The biggest company in the world is Wal-Mart. I am sure this comes as no surprise to many of you. Its profits in 2007 were 11 billion USD! Wal-Mart has been making an effort to clean up its sullied image as an unfair and sexist employer, sweatshop promoter and small town retail killer. Various studies have been done on the effect that Wal-Mart has had on small towns with mixed results. One study done by Kenneth Stone of Iowa State University showed that 50% of locally owned stores were closed within 10 years of a Wal-Mart opening. In a follow up study, it was clear that local businesses that could adapt easily to change survived the arrival of the big box store. Wal-Mart has long been touted as anti union, but whether this is true or not, every Wal-Mart store outside North America is unionized.
Recent initiatives to protect the environment include the following goals: reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% in 7 years, reduce power usage in their stores by 30% in 3 years and reduce solid waste from its stores in 3 years. Wal-Mart is also experimenting with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
China manufactures 70% of the products that Wal-Mart sells no doubt boosting the economy of that country, but still, Wal-Mart hasn’t been able to tap into the Chinese population as a customer base. Two class action lawsuits have been initiated against Wal-Mart in China: Workers in Shenzhen in 2005 said that they weren’t paid the national minimum wage, weren’t allowed to take holidays, were forced to work overtime, and the first 3 months of their pay was withheld. Workers in Guangdong reported that they were told to paint 8900 pieces in an 8 hour shift, or their pay rate would be cut by more than a half.
There is lots of information out there about Wal-Mart; both pro and anti. I would suggest reading as much as you can to stay informed. Every critic and champion of Wal-Mart has an agenda to serve; so consider the source and make an informed opinion when making your shopping choices.