Why Sustainability is Right for Our Business

Sustainability Milestone Meeting

By Mike Duke

Sustainability Milestone Meeting

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

“Good morning, everyone.

“Thank you for being here today. These Milestone meetings have become a tradition for us. They are our mile-markers …opportunities for us to take a look at where we are on our sustainability journey.

“We’ll kick things off with a message from our Chairman of the Board, Rob Walton, who really got us started on this path, along with Lee Scott.  Rob saw the opportunity for Walmart to play a larger role in the world and has supported our sustainability work every step of the way.  Take a look…

(Following video)

“As Rob said, this really has been fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of our associates.

“In fact, many of you may have come to work for Walmart because of our sustainability efforts. I know you believe in making a difference in the world, and you want your workplace to make a difference, too.

“Whether you’ve been here 10 years or one month, it’s worth recalling how it all began.

“Lee Scott put us on this path immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

“To ensure that sustainability would be a permanent part of our company, I made it one of the four pillars of the Next Generation Walmart when I became CEO.

“We’ve done all of this because it is the right thing to do for the generations that will follow us. But sustainability is also the right thing to do for our business.

“Every time we cut back on packaging or fuel or electricity, we save money. Every penny we save adds up for our customers, our shareholders and our future.

“This really is the EDLC model.

“Now, while we’ve not been on stage making a lot of announcements, we have been quietly …and methodically …embedding sustainability in the business.

“We’ve been inventing a model for how business can address big issues in a systemic way. 

“We’ve been innovating, testing and partnering – with NGOs, governments, academia and even our critics.

“We’ve been piloting wind, hydro and fuel cells. We’ve covered rooftops with solar and parking lots with LED lighting.

“We’ve been redesigning and rethinking everything – from freezers to toys.

“Here’s just one great example:

  • You know how difficult it is to open a child’s toy and remove it from all those complicated wire ties? Well, that was one of our customers’ top complaints …and those ties were also an incredible waste. A Walmart team got together and asked: How do we change that?
  • They swapped out wire ties for sustainable ones, and they have now kept 1 billion feet of wire from landfills. That’s enough to wrap around the Earth nearly 8 times.
  • Tim Clark, who directed this project, points out that in the process, Walmart really changed the world. When our suppliers made the change for us, they changed for every company they supply. And companies like Hasbro and Mattel make toys around the globe.
  • Tim and some of the team members are here today. Could you stand?

“For the latest on our overall progress, take a look at our new Global Responsibility Report, which came out on Monday. It covers 122 pages. 
“It’s great reading…it might take you a few weeks….but it’s great reading!

“Just a few highlights:

  • Let’s start with waste...You may not find waste exciting, but when I share this number with you, you may change your mind. Walmart U.S. now keeps more than 80% of ALL its waste out of the landfill.
  • Over the last year, we have increased locally grown produce by 97 percent, and it now accounts for more than 10 percent of all produce sold in our U.S. stores.
  • We also achieved our goal to save families in the U.S. $1 billion on fresh fruits and vegetables in 2011.
  • And we expanded our global direct farm program. In Central America, Mexico and India, we helped 10,000 small- and medium-sized farmers and their communities last year.

“Now, change on this kind of scale does not happen overnight. It’s hard work. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
“What we’ve discovered is that at times, our scale works against us. We’ve not always moved as fast as we had planned.

“When you set big goals, you will run into roadblocks…everything from technological and legal issues to policy complications.

“But we’ve also found that when we really challenge ourselves, we break new ground and deliver better results. 

“Lately, some people have come to me and said that they aren’t hearing enough about sustainability from us…and that maybe …it isn’t as important to us as it used to be.

“I want you to know that we have never wavered. I have never wavered. 

“The economy is challenging, and everyone is focused on sales…but sustainability must be part of everything we do at Walmart …because it makes us a stronger, better business. 

“Today, I want to ask you to keep up the hard work.  Drive sustainability even deeper into the business and, as Rob said, make it a part of the productivity loop.

“I know your plates are full. I know sustainability can feel like one more “have to do.”

“But frankly, it is your job and it is my expectation that you will do your job.

“The world is watching us. And the world is expecting a lot of us.

“We don’t want to sit back.  We want to lead. That’s the Walmart way of working.

“Some of you have asked…isn’t this risky? Why …why do we do this at all? Let me give you some answers.

  • If you believe that our customers shouldn’t have to choose between what’s good for their families and what they can afford…
  • If you want to sell products that are made responsibly and that really last…
  • If you want your children and grandchildren to enjoy the same quality of life that you enjoy today…  
  • If you want to deliver on our mission of saving people money so they live better…then this should matter. That’s why it does matter.

“I’m so proud of the progress we have made together to improve lives and our planet. This is what leadership looks like in the 21 st Century. We envisioned it, and now each of you is making it happen.

“Thank you.”