How Walmart associates put the 'U' and 'I' into sustainability

Walmart has taken seriously the task of making the global supply chain more sustainable, but also helping its own associates make sustainability-conscious choices in their lives. The tale of Walmart’s personal sustainability initiative for employees began in 2007, when an associate pilot program boasted impressive results. Within the first few years, the company saw 20,000 U.S. associates kick their smoking habits; recycle three million pounds of plastic; and, as a group, shed a collective 184,000 pounds from their bodies.

Walmart (full disclosure: a client of my firm, Weinreb Group) quickly figured out it was onto something big. With 1.4 million U.S. employees and 2.2 million globally, Walmart associates’ collective action has the potential to be a real game changer in positive behavioral change for themselves, their families, as well as the 200 million customers they serve each week. 

Building MSP

First referred to as their Personal Sustainability Projects, Walmart’s employee sustainability program has since transformed into My Sustainability Plan (MSP) with the guidance of consultancy BBMG. When brought on in 2010, BBMG’s objective was to build a comprehensive guide that would provide easy, incremental and realistic steps for companies to better engage their workforce in order to advance sustainability initiatives.

Under a tight three-month deadline, BBMG was tasked with shaping a global brand identity for MSP by conducting in-depth brand immersion training, planning sessions, retail store and distribution center site visits, internal stakeholder interviews, workshops and observational research. 

Happy Employees = Happy Employer

MSP is a win-win for both the Walmart associate and the company at large. Employees who feel valued, engaged and cared about are said to be more productive and loyal to their employer. 

As a recruiter, I am well aware of the value of an employee. Retaining valuable employees is a worthwhile investment. The estimated cost of turnover includes training, interviewing and lost productivity, just to cite some examples. According to whether you want a conservative or a generous estimate, the cost of turnover can range from 30 percent to 400 percent of a full year’s salary. Walmart saves in their pocketbook and on the clock with MSP. BBMG founding partner Mitch Baranowski articulates this employer advantage: "With younger employees increasingly committed to sustainability as a way of life, organizations that invest in such engagement programs will enjoy better recruitment, higher retention and higher morale." 

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