Well it looks like Walmart has been busy devising new ways to spread its evil reign of greed and terror over the land.

Just kidding …

If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know that I often come out in defense of Walmart.

Although I don’t typically shop at the world’s largest retailer, I applaud Walmart for providing employment for 2.2 million employees across the globe. I applaud the company for integrating more renewable energy into its operations than the entire state of Florida has connected to its outdated grid.

I think it’s great that management has taken efforts to minimize waste, conserve electricity, conserve fuel, introduce competitively-priced organic foods, and go out of its way to seek out local providers of produce.

I get that some folks have a problem with how the company compensates its employees or puts smaller companies out of business. But the truth is, it’s not Walmart that puts these companies out of business. That’s simply the result of consumer behavior. And as far as how the company compensates its employees, I look at it like this …

In this day and age, if you want to make more than the minimum wage, you need to posses certain skills that warrant a bigger paycheck.

Understand, I don’t say this to be unfeeling or mean-spirited. It’s simply an observation of a reality that few are willing to talk about.

Let’s be Realistic

Last year I remember some fast food workers demanding $15 an hour to flip burgers. That’s insane. If burger-flippers make $15 an hour, where’s the incentive to learn a valuable skill?

We just have to be realistic here.

Times are tough. Certainly a dollar doesn’t go as far today as it did ten or twenty years ago. And it’s only going to get worse.

Truth is, instead of criticizing Walmart for paying minimum wage, perhaps we should spend more time empowering our uneducated masses, not with an undeserved pay raise, but with opportunities to learn a necessary skill.

Worth noting: About 75 percent of the company’s store managers began as hourly employees. Today, they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year.

Seems to me that Walmart provides some decent opportunities for its employees to advance. Taking advantage of those opportunities, however, falls on the individual.

But I’m not writing about Walmart today to rehash my wage arguments in defense of Walmart.

Instead, I want to talk about a new incentive Walmart has just launched that strikes a chord with me, and should’ve gotten a lot more press than it did.

A Facilitator of Sustainability

Here’s a snippet of a press release Walmart sent out last week …

Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. today announced new positions around animal welfare and the responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals, as a next step in continuously improving the sustainability of items it sells. Walmart is committed to a sustainable supply chain and food system, which means offering customers choices and transparency into how their food is grown and raised, and helping to further the fair treatment of animals.

“Walmart is committed to selling products that sustain people and the environment,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and senior vice president of Walmart sustainability. “We have listened to our customers, and are asking our suppliers to engage in improved reporting standards and transparency measures regarding the treatment of farm animals.”

As both an unapologetic libertarian and an unapologetic environmentalist, I completely support Walmart’s decision to take this step in cleaning up its meat sourcing policies. After all, this is an excellent example of how consumer demand and resulting corporate policies serve as a successful facilitator of sustainability.

Given Walmart’s clout, purchasing power, and overall influence in the global marketplace, the company’s decision to embrace these new animal welfare positions will accomplish a lot more than any government mandate or regulatory framework.

And this is a good thing!