Deeper, broader, faster: Walmart’s new sustainability imperative

Walmart held another one of its sustainability milestone meetings this week and webcast the event live from the auditorium at its home office. By the time the hour-and-a-half event was over the senior executives who participated had delivered a clear and consistent message around the company’s wide-ranging sustainability efforts.

For president and CEO Mike Duke, it was about putting those efforts in high gear. Walmart International president and CEO Doug McMillon said the company needed to relight some fires and stay inspired to make greater progress on reducing an environmental footprint that can’t be escaped or denied. Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon described how several of his direct reports, chief merchandising and marketing office Duncan Mac Naughton and recently appointed chief operating officer Gisel Ruiz, have to drive initiatives the company has in place faster and further. Even CFO Charles Holley played a role in delivering the message of acceleration as he described Walmart’s goal of reducing expenses as a percent of sales by 100 basis points over the next five years.

“I don’t think we can attain it without picking up the pace in sustainability,” Holley said. “It is important for all of us re-engage in this and if we do we are going to like the results.”

Not that anyone at Walmart has become un-engaged on the issue. The point being made was that sustainability efforts have now become standard operating procedure at Walmart, and some tremendous progress has been made against goals first established in 2005 by former president and CEO Lee Scott. The articulation of those goals was a milestone for the company, and for current CEO Duke he saw the meeting this week as different type of seminal event.

“Today was another milestone,” Duke said, noting that years from now people could look back and remember it as a day “when we put it in high gear.”

Not to diminish the progress the company has made, Duke’s point was, “We’d like to move faster,” and he implored those assembled to “drive it deeper into your organization and those you lead. Ensure that every person in your organization understands and plays a role in sustainability. It is your job, it is my job and it is the expectation for all of us.”



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