The following are prepared remarks for Walmart CEO Doug McMillon during the company’s June 5, 2020, Friday Afternoon Meeting.
Hello everyone and welcome to our Friday afternoon meeting. This first week of June is very different for us this year. Our original plan for today’s meeting was to replicate, to the extent possible, the type of associate celebration we have in Bud Walton Arena.
But, as we all know, we are leading through an unprecedented global health crisis, a challenging economic period, and in the United States, we are painfully struggling with long-standing and deep-seated issues related to injustice, inequality and fairness.
For those of you participating from around the world, today’s conversation will, at times, focus on what’s happening in America, but I believe the challenges, opportunities and solutions are applicable around the world where there is injustice and unfairness.
For all of our associates, we are thankful for the dedication and hard work you’ve poured into this demanding year and we will spend time during this meeting to show our gratitude.
The murder of George Floyd is tragic, painful, and unacceptable. His death is not an isolated event. We remember Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other Black Americans who have been killed. It’s important that we all understand that our problems, as a nation, run much deeper than one horrible event. Our nation has failed to fully acknowledge and resolve the root issues. Slavery, lynching, the concept of separate but equal and the other realities from our past have morphed into a set of systems today that are all too often, unjust. That’s why we see so many people mobilized and that’s why we see a diverse group of Americans joining the protest.
Walmart has over 340,000 Black and African American associates in the United States. Over the past few days, I’ve personally heard from many of our associates, leaders and members of the Walmart community. Overwhelmingly, people are hurting. There is an intense sense of pain, fatigue, and frustration. Let me say clearly to our Black and African American associates and communities, we hear you. We see you. I want you to know you are valued. You are loved members of our family. We need you to know you are not hurting alone. That I and others are hurting with you.
So, what now? Where do we go from here? Until we, as a nation, confront and address these hard realities, we will never achieve the best of what we can be.
What does this mean for us…for Walmart? Words and feelings matter but they are not enough. More action is required. We will find new ways to accelerate the desired changes inside our company and we will also find the ways that our business can influence real change in our country.
Because we want to address systematic racism in society head-on and accelerate change, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committing $100 million to create a new center on racial equity. Through this $100 million commitment, the center will support philanthropic initiatives that align with four key areas: the nation’s financial, healthcare, education, and criminal justice systems. The goal of the center is to help advance economic opportunity and healthier living, including issues surrounding the social determinants of health, strengthening workforce development and related educational systems, and support criminal justice reform with an emphasis on examining barriers to opportunity faced by those exiting the system.
To influence and lead change, we are going to use the power of Walmart to invest resources and develop strategies to increase fairness, equity, and justice in aspects of everyday life. We will find the natural overlaps between Walmart’s core business and society’s larger needs that perpetuate racism and discrimination. We will take actions to influence them in a positive direction, consistent with our human values of decency and equity. These will align with the four priority areas I mentioned a moment ago.
In our own financial and business practices, we will identify overlaps in areas like minority supplier and marketplace seller development, driving level playing fields and economic access to minority owned businesses.
In healthcare, providing greater accessibility to better health and wellness through our existing health and wellness businesses, increasingly our Walmart Health Clinics as we grow them and our digital wellness efforts which will also grow.
In education, strengthening our academic support efforts such as Live Better U and creating broader and deeper ties through our recruiting programs with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
And we will do our part by reviewing and evolving our hiring process to ensure non-violent, formerly incarcerated applicants are appropriately considered as they enter the workforce.
We’ll approach this work by dedicating teams to identify the places where our business overlaps with these systems and we’ll adjust our practices to positively influence those systems. These four highly focused teams will find the right places to lean in and develop strategies for us to get the work done. We’ll weave those strategies into our everyday work as we’ve done with our sustainability efforts. We’ve already begun identifying the leaders for each of these 4 focus areas and you’ll hear more about the teams and plans soon.
Within the Walmart family, we will continue to focus on our own culture of fairness and equity consistent with our value of Respect for the Individual. It has always been a priority to recruit, develop, and support African Americans and people of color. We need each of you to actively work with us to bring in great talent to the company. Exercise your voice to make Walmart even better at mentoring and sponsoring talented associates in their development to attain leadership roles. Introduce Walmart to new partnerships and relationships.
My expectation is that each of you will truly and authentically embrace the diversity of our Walmart team. We must work together to actively shape our culture to be more inclusive, not just accepting our differences…but celebrating them…every day…in every part of the company. For our leaders, if you can’t lead this way, you’ll need to find somewhere else to work because you don’t share our values.
The change and journey ahead of us is personally important to me. As chairman of the Business Roundtable, which is comprised of over 200 of America’s largest companies, I’ve spoken with a lot of CEOs this past week, and I can confirm they are committed and passionate about the work in front of us. We’ve agreed to work to change the four systems I mentioned earlier to increase access, equity, and fairness. It won’t just be Walmart doing this work.
And it can’t just be Walmart doing this work because the challenges are deep and systematic, and so the solutions need to be broad and societal. Like all of our sustainability efforts, social justice and equity are essential parts of our core business. Just like with a healthy planet, without a healthy society there is no core business. It’s all connected. We’re all connected. All these systems overlap.
And we’re seeing what happens when we – as a country – fail to address root causes. Frustrations build and can turn into anger. And that anger will eventually be expressed – as we’ve seen as some of our stores have been looted and damaged. I’m troubled by the small percentage of people who have chosen to use the protests for violent and destructive ends. They have brought wreckage, injury, and even death. Those effects are significant and will have a lasting impact on individuals and communities, including many small businesses. Thankfully, we haven’t had any associate injuries.
Please understand, we are with the vast, vast majority of people who are expressing themselves clearly and peacefully. Because, like them, we understand this is about people and their fundamental rights and dignity. The work is about our families and friends, our kids and grandkids. Ultimately, the work is about answering the question: What kind of world do we want to leave them?
Know that the change we’re seeking and the work we’ll do are important to me personally and to our leadership team. I know we can make a bigger difference. We are a company that gets things done. We make things happen. Let’s broaden and strengthen our plan. Let’s get to work and let’s do it together.