Criticism of Wal-Mart
- Wal-Mart: Tech King?
- Has Wal-Mart Gone Terminal?
- Is Wal-Mart Costing Us Billions?
- Fools Debate Wal-Mart
- Wal-Mart Paints Bull's-Eye on Itself
Of course, we're not the only ones paying attention. At Adrants.com, I recently read an interesting opinion that Wal-Mart is "wasting" $35 million on a campaign to promote its "Acres for America" initiative, whereby it's preserving an acre of land for every acre it develops. This sounds like a noble enough effort, but more details are needed. For example, Wal-Mart presumably seeks out prime locations for its stores. Where are these acres it's preserving? Are they acres we'd really want to preserve, or acres that nothing can grow on?
A little digging turned up some details. The project is in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the preserved acres will be wildlife habitats, and the $35 million will be spent over 10 years. Total acres to be protected are estimated at 138,000. (Interestingly, Wal-Mart appears to develop some 5,000 acres annually these days.)
The Adrants.com opinion, though, focused its attention elsewhere: "If Wal-Mart simply allocated that $35 million to payroll, it would make great strides towards solving at least half its problems." This reflects some ignorance of just how big Wal-Mart is. It actually has some 1.6 million employees (er, "associates"). Divide that $35 million among them, and they'll each get a whopping $21.88. I fail to see how $21.88 will make great strides toward solving half the company's problems. Unless, of course, the firm's problems can be valued at, say, $40 per worker. In that case, a mere $64 million, or roughly 0.62% of its net income for the year, would solve its problems. If that's all it would take, I think Wal-Mart would have taken care of these issues long ago.
The issues Wal-Mart faces are kind of big and can't be easily solved. It has come under attack for allegedly putting mom-and-pop businesses out of work, treating employees unfairly, and more. But the firm is trying to do some good, along with delivering low prices to consumers. It does engage in a lot of charitable giving, and it wants people to know about its good work. Learn more at www.walmartfacts.com. And type "Wal-Mart" into Amazon.com's search box to find a slew of books with strong points of view, positive and negative.
I invite you to drop in on our Wal-Mart discussion board, where you'll meet many passionate defenders and critics of the company and where you'll get answers to questions you may have about the company and its role as a corporate citizen and a stock.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.