Sustainability and the Importance of Engaging Everyone

walmart meeting photo

Image courtesy of Walmart
This guest post was written by Shannon Frederick, director of global association communications for Walmart.

What does sustainability mean to you? Before you answer, shift your thinking from a business point-of-view to your personal life. Maybe it's reducing your impact on the environment by recycling, conserving water or making your home more energy efficient. Perhaps it's giving up smoking, eating healthier or getting more physical activity. Your idea of sustainability may even involve getting a better handle on your personal finances, volunteering in your community or spending more time with the people you love. At Walmart, personal sustainability means all of this and more. In short, we think sustainability is all about living better.

We have more than 2 million employees—or associates as we call them—around the globe serving more than 200 million customers a week. With that level of reach, we have the potential to sell products and create programs that sustain people and the environment.

As sustainability has become a standard part of the next generation Walmart business model, our associates have begun making sustainability part of their daily lives. And they're very passionate about it. That's why we've introduced a new global program, My Sustainability Plan (MSP), to help engage and support our associates who want to choose an activity that will allow them to become more sustainable.

MSP was built for and by associates. When we started the process, we didn't really have a pre-determined definition of personal sustainability, so we asked our associates for their input. Our founder, Sam Walton, said you should listen to your associates because they're your best idea generators. Associates from around the world told us what sustainability means to them, and their feedback became the framework for the MSP program.

In the end, our associates who live and work in 15 countries that span the globe defined personal sustainability through 12 focus areas in three broad categories:

My HealthMy PlanetMy Life
Eat healthySave waterLearn new skills
Get activeReduce wasteManage my money
Quit tobaccoSave energyMake quality time
Reduce stressEnjoy natureHelp others

How MSP Works

Associates can choose as many goals as they like and track their progress online. In the US, they can visit our internal social networking site,, to select and track their goals. This allows associates to connect with colleagues to provide encouragement and inspiration, or even spark some spirited competition among friends, stores, or even entire divisions. In addition, this format allows everyone to understand how their individual actions—when combined with those of their 2 million colleagues—add up to make a world of difference.

Eventually, all associates around the globe will be able to participate in MSP online. The program is already gaining momentum in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. The program is set to launch in additional markets in the coming months.

Thousands of associates have chosen goals, and we're seeing trends in the U.S. that focus on getting healthy. The top goals in America are adding 30 minutes of daily physical activity; quitting tobacco; eating a healthy breakfast; and cooking meals at home. In contrast, associates in Canada are more focused on green initiatives, including saving energy and water, and in Brazil, associates are interested in improving their communities and spending time with family.

When we first piloted an associate sustainability program in 2007, during just the first few months nearly 20,000 U.S. associates quit smoking; together they recycled 3 million pounds of plastic; as a group, they lost more than 184,000 pounds; and walked, biked or swam more than 1.1 million miles—the distance of at least two trips to the moon.

We know the passion is there. By making MSP available globally, we're realizing the positive impact our associates can have on the planet and in society.

Participation in MSP is voluntary, and the number of associates that have signed up tells us they like the program and want to make sustainability personal. Today the focus is on creating opportunities for our associates to live better.

What makes MSP so great is that anyone can get involved. MSP isn't really about working at Walmart or using an online tool to track your progress. What it's really all about is making a personal commitment to be healthier, greener or more active in your own community. It's about making the world a better place for yourself and people around you. It's about living better.

Read more about sustainability at Walmart:
Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever to Happen to Retail?
Walmart's Sustainability Initiatives Explained
Walmart's SVP of Sustainability Fills in a Few More Details on Their 20 Million Ton GHG Reduction Plan

Sustainability and the Importance of Engaging Everyone
What does sustainability mean to you? Before you answer, shift your thinking from a business point-of-view to your