Walmart’s MSP Program: Proof that Big Changes Start Small

Walmart Programmer Analyst Gordon Haller discusses his committment to physical activity as part of his "My Sustainability Plan" (MSP). Gordon won the first Ironman Triathlon competition in 1978. Photo courtest of Walmart.

I have long been telling friends, family and pretty much anyone who will listen that small changes to our everyday habits will pave the road to a more sustainable future. Some people argue that small changes don’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but I finally have an example that can prove them wrong.

Walmart is a huge company, the scale of which most of us can only begin to fathom. What’s most powerful when a company like this takes a genuine approach to sustainability is that the impact of any changes they make for the better will be dramatically amplified.

Case in point: Their MSP program, introduced in detail at their March Sustainability Milestone Meeting.

MSP stands for My Sustainability Plan. It is a worldwide initiative to help the company’s associates connect with the idea of sustainability on a level that is meaningful to them. Simply put, MSP asks each of Walmart’s 2 million employees to commit to a single change to make their lives — and in many cases, the life of the planet — better.

One change. That’s it.

Some associates are working to reduce water usage. Others have pledged to change their eating habits. Still others have pledged to volunteer in their communities, reconnect with nature, or get active. Multiply those pledges by 2 million and what you have is a huge impact.

What makes this concept so palatable to me — and I’d suspect to many others — is that they aren’t asking people to make Earth-shattering changes. I don’t know a single person who can’t to improve (at least) one area of their life. The MSP program is just a little nudge to get folks going.

So while I could write about all the huge changes Walmart is making behind the scenes to reach their goals of zero waste and having all facilities powered by 100% renewable energy (which are both admirable goals), the MSP program has demonstrated that their commitment to sustainability is more than just a few lines to be glossed over in an annual report. It is a change in the company culture that is being encouraged from top to bottom.

Walmart is big. We know that. Walmart doesn’t have the best reputation. We know that too. But the point is that they are making very real improvements that have measurable impact. And I can’t help but get behind that idea and keep pushing them in the right direction.

If you’d like to see stories from real people at Walmart who are working to make a difference, be sure to check out the video of Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting!

Disclosure: I am a member of the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation to share my take on their Sustainability Milestone Meeting. Participation is voluntary and as usual, all opinions are my own.

By jennae

Hi! I'm Jennae Petersen and I'm the eco diva who had the bright idea to share my journey toward green living with the blogosphere. Some of you may know me as the founder of Green Your Decor, my blog about eco-friendly home decor, as a Walmart Mom, from Twitter or from my organic cotton t-shirt line Differently Clothing. Stick around for a while!


  1. I agree with every word Jennae. Small steps do add up. BUT, just before I read this, I read this article explaining among other things that companies including Wal-Mart have already removed artificial food colors and dyes from products that they distribute in other countries, BUT NOT IN THE U.S. They know HOW to do this. They CAN do it. They DO it. But not for our families. Encouraging your employees to take one step is great. But meaningful change in a company as large as WM, needs to be at a much more encompassing level if they want us to believe they care at all.

    1. Lynn, I apologize if this post was misleading. The MSP program is far from the only thing Walmart is doing. In fact, their efforts to reach some lofty sustainability goals (like 100% renewable energy, zero waste, etc.) are pretty admirable. They have made a LOT of changes that the public doesn’t know about, including a complete shift in the way they handle food waste to turn it into donations, animal feed and compost rather than trash (which would seem like a common sense decision to most of us).

      Like I said, there’s a whole lot going on, but the MSP program just stood out to me as a great example of how a large company can bring the idea of green living down to a level in which anyone can participate. That turns sustainability it into a change in the company culture rather than just the bottom line. For me, in addition to the large-scale changes they have made and are making, this small program makes me believe a little more in their altruism — because the other changes are probably designed to save and/or make them more money in the end. Whereas MSP seems to be sustainability for sustainability’s sake, rather than any other motivation. Does that make sense?

      Of course, there is always room for improvement, and if what you’re saying is correct, I will definitely ask why this hasn’t happened yet in the U.S.

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