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Walmart Accelerates Regenerative Strategy

Company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville, Ark., sparks change
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Walmart Home Office
Walmart's core values were on display during the company’s recent annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville, Ark.

Driving into the parking lot of Walmart’s innovation hub, Store 100, near the company’s home office in Bentonville, Ark., shoppers might focus on the flying machines in the sky: large white drones lifting off a platform near the curbside pickup area, carrying rotisserie chicken or ice cream for customers in the neighborhood who want 30-minute delivery. 

But when they park their cars and walk into the store, something even more innovative comes into view: a sign that reads: “Spark Change.” Under those words are key tenets of the retailer’s regenerative value proposition: “Creating opportunity,” “Advancing sustainability” and “Strengthening community.” These three core values were on display during the company’s recent annual shareholders’ meeting in Bentonville.

[Read more: "Walmart Opens Largest Fulfillment Center in Indiana"]

More than a dozen executives took turns on the stage during a three-day media event focused on, among other themes, how Walmart is creating opportunity — or speeding up the supply chain — by leveraging technology in every part of the enterprise, from the aforementioned drone delivery to launching what it calls Market Fulfillment Centers to expanding its use of generative AI.

“Walmart has always done the EDLP/EDLC flywheel. But as we think about some new businesses that are contributing to the flywheel in different ways, they are going to create a different balance sheet for the company,” said Dan Bartlett, EVP, corporate affairs. “I think what we’re showing over the last several years is that we have a core advantage and we’re taking advantage of that core advantage, which is being approximate in communities.”

Core Values on Display

As for advancing sustainability, the retailer made a lot of news during shareholders week by announcing that it will transition from plastic to recyclable paper mailers, right-size cardboard box packaging, give customers the option to consolidate shipping on e-commerce orders, allow them to opt out of single-use plastic bags for online pickup orders, and increase last-mile delivery efficiencies to reduce mileage and delivery times. The paper mailer transition is expected to eliminate 65 million plastic bag mailers, or more than 2,000 tons of plastic from circulation in the United States by the end of the current fiscal year. 

“Customers have told us how excited they are about these enhancements to make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices that support the planet and the next generation,” said Karisa Sprague, SVP, fulfillment network operations, Walmart U.S.

Additionally, all Walmart customers shopping online can now request consolidation of multiple items into fewer boxes, reducing waste as well as the number of shipments. All of these changes, powered by technology, are emblematic of how the retailer is doubling down on its commitment to becoming a more regenerative retailer.

Walmart also made a move related to its core value in regard to community by increasing wages and benefits for pharmacists and opticians; these health care workers, pharmacists especially, are becoming increasingly scarce and at the same time more important in communities across the United States. The average annual salary for Walmart pharmacists will now be more than $140,000, not including bonuses and incentives. In addition, Walmart is also raising the pay for its more than 4,000 opticians to more than $22.50 an hour. 

For the thousands of Walmart associates celebrating in Bentonville and the millions of associates around the world executing on that purpose, as long as the company they work for continues its focus on creating the kind of change that makes the world a better (and cheaper) place, the future looks bright indeed. 

[Coming Soon: Progressive Grocer's exclusive 5-part series taking an inside look at Walmart's new transformation strategies.]

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