A message from our Chief Sustainability Officer

Business exists to serve society.

For Walmart, this is true in many ways: providing customers with convenient access to affordable food and other products; employing associates; helping suppliers grow their businesses that in turn employ others; generating tax dollars that help support community life; providing a return to shareholders.

Kathleen McLaughlin

The most successful businesses do such things but go one step further — they aim in the long term to improve the systems on which they rely, such as retail workforce development or food supply chains. Why? Not only to build customer trust, but also to enhance supply security, improve the quality of products and services, manage costs and expenses more effectively, generate new revenue streams, and attract and retain talent. Strengthening these systems is not only the responsible thing to do — it maximizes business value.

By many measures, there has never been a better time to be alive than today. Yet society faces many challenges. While global prosperity has increased, so has inequality; and studies point to a skills gap that needs to be addressed to help people advance economically, especially as evolving technologies change the nature of work. Meanwhile, increasing global demand is placing unsustainable pressure on the climate and natural ecosystems, challenging us all to shift from a “take-make-dispose” system of production and consumption to a circular, regenerative approach.

That’s why our approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues goes beyond minimizing our own footprint or mitigating risk. We take a more transformative approach: working to spark collective action in an effort to alter the sector in the long term for environmental, social and economic sustainability.

So in the case of economic opportunity for retail associates, for example, we aim not only to help people enter the workforce with competitive wages, but also to help them build skills needed to advance, whether at Walmart or beyond. We want to build a skills-based employment system, with ladders of opportunity, at scale, that is inclusive and reflective of our communities.

And when it comes to human rights in supply chains, we aim not only to source responsibly, but also to work with others to rewire chains for social sustainability — for example, improving Bangladesh factory safety through our work with the Alliance, or fighting modern slavery in seafood through our work with the Seafood Task Force and the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment.

With respect to climate change, we want to address our own operations while galvanizing collective action across the retail supply chain to bend the curve on emissions — working with suppliers in an attempt to avoid a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through initiatives in energy, waste, agriculture, packaging, natural capital and product design.

In this report, you will find a summary of our aspirational goals and recent progress related to our priority ESG issues. For example, since our last report, we conducted our first climate risk assessment and have advanced toward our science-based targets for emissions reduction; we have launched new initiatives in waste reduction, particularly related to plastic. Inspired by the United Nations (U.N.) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, we published our first human rights statement to make it easier to see how we respect human rights across our business. We continue to strengthen our retail associate proposition and make strides working with others toward the social and environmental sustainability of multiple supply chains.

As always, we welcome your feedback and your collective action in helping to transform retail systems for long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability.

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Kathleen McLaughlin
Chief Sustainability Officer, Walmart Inc.
and President, Walmart Foundation