Working toward and achieving racial equity is critical for our collective future. Without it, there is no moving forward to be the best we can be as a society. Today, many corporations understand that they need to be a part of the solution. Walmart is one of them. Committing to advancing racial equity is essential to Walmart’s core mission, and in 2020 it made its societal impact an even greater priority by expanding its commitment to racial equity.
“It’s safe to say 2020 didn’t unfold the way many of us planned. The global pandemic, murder of George Floyd, and civil unrest changed the game for most corporations – including Walmart,” said Ben Hasan, Senior Vice President, and Global Chief Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, in Walmart’s 2020 Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion report.
Expanding Societal Impact: One Year Later
In June 2020, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation committed $100 million over five years through the new Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity to address racial disparities in the United States in the national social systems of health, finance, education and criminal justice, with a keen focus on Black and African American communities. To mark a year since establishing the Center, Walmart recently came together for an inaugural Milestone Meeting, where the Center team and Walmart business leaders shared their progress advancing racial equity.
“While I’m encouraged by the meaningful progress made in just one year, my focus remains on the work that still needs to be done. This is just the beginning,” said Kirstie Sims, Senior Director, Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. “We must continue to learn, grow and innovate with the same focus and fervor we have this year.”
Identifying Shared Value for Progress
Over the past year, Walmart has been going beyond philanthropy by also using its business. The company created dedicated teams to identify where the business can advance racial equity within the four societal systems.
After six months of discovery work, these teams, called Shared Value Networks, identified pillars of focus where the business has natural capabilities across products, services, technology, sourcing, jobs and advancement to shape systems toward more equitable outcomes. These efforts are based on Walmart’s shared value approach, which means they not only benefit the business’ bottom line, but also create shared value for Walmart’s customers and society overall.
One of the first fruits of the education SVN’s work was a collaboration with North Carolina A&T State University, powered by a $5 million commitment from Walmart, to fund the Equity in Education Initiative. The program is aimed at increasing the number of African American college graduates securing careers in fields critical to the nation’s workforce.
Each SVN aligns with one of the Center for Racial Equity’s central focus areas of criminal justice, education, finance, and health. The Center and the SVNs have worked together to identify how the $100 million in philanthropy can capitalize on the societal impact of existing business initiatives and make a meaningful difference.
Sowing Seeds of Impact
The Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity has begun distributing initial grants over the past year. In February 2021, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation distributed the first $14.3 million in grants to 16 organizations, such as:
- The Walmart Foundation’s support of the American Heart Association Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund’s advancement of community-driven entrepreneurial solutions will support organizations in Chicago and Atlanta expanding access to affordable, healthy food.
- The Student Freedom Initiative’s program for student loan and debt reduction will help STEM leaders from historically Black colleges and universities access alternative financing thanks to a grant from the Walmart Foundation.
- Walmart is supporting the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Chicago Project 10X, which is advancing racial equity across health, wealth, and opportunity.
- Social entrepreneurs in communities across the U.S. can grow their organizations’ abilities to advance racial equity work through a Walmart Foundation grant awarded to Echoing Green’s Racial Equity Philanthropic Fund.
What Lies Ahead
Walmart.org’s Center for Racial Equity is only getting started in its efforts to shatter inequity with a clear directive to drive long-term change and advance equity at scale. And, from what we are seeing, the harvest promises to be bountiful.
“There is a long road ahead,” Sims said. “But my hope is that the work we do through our business and the Center, in conjunction with others, will serve as a catalyst and that these efforts, along with the work of many others, will get to the root of systemic racism, sustaining over time and making impact for generations to come.”