Walmart’s former President and CEO Mike Duke was at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference last week. He sat down with WSJ Editor in Chief Gerard Baker to discuss Walmart’s sustainability journey and our responsibility to lead.
Mike explains that our sustainability journey began and continues today for four main reasons:
1. It's the right thing to do for our communities, our stores and the planet;
2. We listened to our customers and recognized that they want more sustainable products from an environmentally responsible company;
3. It's good for our business, in that we've found new ways to grow profits through saving resources;
Director, Global Associate Communications – Walmart
July 30, 2015
Mention Idaho and
most people think of potatoes, but the state also produces a massive amount of
milk. In fact, it’s No. 4 in the U.S. for milk production and No. 3 for cheese.
No wonder Bruce Payne takes so much pride in his job as dairy manager at the Walmart
supercenter on Overland Road in Boise.
Bruce started working in the dairy department
10 years ago. He moved to grocery for a while, but when the store needed a new
dairy manager, he stepped up. That was eight years ago, and he’s loved it ever
since. All of the milk his store sells is local, and Bruce makes sure his
displays feature locally made cheese. His pride shows not only in the products,
but also in the way Bruce’s team works together to
make their section of the store the best it can be.
“This job is what you
make of it. My manager started as a cart pusher, and all of our assistant
managers started on the ground floor. If you stay focused … and look around to
see what you can do to grow, you can make something of it,” Bruce said. “We’re
here 40 hours a week, so I figure we may as well enjoy what we’re doing and
make a positive impact. We’re a family – a team.”
Imagine you’re standing in a store aisle looking for a new brand of lotion that won’t irritate your baby’s skin. You find yourself surveying at least a dozen different lotion labels trying to understand and compare product ingredients. The process is frustrating, slow, and confusing – what are some of these things even used for?
You are not alone. A lack of product ingredient information is
a very common problem. Fortunately, the situation is improving. In the past few
years, more and more companies have taken action to make product information
more transparent to consumers, including the sharing of ingredients online. Walmart
is one of these companies.
As outlined in
its Sustainable Chemistry Policy, Walmart has started an effort to list the
ingredients contained within its private label consumable products – personal care and household products
that you use up, such as aftershave, baby lotions, cleaners, or pet shampoo –
on walmart.com. Walmart’s policy also asks national
brand suppliers, like Procter and Gamble, Revlon and Pro-Sense, to follow this lead
and include product ingredient information on their own websites.
Sharing lists of
ingredients on Walmart’s website is a positive development for customers. Greater
online access to this information makes it easier to find out what’s in
products and to compare ingredients across products so that customers can
ultimately make more informed purchasing decisions. For an example, consider
cleaning products. If you’ve ever tried
to figure out what’s inside a
cleaning product while shopping, you know it can be difficult – for the most
part, ingredients are not required to be
disclosed on the packaging
of cleaning products.
Today, you can
find on Walmart.com a list of ingredients for most private label products
covered by the policy. See for example,
“ingredients” listed under “about this item” for a bottle of Equate body wash. According to Walmart’s implementation guide, product ingredients are to be listed in
descending order of concentration using a standard naming convention called
INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic
Ingredients). This standard
is already in use by many product manufacturers and helps create consistency
that is designed to allow for easier identification and comparison of ingredients
across products. Walmart’s policy is being implemented in steps, so not all of Walmart’s
product listings disclose ingredients as outlined in the policy and
implementation guide. Walmart continues
to build and improve upon this important first step.
to see that product ingredient transparency is becoming more standard practice
in the marketplace. We’re especially pleased with companies like Clorox and
Seventh Generation that have taken leadership steps on ingredient disclosure by
providing ingredient information in multiple languages and identifying an
ingredient’s function, or purpose, in a product. This is good news for the
growing number of consumers interested in making informed decisions about the
products we buy and use every day.
But the benefits
of ingredient disclosure may well extend far beyond our everyday shopping trips.
Businesses that commit to consumers on ingredient disclosure provide valuable
information that can ultimately help drive safer chemicals into the marketplace.
McPartland, Ph.D., is a senior scientist, and Alissa Sasso is a research
consultant. Both contributors work for the Environmental Defense Fund.
I’ll never forget the day in 2003 when everything went red. I was in my 30s, watching television with a friend in my living room when it happened. Three surgeries and several weeks later, I was declared legally blind.
While it happened quickly, it wasn’t completely unexpected.
