Walmart’s U.S. CEO Explains How He Approaches Diversity and Inclusion

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, Walmart is still focused on doing better.

At a Monday keynote session at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, which occurred on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Walmart’s U.S. president and CEO John Furner spoke about the company’s progress within its DEI efforts, especially in recent years. Furner was named NRF chairman, taking over the role previously filled by Mike George, the former CEO and president of Qurate Retail Inc.

“This is an industry that is well positioned to be able to help bring [Dr. King’s] vision to life,” Furner said, referring to the collective power of different companies to make a change.

Walmart, like other major retailers and brands, rolled out a series of commitments in June of 2020 to work towards improving racial inequity and diversity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

In June of 2020 Walmart Inc. and its philanthropic arm said it would donate $100 million over five years through a Center for Racial Equity to address racial disparities in the U.S.

“We have to be really transparent,” explained Furner, referring to the importance of measuring and sharing progress. “We need to be open about it.”

Walmart currently reports its progress in DEI on a biannual basis. According to Furner, almost 56% of new hires are currently people of color. 44% of promotions to management are women and almost 39% are people of color, he said.

“We’re going to be open about that and we’re going to be transparent,” Furner said. “We’re going to hold ourselves accountable to making real progress.”

In addition to internal hiring and retention efforts, Furner spoke about Walmart’s “Shared Value Networks,” which brings together Walmart associates and other organizations to work towards advancing racial equity. The groups, which launched in mid-2020, also advise a steering committee, led by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, to discuss potential business initiatives.

Walmart has also committed $3 million to OneTen, a coalition of companies with a goal to promote one million Black employees over ten years.

“As diverse as the country is, our businesses should be the very best of who we are and of our customer base,” Furner said.

As one of the top executives at one of the world’s largest retailers, Furner posed a call to action to other companies in audience with the potential to make a change.

“For every organization that’s here and a part of this, pick something, pick a goal, and find a way that you can measure it,” he said. “The things that we measure are the things that tend to improve.”

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