“I’ve always had a real appreciation for nature,” Kathleen McLaughlin says. “My earliest memories are of time spent in nature—camping, hiking, being out on the lakes with my family in Minnesota, and listening to my dad play his banjo by the campfire.”
As she was growing up, McLaughlin’s family moved back and forth between Minnesota and Arizona. Ultimately, she felt most at home in Arizona. “We’d go up into the mountains and go hiking and camping there. I just feel at peace in the desert and the mountains.”
When McLaughlin was a teenager living in Arizona, she became increasingly aware of the importance of water. For a school project, she created a public service announcement for a local television news station on why water was essential for humanity and nature and what people could do to help conserve it. She says this project was the beginning of her awareness “that we are part of nature—and that we need to alter how we live to sustain it.”
McLaughlin studied politics, engineering, and economics and eventually went on to work at the global consulting company McKinsey to learn about the role of business in bringing about social change.
She put that experience to work when she joined Walmart in 2013. In her role leading Walmart’s sustainability efforts (she also heads up the Walmart Foundation), McLaughlin focuses on “serving customers and communities in a way that creates opportunity for them and also enhances the environmental and social sustainability of our business for people at Walmart and throughout our supply chains.”
She continues, “I think the big shift that’s happened in the last 10 years is that corporate leaders have moved beyond viewing sustainability solely as a matter of responsibility or obligation. The understanding now is that sustainability is essential to the long-term success of the business; it is a matter of creating shared value for employees, suppliers, customers, and everyone we work with.”