Walmart's New CEO Doug McMillon - What does it mean for sustainability?

Doug McMillon.jpg

Just before Thanksgiving, Walmart announced that Doug McMillon will become its new President and Chief Executive on Feb 1, 2014. Doug, 47, has worked his way up the Walmart hierarchy since he joined the company as a teen.

What does this shift in Walmart leadership mean for the company's sustainability priorities? We scoured the internet for insight into Doug's take on sustainability and Walmart's role in shifting public policy, supply chain practices, and operational performance in regard to environmental and social sustainability. There were lots of interviews and articles that touched on Doug's support for sustainability, but none revealed his deeper views. Then we found a 1-hour interview from June 2012 in the C-SPAN video library, in which Doug McMillon opines on a range of ethical, governance, and sustainability issues.

Watch the interview here. (Unfortunately, C-SPAN won't allow us to embed it.)

What we liked, in particular:

  • A focus on organizational values and culture, as well as Walmart's model which moves internal leaders around the organization every 1-3 years so that they gain an understanding that expands beyond their current silo of expertise.
  • A Balancing of the store portfolio--including developing smaller (and tiny!) store footprints for places that don't need and can't support a 'mega-store" size most commonly in the United States.

What we didn't hear:

  • Any discussion of consumerism and over-consumption. In light of Walmart's focus on expanding internationally, we were especially surprised that there wasn't any mention of balancing their competing priorities- "meeting people's needs" and "creating a culture of buying cheap, disposable stuff".

In short, we didn't hear anything that makes us believe that Walmart's sustainability strategy will radically change with its new CEO at the helm in 2014. Do you agree with us? Or did we miss something? Leave us a comment below, or tell us on Twitter!


Make Walmart Proud – Five Things That Will Set You Apart from Other Suppliers


In 2010, SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, highlighted certain things that SSC was guiding its clients to do in order to make them stand out from other Walmart Suppliers.  In 2013, SSC still stands by its list:

#1: Think critically about climate change risk.  

More than 40% of suppliers reporting to CDP haven’t yet made the connection.  And it’s there…for so many reasons.  Energy price volatility, increasing unpredictability of weather patterns (and thus agriculture growing seasons), increasing consumer awareness, supplier requirements, regulatory changes for environmental permitting, FTC changes to green advertising, the list goes on and on and on…

#2: Set a reduction target – and be SPECIFIC. 

About two thirds of suppliers are currently unable to articulate clear and detailed reduction targets.  (Want to REALLY stand out?  Create absolute reduction targets – not just those tagged to production/sales intensity.)

#3: Make your carbon data and strategies public.

Less than half of suppliers are currently transparent with their stakeholders about their carbon impacts.  Create an annual sustainability report.  Take your CDP report and MAKE IT PUBLIC.  You’ve already done the work – now reap the benefits of radical transparency.

#4: Assign responsibility for carbon management to a top executive. 

Only 60% of suppliers currently have that kind of senior accountability.  Just make sure that with responsibility comes accountability – can you tie the annual bonus to carbon reduction?

#5: Provide incentives for employees to contribute to carbon reduction plans.

Do this and you will be an instant leader, since less than a third of companies are actively engaging their employees on emissions reductions plan.  Make it in their interest to find ways to meet the corporate carbon targets – they are your best resource…use them!

CDP Reporting can be overwhelming the first time around, and an experienced consultant can go a long way to easing the pain of that first report. Specifically, a sustainability consultant can help translate some of the industry jargon (“Scope 2 emissions”) into easy-to-understand pieces (“ahh, they’re talking about purchased electricity…that’s easy!”).  And remember, it’s equally important to have accurate, verifiable data AND be able to articulate what that means for your company.  Data + strategy = a happy Walmart.

This summer, we're sharing the best articles from the SSC website, going back eight years. The article above was originally posted on February 5, 2010. We'll be back in September with all new content. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about SSC, or working with an SSC consultant, please contact us!