underserved Communities with COVID-19 Vaccinations: Walmart and Sam’s Club began administering COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with state governments in December 2020 and expanded access to the vaccine in February 2021 through participation in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Throughout the distribution effort, we have focused on underserved, rural and high-vulnerability populations, with millions of vaccines delivered to patients in areas that are classified by HRSA as “medically underserved." Read more about how our vaccination efforts were responsive to community needs: Vaccination Efforts: 2021 Report.
Additionally, 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 host stakeholder summits that bring 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.
For example, in FY2022 the Constituent Relations team discussed COVID-19 vaccination issues with Asian-American and Pacific Islander, Latinx, and African-American organizations and institutions. Based on these discussions and relationships, Walmart held several COVID-19 vaccination events focused on underserved neighborhoods and groups and developed a virtual toolkit in several languages that directly addressed the primary concerns of these communities.
Our shareholders include large asset managers, other institutional investors, individual retail investors, and our own associates (in 2022, 38% of our active full-time and salaried U.S. associates participated 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 meetings, participation in investor conferences, our annual shareholders’ meeting, and ESG-focused webinars. 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 2021 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, we invited >30 institutional shareholders representing ~550 million shares, including many of our largest investors, to participate in our outreach program. We ultimately engaged with shareholders representing ~490 million shares, or about 34% of our public float. We also had conversations with the leading proxy advisory firms.
- 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: |