When you walk into Walmart headquarters, you can’t miss a painting on the right. The long line of trucks heading for New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ready to bring supplies to communities in need, reminds all associates of the moment that forever changed the way we think. A moment that helped us realize how we could leverage our strengths as a business to support communities during disasters and help solve pressing issues such as climate change and food insecurity.
Since 2005, responding to natural and man-made disasters in the United States and around the world, from hurricanes to wildfires, the COVID-19 pandemic to civil unrest has become part of the DNA of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. As the frequency of these events continues to increase, our approach has evolved, realizing that while responding in the moment is vital, our impact can be greater by also helping the places where we live to prepare. We’ve also increased our focus on equity, because a more equitable response helps make communities stronger for everyone.
Lack of preparedness can have lasting economic and social impacts on communities, especially communities of color. When communities are unable to respond quickly to disasters or access needed resources, the impacts can increase inequality and harm communities in the long term. For example, a Report of the Society for the Study of Social Problems showed that following a disaster, white Americans living in certain counties gained an average of $126,000 in net worth, while black Americans in the same areas lost $27,000.
By helping communities anticipate disasters and focus on equity in response so that all people can recover, we can better serve them when disaster strikes. That’s why we’re pursuing new philanthropic investments in disaster-prone areas with more Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities. Beginning these investments on the Gulf Coast allows us to test solutions and learn how we can use philanthropy to help communities build their capacity to respond to disasters more effectively and equitably.
The Walmart Foundation has invested more than $3 million in a group of organizations helping local government leaders and community organizations on the Gulf Coast prepare their communities for disasters. These investments include:
- St. Bernard Project (SBP) – SBP will expand its Leading Practitioner Course (supported by the Walmart Foundation), a one-of-a-kind program that helps government leaders more effectively deliver mitigation and recovery resources to low-income, high-population communities of color. SBP will also increase the long-term resilience of communities of color by placing two Resilience and Recovery Fellows in local government offices to prioritize challenges, secure federal and charitable funding for mitigation, and implement sustainable best practices.
- Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Disaster Management (I-DIEM) – I-DIEM will implement its BUILD (Bridging Support for Underserved and Indigenous Communities in Landfall Disasters) program to empower community organizations through capacity building and education on mitigation finance strategies. I-DIEM will facilitate mitigation workshops for 10 vulnerable, underserved and/or marginalized communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. These workshops will help leaders work on funding sources, business development, and government relations with the goal of addressing systemic practices of exclusion and cultivating communities that are stewards of resilience and sustainability.
- Nature Conservancy (TNC) – TNC will work in three begging counties in Florida to help small, low-income local governments identify and design nature-based solutions (NBS), which use natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and reefs oysters, to help communities prepare and build resilience. to natural disasters. This will advance an existing TNC project called SUNS (Scaling-up Nature-based Solutions), which works with local authorities and other stakeholders to identify opportunities, access funding, and create plans for NBS in the area of Florida severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
- Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy at Tulane University (DRLA) – The DRLA Consortium for Equitable Disaster Resilience (CEDR) will study the barriers that prevent rural and underserved organizations from receiving preparedness funds. Using insights from this research, CEDR will create an equitable resilience framework and work with 10 community-based organizations to help create equitable disaster response and financing plans. CEDR will also create open source courses in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to educate 500 students and community leaders on resilience and equity training.
The firm conviction that germinated in us after Hurricane Katrina remains the same. Using our resources and learnings from the past 15 years, we know we can have a major impact by helping our neighbors prepare for and respond to disasters. This focus on the Gulf Coast will help us understand how intentional investments in communities can build the capacity of governments and local organizations to be better prepared. And by looking at the entire mitigation planning and financing system, we hope these investments will help other underserved communities access the funding and resources they need to advance disaster preparedness.