Walmart and foundation commit $100 million toward diversity efforts

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,364 views 

On the day Walmart would have normally held its star-studded shareholder’s celebration CEO Doug McMillon met virtually with employees to announce a $100 million commitment the retail giant and its foundation is making over five years through a new center on racial equity.

Walmart gave no details on the center’s location or who will oversee the initiative, saying only more information will be shared soon.

McMillon said in Walmart’s 50-plus years the world’s challenges continue to grow. This year the retailer first faced a global health crisis, and then the racial violence in the U.S. in the aftermath of the “tragic, painful and unacceptable” murder of George Floyd. He said the fight toward greater racial equity is one Walmart will make inside and out of the company.

“Inside the company, our work to recruit, develop and support African Americans and other people of color will be even more of a priority. We need each of you to actively partner to identify and work with your leaders to bring in great talent to the company. We want all of you to exercise your voice to make every part of our company even better,” McMillon said.

He said to influence and lead change in society more broadly, Walmart will invest in resources and develop strategies to increase fairness, equity and justice in aspects of everyday life. McMillon said the goal is to address systematic racism in society head-on and accelerate change. The center will seek to 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.

A review of Walmart’s top 10 executive officers and 36 other executive officers within the company show there are four blacks including Ben-Saba Hasan who is the chief culture, diversity and inclusion officer. Women comprise 13 of the 46 officer roles. Latriece Watkins is the only black woman among the 46 officers named on the company’s website.

Walmart’s board has nine directors which include three women in Sarah Friar, Marissa Mayer and Carla Harris, who is also the only black director. The board has one Hispanic member with Cesar Conde. Three of the 10 directors are Waltons or related to the family.

During Walmart’s formal business meeting for shareholders held virtually on June 3, Cat Davis, a 12-year Walmart employee, shared her personal story of sexual harassment while on the job. Davis spoke in favor of a shareholder proposal for a more comprehensive sexual harassment policy. The proposal did not pass. Davis then asked Walmart how the company is addressing the pressing issue of systemic racism.

“Walmart is the largest employer of black people in the U.S. and has failed to protect its workforce and its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted Black communities disproportionately due to systemic racism. Now there is an outbreak of police violence targeting black people including workers, customers and our families. What is management and the board of Walmart doing to keep black workers and black shoppers safe in our communities and to address systemic racism? How is the board managing these risks,” Davis asked of Walmart in her June 3 social media plea as a member of United for Respect.

Target on Friday (June 5) announced a $10 million commitment to support long-standing partners like the National Urban League and the African American Leadership Forum and new partners in Minneapolis and across the country. Target also will provide 10,000 hours of pro-bono consulting services for black and people of color-owned small businesses, helping with rebuilding efforts. The retailer said it will also continue to provide essentials like baby formula, diapers and medicine to communities most in need.

“We’ll offer our guests, through Target Circle, our loyalty program, the option to direct Target funds to local nonprofits and include organizations supporting social justice. We’ll continue to work with our communities and partners to address long-standing systemic issues to promote equity that enables shared prosperity and opportunity for all,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said Friday.

United For Respect said the major retailers have much to do to address racial equality issues.

“Amazon, Walmart, and Wall Street firms that own dozens of retail companies have failed to come out clearly and strongly against anti-Black racism and violence. Walmart, the largest employer of Black people in the country, released a public statement denouncing violence but failed to name anti-Black violence. Wall Street and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos continue to remain silent,” according to UFR. “We want to be clear—until Black people have economic stability and are free to live their best lives without fear of being killed, then none of us will be free. This is our fight too and we will stand together for Black lives in all corners of our work and our communities.”