retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon weighed in yesterday, via a USA Today op-ed piece, on the role that businesses need to play in addressing social justice issues in the US, speaking specifically in his role as chairman of the Business Roundtable.

An excerpt:

"As anybody who’s had to move something of significant weight knows, sheer force won’t do the job. The great achievements of ancient societies were built using levers and fulcrums. That’s how great weights were moved and used to build and create.

"The business community has worked over the years to help move the weight of racism that presses on people of color and their communities; we’ve tried to help shift the balance and build something new.

"But it’s clear we need to do more. It's also clear that we, alone, can’t accomplish what has to be done. It will take broad cooperation of leaders from every sector of society working together to create a force sufficient enough to bring about the necessary change. So that’s what we’re doing."

McMillon went on:

"Although racial inequities cut across socioeconomic groups, we’ve concentrated our efforts as large employers on six areas to close the economic opportunity gap. In addition to justice and health, we will endorse increased federal investments in early childhood education and in measures to address the digital divide.

"Roundtable members are working to increase funding for community lenders and to expand access to low-cost financial products to help those who are not served or are underserved by banks. We’re also taking action to increase funding and mentorship for Black and Latino small business owners.

"In the area of employment, we’re calling on companies to report annually on their progress to increase diversity in senior management and on their boards. We’re also launching an initiative to make sure that companies are open to hiring anyone who has the right skills, even if they don’t have a college degree … We’ve endorsed federal legislation to address barriers to successful reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals and to help prepare them to reenter the workforce, which is key to curbing recidivism. 

"Finally, because housing has a direct relationship to wellbeing, opportunity and upward mobility, our members are setting a goal of producing and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units."

McMillon concluded:  "This moment in time is the fulcrum — the pivot point on which the weight of past and future are balanced. With the force of hope, the power of unyielding commitment and the spirit of good, I believe we can move the great weight that not only exerts a relentless downward pressure on Black people but also becomes more unbearable for all of us.

"Once out from under that weight, we can all stand up, together; find strength, together; and build opportunity for all, together."

KC's View:

McMillon also is right about something else - that while these "initiatives are significant," as written, "they carry no more weight than the paper they’re printed on. Any power they have will come from the energy, resources and sustained commitment we put behind them — it will take the full weight of business, in cooperation with other leaders, to drive change. But we must act, and we must act now."

Like my mom used to say:  Actions speak louder than words.  *(She usually said that when my actions did not measure up.)