This week, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon did exactly what the American public wants to see from our nation’s business leaders: He took a stand. You may or may not agree with him on the issue of gun control, but clearly inaction and silence is no longer an option.
In his letter to employees, McMillon announced that his company – America’s largest retailer – would stop selling ammunition for handguns and military-style weapons, completely cease the sale of handguns, and discourage anyone from carrying weapons in Walmart stores. A response to last month’s horrific shootings at Walmart stores in El Paso, Texas and Southaven, Mississippi, McMillon’s letter speaks out against what he calls an unacceptable status quo, and discusses how Walmart can and must play a role “in helping to make the country safer.”
This is obviously a complex and highly politicized subject, and it is not for JUST Capital to advocate a position one way or another on this issue. We’re here to channel the voice of the American public in an unbiased way. And on that front, we can state with confidence that Americans agree that – when it comes to pressing social issues – CEOs must stand up and be counted. In our 2018 survey, a strong majority of the American public – 63% – let us know they believe that CEOs have a responsibility to take a stand on important societal issues. This year, a growing majority of Americans believe CEOs should speak up specifically on issues that matter to the core of their business – 60%, versus 56% in 2018.
What’s more, Americans want to see companies create and offer products that do not harm health and society – and the public views firearms as one of the most harmful products (with tobacco, e-cigarettes, and opioids ranked worse). It is clear, therefore, that the onus is on companies involved in these products – not just manufacturers, but financing, distribution, and sales too – to consider and make public their positions. Hence the announcement from Walmart, which aligns with the moves made by fellow retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods, payment processors like PayPal and Square, and banks like Citigroup and Bank of America – all members of the corporate ecosystem that influences how firearms are bought and sold.
We applaud Walmart’s willingness to do this, and see McMillon’s letter as a blueprint for how companies can take a stand on a major social issue by following the cues of their core stakeholders – their employees, their customers, their investors, and the communities they impact.
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