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Walmart announces big-money racial equity initiatives

Paul Best

Walmart executives are planning several company initiatives to increase racial equity at the retail behemoth.

The company plans to work with minority-owned suppliers, deepen ties to historically black colleges, increase access to health care, work to hire nonviolent felons and develop a more inclusive company, CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a memo posted to the Walmart website.

“Black Lives Matter. It is all our responsibilities to embrace that fact in what we say and what we do," McMillion wrote. "There’s no way to live our values if we don’t."

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The memo was a follow-up to a company-wide virtual meeting last week at which racial equality at Walmart was discussed. McMillon's memo highlighted how the company has made increasing diversity within its ranks of associates and managers a priority and how it will continue to do so.

"Of course, we need to go further in hiring Black and African American associates across all levels and positions," McMillon wrote. "And we need to ensure they are remaining with us and growing in their careers."

The memo also encouraged Walmart employees to start taking immediate action by listening to their colleagues and learning from them to stem a number of microaggressions that have the ability to pile up when black and minority employees stay silent about them.

"How can you, as an anti-racist ally, create an environment where Blacks and African Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ, those with disabilities and women, don’t feel it’s a big decision to speak up?" McMillon wrote. "Let’s create a supportive, trustful environment where people can share how they’re feeling, so 'small' issues don’t stack."

Walmart faced controversy this week because some stores placed “multicultural hair and beauty products” in locked cases, which many African American customers said was discriminatory. The company announced Thursday that it had discontinued the practice.

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The memo was published after the Arkansas-based company announced last week that it is donating $100 million through a new center on racial equity. The company has also joined a growing list of businesses that have announced big-dollar donations to racial equity initiatives in the wake of George Floyd's killing while he was in police custody and the protests against racism and policing that have swept the country since.

APPLE PLEDGES $100M TO FIGHT RACIAL INJUSTICE

Supermarkets like Publix and Kroger have announced millions of dollars in donations while tech titans have taken the lead in the private sector. Apple announced a $100 million commitment Thursday to a new “Racial Equity and Justice Initiative.” YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki announced on Thursday a $100 million commitment to “amplify” black voices, and Facebook and Amazon have both promised $10 million to organizations supporting racial justice.

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Walmart's five initiatives are:

Financial System

Walmart plans to examine its financial and business practices to identify greater opportunities for minority-owned businesses to identify opportunities to influence how access to capital works beyond Walmart.

Health care

Walmart plans to explore ways to provide greater access to better health and wellness through its businesses such as pharmacies, digital capabilities and Walmart Health Clinics. The initiative will be focused on customers and associates.

Education

Walmart plans to strengthen academic support and create broader and deeper ties through its recruiting programs with historically black colleges and universities.

Criminal Justice

Walmart plans to review and evolve its recruiting and hiring practices to ensure nonviolent, formerly incarcerated applicants are appropriately considered as they reenter the workforce and focus on successfully onboarding those associates.

Inclusion

Walmart plans to continue to build a more inclusive company globally.

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