Walmart to invest $24 million in local giving to engage, empower communities

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 757 views 

Walmart U.S. said it is making $24 million available in additional funds to stores (for giving) across the U.S. The engagement program called Walmart Rise is aimed at creating new and different ways to engage Walmart employees and customers in supporting communities. The announcement was made in connection with the retail giant’s annual shareholders’ week in Bentonville and the surrounding region.

The kickoff for the program will give an additional $5,000 to every Walmart store and distribution center across the U.S. this year, totaling over $24 million, to help spark change in their local communities. The community funds are designed to boost Walmart’s expected local community grant giving to nearly $70 million in this fiscal year.

“We’ve been on a journey over the last few years to strengthen our business. It started with investing in education, training and wages for our people. We’ve invested in our stores and eCommerce and delivered lower prices to our customers. Now, we’re focused on further strengthening our role in communities, transforming our community giving and deepening our local relationships,” said Greg Foran, president and CEO, Walmart U.S.

“Through our Walmart Rise initiative, we will create a spark in our stores that makes Walmart a special place for our customers and associates. That spark can also bring about positive change in our communities the way it does in our stores, and we are taking action to make it happen,” Foran added.

Foran said facility managers will be asked to engage employees in making a positive impact in their communities as they will help decide how the $5,000 is invested. The employees may be encouraged to decide which causes will have the most impact in their neighborhood. Walmart already gives in a variety of ways to neighborhoods with food gifts to soup kitchens and homeless shelters in addition to projects to help elders and also clean-up projects.

These will be one-time $5,000 per facility gifts that build on Walmart’s ongoing community effort. Foran said this investment is a catalyst and just the first initiative for the Walmart Rise program. Other initiatives will be rolled out throughout this year, though Foran gave no additional details.

“We’re part of neighborhoods and communities across the country, 4,800 of them. The role Walmart and our associates play in communities is an important part of our company’s heritage and a source of pride for us,” Foran said. “The spark we create makes a big difference to the communities where we have stores, and where our customers and associates live. We believe it’s a competitive advantage for us to support our communities while we provide convenient access to affordable, healthy food, good jobs, disaster relief and support for local causes our customers and associates care about.”

Walmart said last year, the company gave more than $42 million in local grants, provided over 3 million free health screenings and donated more than 640 million pounds of food to local food banks, over 55% of which were fruits, vegetables and meats. Additionally, associates volunteered 776,000 hours to organizations in their communities.

Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Walmart, spoke to the media about the retailer’s role in creating more equilibrium within the world’s economy. She said Walmart believes in the power of shared value with partners such as suppliers, government and civil societies. She said there are three levels of shared value at Walmart.

Level 1 is providing products and services that meet societal needs with affordable, safe foods. Level 2 is improving the operating model with initiatives like renewable energy projects and expanding employee education opportunities. Level 3 is strengthening societal needs, which Walmart said it does by supporting and strengthening supply chains and through workforce development aimed at creating a pipeline of talent to run the business in the next 20 years.

McLaughlin said the shared value approach is something the executive team talks about regularly and applies across the entire business.

McLaughlin said the Level 3 engagement in workforce development has helped to support 19 quarters of positive comp sales and reduced worker turnover.

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