Sam's Club CEO Doug McMillon talks to Fortune Magazine about how the company benefits from its sustainability push:
Your boss, Lee Scott, has made sustainability a big theme for Wal-Mart. Is it actually helping your business?
Yes. It's been an interesting journey. I remember the first conversation that Lee had with a group of us, and I didn't really understand what he was talking about. "Sustainability" was defined in a financial sense for me. As he started to broaden the conversation into the environment and then social issues, it sounded like potentially a big distraction. But in fact it fits within our overall mission - to save people money so that they can live better.
We underestimated how much financial benefit we could get from it. We found items that if you simply reduce the amount of packaging involved, save cost, and pass that on to the customer, you sell more. You're just eliminating waste. We thought we were efficient before, but we really weren't. It was as if somebody handed us a different pair of glasses, and the whole world looked different.
Any benefits beyond cost?
Yes, we got a secondary benefit that I also don't think we understood. Many of our associates have an emotional connection to this subject. When we started declaring goals, some of them very aggressive, the path to achieving them not clear, they responded in a way that was surprising. They said, Count me in, let me have a piece of that responsibility, and I'll help figure it out. Now it's moving with two million associates behind it, not just a small group of leaders.