Funding Diversity and Inclusion

Since joining Wal-Mart in 2006, Tony Waller has helped set strategy for the company’s outreach opportunities and social investments in the African-American, American Indian, mature and women’s markets. In addition to his work with Wal-Mart, Waller serves as chairman of the NAACP ACT-SO Advisory Council. In addition he serves on the board of trustees for the Center for Asian Pacific American Women. By working with nonprofit diversity organizations, Waller hopes to increase the level of diversity and inclusion within companies across the country.

Waller recently spoke with Diversity Executive. Below are excerpts from the interview.

What prompted Wal-Mart to give $1.75 million in grants to the NAACP, National Urban League and United Negro College Fund? Why these groups?

At Wal-Mart, we believe in helping individuals access opportunities so they can live better every day. That’s why we work with strategic nonprofit partners that are on the ground in communities deploying meaningful programs that help people access everything from healthy food to education to jobs.

This month, the Wal-Mart Foundation announced $1.75 million in grants to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League and United Negro College Fund. These organizations are three trusted, nonprofit partners that we have and will continue to work with to help more African-Americans receive the support they need to access higher education and career opportunities.

More specifically, the Wal-Mart Foundation grant to UNCF will fund a program to help 16 historically black colleges and universities achieve long-term financial stability so they can continue providing African-American students with access to higher education. In addition, grants to NUL and NAACP will fund programs to provide career counseling and job placement support, and help businesses evaluate current hiring policies.

Is there any plan to donate funding to other minority groups?

As part of Wal-Mart’s vision to be a global leader in diversity and inclusion, we develop strong relationships and provide funding to a variety of organizations. Over the years, we have teamed up with a diverse group of more than 300 community and professional organizations, including the American Indian College Fund, Asian American Justice Center and League of United Latin American Citizens, among others.

Why does Wal-Mart feel it is important to increase diversity in the workplace?

Diversity plays a key role in driving business success. It leads us to better connect and engage with customers and deliver innovative solutions that address tough business challenges.

Today, we know there is increased demand for diverse talent in the workforce, according to the recent Diversity Jobs Index and Report from the Professional Diversity Network Inc. Businesses are looking to better understand and unlock the powerful results that a more diverse workforce has to offer.

To meet this growing demand, we’re lending support to strategic partners to help more African-Americans access career opportunities, and also fostering diversity and inclusion among our own associates and suppliers.

How will these grants help the unemployment struggles facing African-Americans? Are there certain geographic regions or areas that you are targeting?

Through the grant programs, we will be empowering more African-Americans with the access to education, job training and placement support they need to overcome unemployment challenges and build meaningful careers. We’ll also be working with businesses to help them create more job opportunities.

The programs from NUL and UNCF will support 20 communities across the United States, including New Orleans, West Palm Beach, Fla., and Rochester, N.Y. These communities were identified by our partners as those in the greatest need of support.

Does Wal-Mart have any other projects in the works to help increase workplace diversity?

This March, in support of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the Wal-Mart Foundation is providing more than $23 million in grants to 11 organizations that are impacting and empowering women in the U.S. and abroad with training, support and job placement.

Beyond work with strategic partners, our commitment to diversity and inclusion can be seen in our corporate culture and among our suppliers. Every day we work to elevate the standards of diversity and inclusion throughout our company, and help our associates reach their potential by providing opportunities for advancement and growth. Our commitment can also be seen through our more than 3,000 minority- and women-owned suppliers.

What other work has Wal-Mart done with strategic nonprofits?

The Wal-Mart Foundation works with thousands of strategic nonprofits throughout the year to create opportunities so people can live better. We support organizations that are helping fight against hunger, promoting healthy eating, empowering women through jobs and building more sustainable communities.

In 2012, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation reached the historic milestone of giving more than $1 billion in cash and in-kind contributions around the world. This includes $1 billion in cash and in-kind gifts in the United States and $82.2 million in cash and in-kind gifts in international markets.

Eric Short is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.