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Here’s what Walmart CEO Doug McMillon thinks of the pushback against stakeholder capitalism

June 7, 2022, 9:26 AM UTC
Updated June 7, 2022, 8:05 PM UTC

Good morning.

The word “woke” doesn’t attach well to Doug McMillon. The Walmart CEO was born in Memphis, grew up in Arkansas, and started his career at the giant retail company while in high school, loading trucks. “They tend to give the rookies the heavier stuff to lift,” he recalls. “That’s one of the things I learned.”

So the fact that McMillon, who was our guest on this week’s episode of Leadership Next, has emerged as one of the leading advocates of a stakeholder approach to business is worthy of note. In 2020, he committed Walmart to becoming “a regenerative company.” Just in case anyone thinks that’s a meaningless phrase, he moves quickly to actions. On the environment:

“We’ve got Project Gigaton underway right now with about 4,500 suppliers, where we’ve already had them report they’ve saved over 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. But it’s not enough…Becoming regenerative means that you take nature, and you take humanity, and you put it even more into the center of your decision-making.”

McMillon doesn’t have the luxury of playing on one side of the partisan divide. As head of the largest company in the world, with the most employees and the most customers, he is a smiling amalgam of contradictions: red state and blue state, tech and brick-and-mortar, blue collar and new collar. When I ask him about the recent pushback against stakeholder capitalism, he doesn’t flinch:

“I think it all boils down to time frame. Yes, we are here to provide a return for shareholders. The best way to provide a return for shareholders over time is if you have strong communities, associates that are well compensated and happy with their jobs and excited about their futures. A planet that works.”

A few other excerpts. On how long inflation will last:

It’s going to last a while.”

On how long it will take the global supply chain to get sorted out:

“I’m not even going to venture a guess. But it’s definitely going to be longer than this year.”

On rising wages:

“Wages have gone up, and we’re pleased about that. Actually, we like to raise wages.”

On Walmart’s move into new businesses like advertising and health care:

“One of the interesting things that I’ve learned over the last few years is when you make the switch from being purely analog to being more of a digital company, it unlocks opportunities to grow a lot of other businesses…When I was going to business school, we were taught about silos and conglomerates. In a digital world, it all feels a lot more connected. It doesn’t feel like they’re silos. It just feels like you are designing for a family or a customer or for members. And these other things kind of naturally come together and result in one experience for them. And that’s what we are trying to build.”

You can listen to the full interview on Apple or Spotify. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Musk and Twitter

Elon Musk’s lawyers yesterday complained to the SEC that Twitter is “actively resisting and thwarting” Musk’s right to know the proportion of its user accounts that are fake. It does look like he’s trying to wriggle out of the $44 billion takeover. Fortune

TSMC threat

Chinese authorities should seize Taiwan and its chipmaking giant TSMC, if the U.S. in future hits China with Russia-style sanctions, a senior economist at a state-run research group has recommended. Chen Wenling: “Especially in the reconstruction of the industrial chain and supply chain, we must seize TSMC…They are speeding up the transfer to the U.S. to build six factories there. We must not let all the goals of the transfer be achieved.” Bloomberg

Johnson survives

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday survived a confidence vote among lawmakers from his Conservative Party. The rebellion was huge, though, with 41% of Tory MPs voting for his removal. Historically, prime ministers tend not to survive for long after confidence votes, and this was of a similar scale to the one that presaged Margaret Thatcher’s downfall days later. However, Johnson being Johnson, he could still manage to stick around until the next election. AP

British weapons

The U.K. is, like the U.S., sending Ukraine multiple launch rocket systems that can hit targets up to 50 miles away. Russia will no doubt be annoyed, as it has already threatened retaliation against the U.S.’s arms-supply decision. Guardian


Chinese stocks

Fortune’s Nicholas Gordon argues that foreign investors piling into Chinese tech stocks are perhaps overconfident about Beijing easing up on policy: “Chinese officials have hinted at ending their regulatory crusade against the country’s technology sector, but Beijing has not introduced any policy changes to back up that rhetoric. And investors should not expect the consumer spending that fuels the tech industry to immediately rebound now that China has lifted its harshest COVID lockdowns.” Fortune

Antitrust lobbying

Tech trade groups and progressive advocates have been heavily lobbying undecided U.S. lawmakers ahead of a vote later this month on new antitrust legislation, which has bipartisan momentum. Bloomberg

YouTube liability

Google has been told to pay an Australian politician A$715,000 ($515,000) over his defamation in a couple of YouTube videos, which effectively pushed him out of politics. Judge Steven Rares: “Google was part and parcel of this disgusting behavior because it facilitated, published, and kept up on YouTube this and similar videos…The ability of social media entities to publish and enable the communication of such material without constraint is a matter that the parliament ought to be considering.” Fortune

Digital nomads

Indonesia is trying to attract “digital nomads” with a new type of visa that targets people who are these days able to work from wherever they like. The visa lasts for five years, and holders won’t be locally taxed on their overseas income during that period. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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