A Wal-Mart in Panorama City, Calif.
A Wal-Mart in Panorama City, Calif. - 


Scott Jagow: Wal-Mart is the center of a lot of debate. Even presidential debates. This was Barack Obama going after Hillary Clinton this week:

Senator Barack Obama: While I was working on those streets, watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer, sitting on the board of Wal-Mart. I was fighting these fights.

Wal-Mart as the evil force. But just yesterday, the company unveiled plans to be a force for good. Here's Jeremy Hobson.

Jeremy Hobson: In a speech to store managers, Lee Scott sounded more like a progressive politician than the CEO of Wal-Mart.

Lee Scott: Our goal is to work with suppliers to make the most energy intensive products in our store anywhere in this world, 25 percent more energy efficient within the next three years.

Scott talked about selling electric cars, even putting windmills in the parking lots so people could charge those cars. And he said Wal-Mart will take a lead role in moving the nation from hand-written doctor's notes toward electronic prescriptions.

Charles Fishman is the author of "The Wal-Mart Effect:"

Charles Fishman: This is Wal-Mart waking up to the fact that the drive for low prices has come to a point where it can be corrosive, but that that same power, that same focus can actually be used to create a much more sustainable world.

And he says, Wal-Mart wouldn't mind a more positive reputation in some circles.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson