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CNBC has a story about how Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is taking uncharacteristically "bolder" moves than in the past, "leading the company as it takes major policy stances on issues such as e-cigarettes, wage hikes and gun sales."

In the latter case, the company's move came after a pair of deadly shootings at two of its stores, promoting it to "halt sales of ammunition for assault-style rifles and handguns and … begin asking shoppers to no longer openly carry firearms in stores in states where 'open carry' is allowed." McMillon said at the time that he was responding to the concerns of people both inside and outside the company, and that "it's clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable."

Now, McMillon has become "chairman of the Business Roundtable, months after the CEO trade group said that shareholder value should no longer be the primary goal of a corporation and that it should instead take into account all stakeholders including employees. The statement marked a major philosophical shift in how the group views corporate governance and drew criticism from some major investors."

There could be an upside to the job, CNBC suggests: "McMillon’s new gig could help boost Walmart’s reputation, especially with younger employees and shoppers looking to buy products from companies whose values are aligned with their own."
KC's View:
There is a sense, communicated in the article, that McMillon's new moves could be risky - beyond the fact that Walmart traditionally has tried to "fly under the radar," especially when it comes to contentious social and cultural issues. The company's new positions, and willingness to engage in cultural debates, could alienate both some percentage of its customer base and advocacy groups (think the National Rifle Association, which has its own problems these days) that are capable of turning its positions into lightning rods for protest and dissent.

But … and I think this probably is the bottom line, in all that those words mean … Walmart has been performing well under McMillon's leadership. Same-store sales, CNBC notes, have been up for 21 consecutive quarters, and the company's stock price was up almost 30 percent last year. While is e-commerce business is not yet profitable, and there have been some missteps (think Jetblack and Modcloth), there is a sense that Walmart is a more formidable competitor to Amazon than might've been expected just a few years ago.

The other bottom line, I think, is this: Companies and their leaders, for the most part, have come to the conclusion they they no longer can afford to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to political, cultural and social issues, lest they be caught on the wrong side of history and the arc of the moral universe, which, in the words of the nineteenth century minister and Transcendentalist Theodore Parker, "bends toward justice."

That's the decision that Walmart made when Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer of Walmart and president of the Walmart Foundation, co-authored a New York Times op-ed piece criticizing the Trump administration's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord as "deeply unfortunate," and saying that it will not affect Walmart's commitment to the goals of the climate change agreement. To be clear, this is not just an ethical argument - Walmart believes that a more responsible and ethical stewardship of an increasingly fragile planet also is good business.

Which is a good enough reason as any to boldly go where a company and its CEO may not have gone before (to coin a familiar phrase).