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Giving People Time to Give Thanks

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 18, 2014 12:16:26 PM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding
Amidst the national stories about the recent take-over of the U.S. Senate by RepublicansThanksgiving and their ardent intentions to eviscerate both the environment (see Big Oil’s Wish List) and human rights (as in reproductive rights, minimum wage and so on), a bit of sunshine peaked out of my Seattle Times: two of our top chain retailers, Costco and Nordstrom, are opting to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Why? To respond to the public backlash, of course, but also to ensure their employees spend Thanksgiving the way it’s supposed to be spent, with family and friends.

Closing on Thanksgiving isn’t the only way these companies are good to their employees. They lead Forbes 2014 Best Retail Companies to Work for Right Now list, with Costco at #1 and Nordstrom Rack at #2. Both companies not only have family-friendly policies, they pay their employees better.

In 2011, Nordstrom paid 60% more in hourly wages than the industry average. A typical Costco worker earned $45,000 in 2011 according to a survey by Glassdoor, compared to Sam’s Club workers’ average annual salary of $17,486.

Certainly, there is a strong economic argument to be made for treating employees better. Frederick F. Reichheld’s 2001 study The Loyalty Effect proved that customers are loyal not so much to a store as to its employees. Reichheld maintained that a five percent increase in the employee retention rate can increase a customer’s lifetime value by as much as 75%, in part because of the high cost of bringing in new customers. It seems to be working: as reported in Huffington Post last year, Costco’s profits soared 19 percent even as the retailer paid substantially higher wages. Nordstrom Rack’s sales increased 10.2%.It’s clear that employees and economics benefit from Costco and Nordstrom’s decent treatment of employees. But closing on Thanksgiving could actively hurt consumerism, possibly over the long-term: once stores close down for one day, aren’t these retailers in danger of teaching their customers how not to shop, especially in their stores?

I was struck once again at the differences between the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the country. Certainly, chains headquartered in other places are also closed on Thanksgiving. Barnes & Noble, GameStop, Joanne Fabric, Pier 1, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Top 10 retailers Burlington (projected to be #6 in profits for 2014) and Dillards (#2) are joining in.But you have to wonder why any retailer would want to take an action to stem consumerism, their very life-blood, and why two of the chains closing for Thanksgiving would be headquartered in the Seattle area?

One clue is its politics. Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee is best known as the "greenest governor." But he is also a crusader for worker’s rights. He calls it “protecting our most vulnerable, and protecting our environment” and champions raising the State’s minimum wage even higher than it already is, which at $9.32 is the highest state-wide minimum wage in the country. Seattle’s city council voted this June to gradually raise its hourly minimum to $15.

This might seem counterintuitive. The party line, especially in red states, is that environmental protection and jobs are in a heated battle for resources. Yet the Pacific Northwest is growing economically even while it fights against fossil fuel consumption, closing coal plants, denying coal port permits, increasing investment in renewables and reducing energy use.

And the dogma that lifting wages will bankrupt businesses? Nordstrom’s and Costco wouldn’t agree.

Have a lovely shopping-free Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of ilovebutter via Flickr cc.


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 9,300+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,300+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 343 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.
 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in $15 minimum wage, Costo, Nordstrom, Seattle, Uncategorized, wages, Thanksgiving, Jay Inslee, Richard Reichheld, The Loyalty Factor, Burlington, Carol Pierson Holding, Dillards, holiday off, Pacific Northwest

Native Americans Have a Voice in Climate Science

[fa icon="calendar'] Nov 4, 2013 11:13:20 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding

Last Tuesday, a pod of three-dozen orca whales escorted a Seattle-to-Bainbridge IslandNative Americans and climate change ferry transporting ancient tribal artifacts to their new home at the Suquamish Museum. As reported in the Huffington Post, the Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman watched the orcas swarm the ferry as it neared the terminal.

"They were pretty happily splashing around, flipping their tails in the water," Forsman said the next day. "We believe they were welcoming the artifacts home as they made their way back from Seattle, back to the reservation.”

My first reaction was this: just when Native Americans are gaining a toehold in the climate change discussion, gaining two seats on Obama’s 25-member Climate Task Force, they come out with a statement that strains their credibility.

Our national mythology holds that American Indians are caretakers of the land. They’ve driven efforts in Washington State to restore rivers and contest coal ports that threaten the sea life on which their livelihoods depend. They fight for burial grounds and sacred places, neither of which have a place in our scientific belief system. Their sovereign rights to do so are inarguable, and they’re beginning to win.

But when the race is based in Western notions of power and science, Native people generally lose. Think about the credentials tribal members bring to the Climate Task Force. One is Karen Diver, Chairwoman of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a small reservation whose population was 3,728 in 2000; the other is Reggie Joule, mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough (pop 7,523), a former athlete, contractor and Alaskan state representative whose legislative focus was finance and education.

Contrast these Native American Climate Task Force members with, for example, Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington. As a member of the U.S. Congress, Inslee served on caucuses for oceans, animals and international conservation. In 2007, Inslee wrote a book that Publisher’s Weekly called an “energetic articulation of a clean-energy future.” In his campaign and as governor, Inslee embraced environmental leadership, most recently signing the agreement for a Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

And yet Obama believes Diver and Joule will be valuable contributors. Why?

Eighteen months ago, the Northwest American Indians organized a conference in Washington D.C. for tribal leaders from across the country, in part to bridge the gap between climate change scientists and Native Americans. While tribal members shared an abundance of anecdotes about changes in natural patterns – for the first time last year, pelicans were observed in the Pacific Northwest – they also reported quantitative measurements. As the University of Washington oceanographer Jan Newton told the Seattle Times, "(American Indians) were on the ground making some of the measurements the university scientists couldn't get out to do."

Indian Country Today reports that “traditional knowledge and Western science find themselves intersecting more and more.” One example: last month’s special issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Climactic Change was devoted to indigenous perspectives on climate change. As Indian Country’s Tanya Lee writes:

Common sense demands that governments bring tribes to the table as full participants in a discussion of how to deal with the challenges that climate change presents and that they treat indigenous viewpoints not as quaint supplements to Western science but as equally valid explanations of how the world works—that such observations, taken as they are over millennia, are a science in their own right.

The Climactic Change issue begins with an abstract from the Native American writers that states the fundamental premise of climate change collaboration:

Despite a keen awareness of climate change, northern Indigenous Peoples have had limited participation in climate-change science due to limited access, power imbalances, and differences in worldview. A western science emphasis on facts and an indigenous emphasis on relationships to spiritual and biophysical components indicate important but distinct contributions that each knowledge system can make.

If it’s not enough that a scientific journal article puts the “indigenous emphasis on relationships to spiritual components” on the same level as scientific fact, take a look at Obama’s November 1st executive order, “Preparing the United States for the Effects of Climate Change.” For the first time, tribes are specifically mentioned, including a reference to their service on the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Obama repeatedly refers to “partnership with State, local, and tribal governments.”

And then there’s last week’s story of the whale escort delivering Indian artifacts. If the Indians’ spiritual, relationship-based approach to climate change is a knowledge system equal to Western science, who am I to question their friendships with whales?


Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council's Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 8,400+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 8,400+ companies from 135 industries in 104 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 270+ data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

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