Staff Scientist, National Resources Defense Council
May 29, 2014
Imagine walking out of the grocery store with four bags full
of fresh food, dropping a bag, and not bothering to stop and pick it up. Seems
crazy, but that’s essentially what most of us are doing in our daily lives. The
average American throws away about $30 each month in the form of uneaten food. The
lettuce that went bad, the leftovers you never got around to eating, and that
science experiment in the back of the fridge you’re hoping will disappear – they
all add up to the approximately 15%
to 25% of food you buy that typically goes uneaten.
That’s real money going straight into the garbage instead of
paying off your credit card bills or going toward your savings. Think about it.
If you don’t eat half of that $10/pound fish, that’s $5 you’re throwing away.
The last third of that pasta sauce jar that got a little tangy? That was at
least a dollar’s worth. Day by day, we’re tossing cash out with our trash.
Agriculture uses about half the land area in the United
States and a full 80% of the fresh water.
In fact, it takes the same amount of water to produce a hamburger as it
does to take a 90-minute shower! Being careful not to waste too much food is
actually one of the most environmentally conscious things you can do. Not to mention, we have a serious hunger
problem right here in the U.S., with one out of every six people going without enough
food for at least part of the year. To have this food insecurity exist
alongside such massive amounts of wasted food simply doesn’t seem right.
Before checking out at the grocery store, compare your list
with what’s in the cart. It doesn’t take a huge change – just being careful to
not waste food really will make a difference for you, your wallet, and the
At Walmart’s Lab 415-C, we look for disruptive,
innovative technology that has the potential to change the way people shop. But
not just change that part of their lives – make it better.
From augmented reality to robotics, our team discovers
and tests emerging technology that powers the shopping experience our customers
want. In fact, we’re even named after an early innovation in Walmart’s
Walton’s 415-C airplane, which he used to scout real estate
from the sky (a business-growth tactic that was unheard of in the 1950s).
How do we bring these innovations to our customers and
associates? It starts with research. You wouldn’t buy a car without researching
its capabilities, safety and reliability, right? We research between 700-750
technologies a year and make sure we know the technology’s maturity, use cases,
comparisons and how it can improve shopping for customers. We look at
everything from technology that helps associates run stores more efficiently to
capabilities in the internet of
things (connected devices that communicate without human
interaction, such as a smart thermostat).
But what good is research if it isn’t shared with others?
That’s where our showcasing team comes in. More than 5,000 people come through Lab
415-C each year. Our showcasing team helps plan discussions, brainstorms and
events within Walmart and the greater entrepreneurial and academic community to
accelerate how we find innovative technology.
Testing technologies for how they’ll work within Walmart
is another aspect of Lab 415-C’s capabilities. We’ve tested technologies internationally,
at local stores and within our lab at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville,
Arkansas. Failing fast is key, so we don’t see failure as a roadblock; we see
it as a way to finesse the solution to fit Walmart’s needs.
An important way we find solutions that fit our
customers’ needs is by sourcing innovations from technology suppliers. This October,
we are doing that in a big way through our Technology
Innovation Open Call, an event where our leaders will meet with companies
creating the latest technology for retail, logistics, big data, security and
Our open call event is a great opportunity for companies
to pitch their innovations to the largest retailer in the world. I can’t wait
to see what ideas and inventions we’ll discover! Together we will transform the
deadline for potential selection in the Technology Innovation Open Call is July
22, 2016, or the first 250 submissions. For details and an application, click here.
My struggles with weight started around the time my last child — my son, Drake — was born.
premature; he weighed just 3 pounds and 3 ounces when he was born and was in
the neonatal ICU for six weeks. Each day, my wife and I shuttled to the
hospital, eating nothing but fast food, living in complete fear. It was the
most terrifying time in my life, and I emerged from it changed in many ways.
For one, I was a lot
Before Drake was born,
I weighed roughly 225 pounds. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, so I wasn’t exactly
slim to begin with. In the months after his birth, my weight climbed to more
than 265 pounds. While it’s true that I had lots of things to worry about then,
I always knew that I needed to make real changes.
When Drake was about a
year old, in June 2011, he was taking his first steps; coincidentally, my wife
and I were taking some of our own. We started working out on our Xbox; shortly
after that, we joined a gym. I began to lose weight doing cardio and strength
training, and I started getting in shape — mentally as well as physically.