I had been diagnosed with diabetes back in Jamaica and couldn't afford the
proper medication, which led to my vision loss. So I found myself trying to
navigate life without the benefit of eyesight and, soon, without my husband,
who left me. It was just my daughter and me. Years later, I moved to New York
City in search of opportunity, but questioned whether I'd made the right
decision after going unemployed for more than three years. That changed when I
found National Industries for the Blind.
Statistics show more than 70% of the more than 4 million
legally blind adults in the U.S. are not employed. As the nation’s largest
employment resource for people who are blind, NIB is working to change those
statistics, and my story is one example. Eight years ago, I discovered New York
City Industries for the Blind, which later became Alphapointe, one of NIB’s associated
nonprofit agencies. I began manufacturing SKILCRAFT® Speedy Scrubber sponges at
Alphapointe’s facility in Brooklyn. And I’ve been counting my blessings ever
All of a sudden, I had a steady income. I wasn’t wondering
how I was going to pay my bills and support my daughter. I take great pride in
operating my sewing machine on the manufacturing line because I know the
military and government customers who use our product depend on us for quality.
In May, we were excited when our sponges began hitting the shelves of select
Walmart stores throughout the Northeast as part of the retailer’s commitment to U.S.
manufacturing. I’m part of a team with more than 100 employees, each one
legally blind, just like me.
NIB and Alphapointe believed in me, and that’s the second
chance I was looking for. I’m confident again and I have a support system
around me. I’ve made friends for a lifetime – friends I go out to dinner with
and hang out with on the weekends. I even met the love of my life, Ronnie
McNeil, here. We were married earlier this month, which kind of completes my
dream come true.
more than 76 years, NIB has created jobs for people who are blind through the sale of
thousands of SKILCRAFT products. The Speedy Scrubber sponges are manufactured
by people who are blind working at Alphapointe – one of 95 nonprofit agencies
associated with NIB – in its Brooklyn facility.
Have you ever heard of tooth wipes? If you’ve never brought home a baby, then probably not – unless you’ve shopped for a gift for a first-time mom and noticed such a lesser-known item on her gift registry.
New parents tend to over-prepare because they’re nervous to get
everything right. I know this firsthand because two years ago, I had my first
son. And I thought I needed every possible item to take care of him – including
So many of us are familiar with this feeling, and for me, it’s a life
experience that translates well to my day job overseeing baby merchandise at
Walmart. My team takes care of people in the happiest, but also the most
stressful time of their lives. We’re constantly asking ourselves, how can we
make that easier? One key – but coincidental – way is that many of the
associates on the baby team have intuition from parenting babies and young
These perspectives have helped us make simple, but important changes to
our assortment – like ensuring our customers can find popular brands like Britax and Plum Organics, and launching Urbini
exclusively at Walmart. (It also applies to items like tooth wipes. When I
needed them two years ago, Walmart didn’t carry them. Now
we do, and they are even assembled in the U.S.!) Our parenting experience
has also given us ideas to take to our suppliers that address important
concerns, like a car seat with technology that alerts you when your child is
still in the back seat if the ignition is switched off.
Talking to our customers, we see our personal insights proven right in
many different scenarios. First-time moms like me want everything perfect and
brand-name, while second-time moms tend to focus on just getting through the
day. Second-time moms also concentrate more on functionality, which applies to
their shopping experience, too. They’ve reduced the places they shop from a
handful to only a couple, meaning convenience is important. That’s one reason
we’ve expanded our assortment not just in-store but also online, and we’ve
recently updated our baby
registry to be easily accessible with the Walmart mobile app. I love now
being able to shop for friends using my phone whether I’m in the store or in
Research has shown my team that the needs of moms globally are really
the same: They all want the very best for their children. I love that we’re
able to provide that not just from business experience, but from personal
experience, too. We’re able to learn about products and what works well, and
then influence that for other parents. Just a few months ago, I took home all
the diapers Walmart carries to try on my son and then gave feedback to our
suppliers on quality. It helps to be so close to the category to be able to
improve our assortment and customer experience.
It’s an intriguing circle, how many of my team members’ jobs influence
our parenting and how being parents influences our jobs. Whether it’s updating
our mobile registry, adding distinct items like tooth wipes, or ensuring we
carry great private-label options like the Parent’s
Choice training pants we just launched in partnership with Dreamworks,
we’re working hard to make the hardest job in the world – parenting – a little
can read more about Walmart’s expanded assortment of baby products and services