by Max Brantley
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently president of global development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will become president of the Walmart Foundation in 2012. She succeeds the retiring Margaret McKenna.
Among others, Burwell was a deputy chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.
The foundation is the charitable arm of the Walmart corporation, a separate entity from the Walmart Family Foundation, built by contributions from the Walton family, but it is part of the company's pledge to spend $2 billion by 2015 on U.S. hunger.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation today named Sylvia Mathews Burwell president of the Walmart Foundation. She will join Walmart in January 2012 to lead the company’s charitable giving efforts and Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. Burwell will also guide the company’s social, environmental and economic opportunity efforts in Africa.
Burwell is currently president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In her new position, she will report to Leslie Dach, Walmart’s executive vice president of Corporate Affairs.
“The Walmart Foundation is a major, strategic part of our model for making a difference around the world,” said Mike Duke, Walmart president and CEO. “Sylvia has proven expertise and real passion for giving people the tools they need to rise out of poverty, addressing hunger issues and promoting sustainable development. We are fortunate to have her in this leadership role, and her impact will be felt by the communities and people we serve.”
“At Walmart we have a 360-degree approach that brings together our business strengths, our size and our scale to drive positive change,” said Dach. “Sylvia is results-oriented and is passionate about lifting up those most in need. Through her leadership, Walmart will be able to make an even greater difference on some of the most pressing and persistent problems facing the world.”
Building on the “Live Better” part of its mission, Walmart’s approach to philanthropy has helped create solutions to a number of major societal issues, including sustainable agriculture, fighting hunger, increasing access to healthy and affordable foods, and women’s economic empowerment. The company has been recognized as the country’s largest corporate donor — giving more than $799 million in cash and in-kind gifts globally, last year alone.
Burwell began her work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001 as chief operating officer and executive director. In her most recent role, she founded and led the Gates Foundation’s efforts to improve lives around the globe. Through $725 million in annual giving, Burwell’s work has focused on advocacy and grant making in areas such as agricultural development, financial services for the poor, sanitation, emergency relief and urban poverty.
Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, she held a variety of positions in Washington, D.C., including Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.
Burwell will replace Margaret McKenna, who became president of the Walmart Foundation in 2007. McKenna announced her retirement this spring and today is her last day with the company. She will consult with Walmart through the leadership transition.
“The Walmart Foundation is far stronger than it was when Margaret joined us,” Dach said. “The company and countless communities have benefitted tremendously from her leadership.”