Customers and colleagues alike started noticing and talking to me about my
weight loss. It made me feel much closer to them. Their support made the effort
As my wife and I grew
healthier, we aimed to eat healthier.Thatwasn’t easy: We were used to eating
whatever we wanted — pizza, burgers, ice cream, soda, you name it. To make a
change, we had to clean out our cabinets completely. It was a total pantry
Now I’m a Guide
About a year after we
started our journey to better health, one of my store’s co-managers mentioned
Challenge to me — ZP
for “zip” or zero, meaning, you make it what you want it to be — specifically
because he knew about my efforts. But he didn’t just ask me to look into the
program, which is basically a friendly competition to inspire better wellbeing.
He asked if I could set it up in the store and introduce other associates to
it. That was a big deal.
That was three years
ago, and I’ve participated in the Challenge, a program for Walmart associates,
their families and friends, ever since. I even won a prize for my success story
— the very one I’m telling now. But to be honest, it wasn’t the biggest gift I
received. I’ve also been honored to help more than 30 of my fellow associates
with the program.
Paying It Forward
I now weigh about 180
pounds, perfect for my size (at one point I was at 153, but that wasn’t
realistic). More than that, my lifeandmy perspective have changed. I have
more energy. I’m more outgoing. I enjoy life, and I share that enthusiasm. One
of the things I’ve started doing is telling people in my life they’re doing a
good job. When you tell people they’re doing awesome, it changes their day, and
your own. Even more, it changes your world. Honestly, because of all these
changes, I’m a nicer person.
I’m also one of the
first 10 official ZP guides, so I’m ready with support and information whenever
anyone needs either. I’m paying it forward. The support I’ve gotten in the
store and online has been nothing short of tremendous. And I want to let others
know they can be tremendous, too. Because you can.Everyonecan.
I’m living proof.
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in
the January 2016 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates. Read other associates’
stories of encouragement and motivation at ZPChallenge.com.
Editor’s Note: With
this post, we follow up with two associates who previously shared their stories on video.
Proximity brought Nicholas Qualman to Walmart, but his
personal drive has since taken him far.
In 1998, the then 16-year-old was working for a fast-food
chain located in the parking lot of the Walmart store in his hometown of
Marinette, Wisconsin. He was tired of making burgers and wanted to work the
counter, but with no positions open, he had to look elsewhere for a new
He applied at Walmart and was hired as a cashier, and he
hasn’t stopped moving since.
By the time he was featured in this 2011 video, he’d earned
10 promotions. After that, he lost count.
“I’ve had many careers within the same company,” he said, reciting
every title he has held, which comes to about 16.
His ambition has taken him from cashier to department
manager to a role leading education for other associates and many – many – points
in between. In the summer of 2015, he began helping to support the rollout and
day-to-day operations of online
grocery, which includes store
pickup and home
delivery – a job that he says is his favorite thus far.
“It’s a completely new way of us serving the customer,” he
said. “I equate it with being the supercenter of this generation. It’s a game
changer for stores and for our customers.”
As Nick moved up in the company, he also moved around. “One
of the great things is you get to experience different people and the company
in different geographies,” he said.
He transferred from Northeast Wisconsin to Minneapolis for
college, then worked in Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Princeton, New
Jersey; Boston; and Scottsdale, Arizona. He now calls San Bruno, California,
Like Brother, Like
Nick’s drive can only be matched by that of his sister,
Jessica Crow. It took her only five years to do what he did in 17 years, Nick
said with pride and a bit of brotherly frustration.
“We’re kind of in competition,” he said, “and I’ve got to
tell you, I’m struggling to keep ahead. She’s told me several times she wants
Jessica joined the military after college and served in Iraq
and Afghanistan. When she returned to the States, she toured the country with
the Pentagon to share her experiences.
Despite what she’d gained in the military, finding a
satisfying job in the private sector was difficult, Nick said. She worked in
logistics but didn’t feel happy or challenged. That’s when Nick offered to share
her resume within Walmart. But, he told her he wouldn’t push it: Getting hired
was up to her.
It wasn’t long before Jessica was offered the position of
developmental store manager. She made it to store manager in three months and moved
to a new store after a year and half. A few promotions later, she is now a
divisional manager – also surpassing the story she shared in this 2013 video.
After talking about his sister, Nick was quick to point out,
“My story isn’t unique – it’s one of many, many stories of Walmart associates.
