In class today we had a fairly spirited discussion about the evil, or perhaps not so evil(?) corporation, Wal-Mart. We talked about the traditional reasons people hate the company, ie. it takes $$ from the community without putting any back in, it doesn't promote local agriculture or industry, continues to outgrow and build buildings, and wastes large amounts of resources shipping across the nation, etc.
Our professor, who had worked as a lawyer helping employees with disputes with their companies over medical leave, etc, had a different view. She stated that Wal-Mart more often worked with their employees to help them through the tough situation, and keep their jobs. Now in part, that is due to the nature of large business, they can absorb the cost of paying an employee who is temporarily unable to work, in a way that Mom and Pop stores would be unable to.
Another issue, and to me the more pressing one, was the issue of environmentalism. Wal-Mart is riding the green revolution wave, to tell their customers how they can make change to benefit the environment, they're trying to reduce shipping and packaging, and promoting local agriculture and products to some extent, and is even providing their truckers with space heaters to reduce idling on the roadside while drivers get some shut-eye.
These all seem like good changes, and in truth they are. While Wal-Mart, and large corporations like them certainly have the power to do more, this is a generous leap in the right direction. Companies that big have the ability to influence change, by demanding their suppliers change. The environmentalist community has to a large extent not gotten behind Wal-Mart in this action. Old habits die hard, and it's easy to hate the corporate giants, but supporting them in this endeavor will hopefully continue to foster further change.
My professor made an extremely valid point that Wal-Mart and Coca Cola, and other large multi-national corps reach Americans that generally aren't on top of environmental issues. Who don't regularly read up on the latest scientific discoveries, or follow the environmental blogs of groups like Greenpeace and WWF. These are the Americans who may not believe global climate change is happening. If Wal-Mart can do their part to transition, America may well follow. While they have a long long way to go, I for one will commend the changes they have made, and watch for further future change.