By Jason Turgeon:
In the last couple of weeks, Mark’s been hammering the midwestern grocery store chain Meijer for ruthlessly timing employees on checkout time “efficiency” (post 1, post 2). Instead of rewarding employees for delivering fantastic customer service, management is electronically monitoring checkout times and giving pink slips to anyone deemed to be “too slow” because they take the time to actually converse with their customers and make sure that everything went well with the shopping experience.
Contrast that with news this week from Wegman’s, another mid-sized regional grocery store chain. Wegman’s, which runs about 70 stores in the mid-atlantic states, put out a press release a couple of days ago touting $1.5 million dollars worth of new lighting upgrades that will cut energy use in its Rochester, NY, area warehouses by about half, with a three year payback. And as so often happens in efficiency upgrades, the lighting quality will actually improve, making for happier employees and better safety. According to the same release, Wegman’s has already done much other work upgrading lighting design in new stores and using LED lights in existing stores.
I’ve discussed at length in this blog the ties between Lean and Green, so I won’t elaborate on the obvious except to say that this has Lean implications in two ways: cutting waste (wasted energy from low-efficiency lights) and respect for people (improving working conditions by improving the lighting, as opposed to just turning off half the existing lights and letting employees work in the dark to get the same savings).
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that while Wegman’s is cutting costs by cutting waste it’s also ranked this year at #3 on Forbes list of best places to work. Compare that to Meijer, which doesn’t appear on Forbes list but does come in at #5387 (out of 5498) in terms of overall reputation at Vanno.com, with a dismal 4 out of 100 in employee satisfaction. And while it was easy for me to turn up lots of info about how unhappy Meijer employees are, I struggled to find anything about energy efficiency projects at the chain. The best I could do was find something called the Pacific Sustainability Index, which ranks companies based on their “environmental and socioeconomic comprehensiveness (transparency) and performance as expressed in their voluntary environmental or sustainability reports”. Meijer scored an overall D- based on its performance both in the environmental sector and in the social sector (including employee satisfaction). Wegman’s does not appear to be rated in the PSI.
So what’s the point of all this? Well, it’s the same point as always, really. Companies that focus on Lean ideas, like improving working conditions while cutting waste in energy use, inevitably seem to do better than companies that don’t.
By the way, the consumer retail/grocery sector that Meijer works in seems to be far ahead of Meijer in general sustainability issues as a whole, even if they aren’t all as good to work for as Wegman’s. See the environmental/energy work being done at Wal-Mart, Stop and Shop, Hannaford, and Target for a few examples of Lean/Green thinking creeping into this sector.
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