Not everyone has had a chance to tell their story.”
Nick doesn’t want his story to end here. He achieved his
last goal of joining the e-commerce team, and now he’s setting his sights on Walmart
International, the one area he says he hasn’t yet touched. For now, Nick
sees himself sticking with online
grocery for the next five years or more – if he can keep his sister at bay.
“I’m just worried about my job,” he joked.
The following conversation with Walmart CEO Doug
McMillon is excerpted from our 2016 Annual Report, which was released today.
Read the report.
now living in a new period of retail disruption, largely driven by rapid
technological advances, and that change is likely to accelerate even further. What
does the future look like for Walmart?
work starts and ends with the customer. Technology has changed customer
expectations. Customers used to compare us with the store down the street; now
they compare us with the best online shopping experience. And beyond retail, they
compare us with every business they interact with in their lives. They compare
our pickup experience to the speed and friendliness of the best drive-through.
They compare our checkout process to the ease of paying with an app.
Customers should be able to shop on
their own terms – in a great store or club, with a quick pickup stop on the way
home from work, or with items reliably arriving at the front door. And
customers want to have some money left over to put toward their priorities: an
experience together as a family, a special gift every once in a while, or
savings for a rainy day.
Retail is not just about putting items
on a shelf anymore. It’s about fighting for our customers, cutting out the
hassles and advocating for them on price, too. We’re moving beyond just selling
products to being the brand customers rely on to make their lives simpler and
more meaningful as they save money.
mentioned “seamless shopping” before. What does that mean, and how will Walmart
A: It starts with unparalleled assets
that only Walmart has – our 2.3 million people; more than 11,500 retail locations;
e-commerce websites and apps; and a dynamic, optimized supply chain. But it
also requires new capabilities and fresh thinking.
This includes new digital tools for
customers and frontline associates, as well as back-end software and platform
work that benefits the entire enterprise. The use of data, algorithms, advanced
forecasting capabilities – and more – is of extreme strategic significance.
We will put these pieces together in a
way no one else can.
Ultimately, customers don’t care about
what channel they’re shopping in, or about how we deliver them a product or
service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart.
Q: What is
Walmart already doing to make progress against this seamless shopping strategy?
help our associates succeed and better serve our customers, we’ve made big
changes – including investing approximately $2.7 billion over two years in
higher wages, education and training to make Walmart U.S. a better place to work
and shop. We’re already seeing positive results: our fourth quarter of fiscal
2016 marked six consecutive quarters of positive comps and five straight
quarters of positive traffic at Walmart U.S. Everything we’re doing in
omnichannel depends on customers having great interactions with us in our
We're also accelerating e-commerce and
technology advances globally. We expanded Online Grocery shopping to new
markets, ramped up in-store and in-club pickup, fully acquired the Chinese online
retailer Yihaodian, and began to add new mobile services such as Walmart Pay.
We developed a technology platform that we can scale across the business. We
improved our fulfillment capabilities with new centers that are helping us get
orders to customers’ doors faster and more efficiently.
clear what these strategic investments mean for customers. How will they affect
associates and the communities where Walmart operates?
A: As we work to win with our customers, we will also create a great place to
work. We will create tremendous opportunities for people from all walks of
life, with all kinds of skill sets and education levels. We’re striving to
create a true meritocracy. No matter where you start from or what your unique
and special characteristics are, you can fulfill your potential here. We
believe in opportunity and that hard work, dedication and talent should be
We will also use our size, mindset and
policies and help make the world a better place. We create opportunity
throughout our global supply chain – on farms and in factories, by buying more
from women-owned businesses, by hiring veterans and by strengthening the retail
We work to be more sustainable, both
in our own operations and in our supply chain. We have three big goals:
creating zero waste, running on 100 percent renewable energy and selling products
that sustain people and the environment. And we give back to the communities we
serve – supporting American manufacturing, preparing for and responding to
natural disasters and fighting hunger.
does this growth plan mean for investors?
A: We will win with a differentiated, disruptive strategyand a foundation
of operational excellence. As we do, we believe shareholders will benefit by
receiving above-average returns.
Although this will be another year of foundational
investments, we believe we will soon be growing faster than the retail market.
We are a growth company; we just happen to be a large one.
The road ahead will not always be
easy, but by being customer focused, hungry, fast and accountable, we will win
and have a good time doing it.