The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Walmart creates development opportunities for employees

Walmart operates over 11,200 stores under 55 banners in 27 countries, and employs approximately 2.2 million people around the globe – 1.5 million in the U.S. alone. Providing a ladder of opportunity, is part of Walmart’s investment in its people: to enable them to reach positions of greater responsibility and income, both within Walmart and beyond.  Tweet This!

This case study is based on the 2017 Global Responsibility Report by Walmart published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Walmart sees each job as a pathway to greater opportunity, whether it’s within Walmart, within the sector or in another industry entirely. Supporting employees in the jobs they have while seeking to provide the tools they need to advance is, thus, a top priority. In order to create development opportunities for employees Walmart took action to:

  • launch a new training programme for entry-level associates
  • provide educational opportunities
  • implement an Academy training programme

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2017 Global Responsibility Report Walmart identified a range of material issues, such as supporting small and local farmers, improving preparedness, speed and focus of response to disasters, scaling clean, affordable, renewable energy, providing better product information to customers, investing in communities. Among these, creating development opportunities for employees stands out as a key material issue for Walmart.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Walmart engages with:

Stakeholder Group
Advisory councils
Community leaders
Government leaders

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Walmart engaged with its stakeholders through dialogues, working sessions and surveys. These included interviews and a 1,750-respondent survey.

What actions were taken by Walmart to create development opportunities for employees?

In its 2017 Global Responsibility Report Walmart reports that it took the following actions for creating development opportunities for employees:

  • Launching a new training programme for entry-level associates
  • In FY2017, Walmart introduced Pathways, its new training programme for U.S. entry-level associates. Pathways helps associates gain vital retail job skills and may be completed in as quickly as 90 days. Through the programme, Walmart seeks to better integrate new hires into its culture, reinforcing core values and Walmart ‘s focus on serving the customer. Pathways teaches valuable and transferable skills, including customer service, merchandising, teamwork and communications. The programme incorporates both self-paced, computer-based learning and mentoring from a supervisor. Besides helping associates apply what they have learned through the online modules, supervisors also provide frequent feedback and check-ins as the training progresses, and engage associates in discussions on job performance and potential career opportunities.
  • Providing educational opportunities
  • Since 2010, Walmart has broadened its view of how it can help associates succeed in retail careers. Through Walmart’s Lifelong Learning initiative, 7,185 associates enrolled in its high school programmes, and 74,000 associates enrolled to use Rosetta Stone to learn languages since 2014. Another 8,500 associates have started college since 2011. In FY2017, over 1,700 scholarships were awarded to associates and their dependents, through funding from the Walmart Foundation.
  • Implementing an Academy training programme
  • Walmart continues to build out its Academy training programme and, in FY2017, opened 60 Academies. The Academies are dedicated facilities that offer two to six weeks of hands-on, immersive learning, combining both classroom study and training on the sales floor. Walmart ‘s Academies prepare associates for jobs as frontline hourly supervisors, department managers and assistant managers, teaching them to read spreadsheets, profit and loss statements and other skills necessary to take on greater responsibility. Walmart expected to have 200 Academies in place by the end of FY2018, each of which serving some 25 nearby stores.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 404-2 Programs for upgrading employee skills and transition assistance programs


Disclosure 404-2 Programs for upgrading employee skills and transition assistance programs corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Business theme: Employee training and education


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

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1) This case study is based on published information by Walmart, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:




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