Finding the “Intersection” for the Common Good
Last year, Walmart asked me to come on board as Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs. I was honored to accept and excited about the opportunity to join an outstanding team that is raising its game in the midst of an increasingly dynamic global business and public policy landscape.
Everyday, we are focused on leveraging Walmart’s wide-ranging expertise and unique scale in the global marketplace to shape and promote public policy that advances the common good of consumers, the general public and our business.
When we manage to stay at the intersection of these three interests, we have confidence we’re promoting sustainably good public policy that serves everyone. Going forward, I hope to connect with you in ways that help identify where this intersection of interests lies and to support policy positions that are consistent with our shared goal of bettering the landscape for all.
Walmart is working hard to meet the evolving expectations of consumers. We’re making progress, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. In my next few posts, I will highlight some key policy areas where Team Walmart is focused in the public policy arena. We’ve had successes and failures in the past, and we’re committed to learning from them. In 2016, public policy is too complicated for us to get it right on our own. Your thoughts can help us learn and be smarter as we move forward.
Let me provide brief context. After spending my earlier career in the federal government, first on Capitol Hill then leading legislative affairs and legal policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, I joined PepsiCo to lead its Global Public Policy and Government Affairs team. In the mid-2000s, PepsiCo and many large, multi-national companies were making the pivot to operating more globally. It’s one thing to be a US-based company with growing, international markets. It’s another thing to understand global trends, opportunities and risks — in both the developed and developing worlds — and to manage them in a coordinated and proactive way. Importantly, the mid-2000s is also when leading global companies began to get serious about sustainability, moving beyond seeing sustainable business activity as simply a bolt-on to current business activity, to actually building environmentally and socially sustainable practices into the very core of the business (because it’s good for the environment, our communities, and for business!).
The intensifying commitment to sustainability became one important way that global businesses began engaging more thoughtfully and proactively in the public policy arena. This sustainability work, alongside broader public policy efforts, helped highlight the value of public-private partnerships, where governments and businesses bring their varied competencies and resources together in a coordinated way to drive commonly-held objectives. Governments, the business community and civil society stakeholders came to see the power of driving public policy goals — even globally — that are at the intersection of public, consumer and business interests.
Think about it: Is there a single public policy goal at the alignment of these interests that wouldn’t be truly good public policy? I’ve yet to find one. Tell me if you do.
One thing I’ve come to learn about good businesses is that they want to grow and be around for a while, and Walmart is certainly no exception. The only way to be a truly valued and enduring company is if your business model is fundamentally aligned with what consumers want and the public good. If you advance only one of those interests, you create a tension that will only grow over time, one that ultimately can undermine your very sustainability and value as an enterprise.
If the effort to align public, consumer and business interests sounds easy, it’s often not. The interests of those three constituencies are routinely changing. Finding real alignment of interests requires a lot of give and take. It demands ongoing education among all stakeholders involved so that everyone learns each other’s concerns, constraints and goals. And, most importantly, it requires developing trust. It is my sincere hope that by opening up the lines of communication here, we can better identify where this alignment lies and promote more enduring public policy, which is truly beneficial to our communities and our world.
Hope to hear from you soon.