Finding Practicality In Sustainability
by Adi Ignatius, Harvard Business Review
Posted: 2017-11-22 16:05:34 EST

McMillon talked with HBR about his company’s sustainability efforts as part of The Future Economy Project, an HBR initiative that shares real-world lessons on sustainability leadership for all.

HBR: What was the moment you decided that climate issues were going to be part of your portfolio of concerns as an executive?

MCMILLON: This shift in thinking goes back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, our CEO, Lee Scott, challenged us to step up in a big way, and we did. Walmart was an unexpected early responder there, providing more than 2,400 truckloads of supplies and 100 truckloads of donated goods while pitching in to help coordinate relief efforts on the ground. As that happened, a sense of pride emerged and we saw how our size and scale (we were still getting used to being a big company) could be used for good. Lee asked us, “What if we could be that kind of company all the time?” That set us on a new course.

We started listening to our critics rather than being defensive. We started learning about social and environmental sustainability, and we began to see an overlap between doing good and succeeding financially. We set some big goals: to be powered by 100% renewable energy, create zero waste, and sell products that sustain people and the environment.

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