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Worker Protests, Greenwashing Claims and Diverse Hiring: What We’re Reading This Week

June 2, 2023
A look at some recent headlines focused on worker safety, the environment and DEI efforts.

Safety professionals understand that good safety is good for business. You’re used to having to calculate ROI for safety initiatives you want funded.

Perhaps that’s why it’s especially disheartening for me to see the costs of poor working conditions that companies are willing to tolerate and dubious policies that companies are willing to continue in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

But that’s exactly why you must continue to persevere with your efforts to educate the suits in corporate about the value safety efforts always deliver. Here are a couple cautionary tales, along with some suggestions for creating a more diverse workforce.

As always, EHS Today is here to help you in whatever way we can. Drop us a comment below to let us know what you’re struggling with.

Dollar General in the Hot Seat

Dollar General is the fastest-growing retailer in America, and concerns about poor working conditions are also growing. Earlier this week, workers and supporters rallied outside the company’s headquarters, ahead of its annual shareholder meeting. They say the company isn’t doing enough to keep workers safe.

In the past nine years, 49 people have been killed and 172 people have been injured at Dollar General stores. Over the past seven years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed more than $21 million in fines against the company. Last October, OSHA added the company to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Dollar General also made the 2022 “Dirty Dozen” list of companies by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

Activist investment firm Domini Impact Investments has introduced a shareholder resolution calling for an independent auditor to evaluate Dollar General’s workplace safety policies. Dollar General’s board of directors has advised shareholders to reject the proposal and has called it unnecessary because the company performs safety checks and audits at stores every day.

Some employees are speaking out, as you can read in The New York Times and Seattle Times. Some residents are even uniting against Dollar General stores from opening in their communities.

At a time when the dollar doesn’t go as far, critics are pointing out that Dollar General is going too far with unsafe working conditions.

Read more here.

Delta Airlines Sued for Carbon Claims

Delta Air Lines is facing a proposed class action lawsuit about advertising claims that the company is carbon neutral.

The complaint, filed in California, alleges violations of state consumer protection laws and law prohibiting unfair and fraudulent business practices. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Delta is not living up to its claim as “the world’s first carbon neutral airline on a global basis” because it leads consumers to believe that the airline isn’t releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

Delta announced in February 2020 that it would pledge to invest about $1 billion in the next decade to become carbon neutral. Reducing jet fuel usage, seeking alternative fuel sources (e.g., used cooking oil) and improving plane efficiency are part of those efforts. But so far, the company has heavily relied on carbon offsetting, a practice of buying credits for green projects to counterbalance carbon emissions. Voluntary carbon offsetting programs have been criticized in the past for, among other concerns, lack of transparency and ability to track lasting positive environmental efforts.

The individual who filed the complaint said that they bought tickets with Delta because they wanted to fly on a more ecologically conscious airline. The individual didn’t understand that the airline would be participating in carbon offsetting, or else they would have made different travel plans.

Experts say that class-action lawsuits are a difficult legal status to achieve, a process that can take years. Even if the case is settled or dismissed, it represents growing consumer interest that airlines and the travel industry will need to be mindful of. Customers who want to fly the friendly skies and see the world while also being good environmental stewards.

Read more here.

How Blind Hiring can Help—or Harm—DEI Efforts

As a society, we spend a lot of time touting the benefits and importance of a diverse workforce. However, I haven’t seen a ton of practical advice on how to create a diverse workforce. That’s why I was so pleased to see this piece from Harvard Business Review.

Author and professor Sean Fath describes how some companies are using a blind hiring process to have a more diverse workplace. Think of it like the music reality show “The Voice,” where the people making decisions can’t see singer auditioning. In the corporate world, this means having fields such as name, graduation year, hobbies and other data redacted that could indicate aspects that we may consciously or unconsciously bias against, such as race, gender and social class.

It's an intriguing—and challenging—idea; blind hiring forces us to ignore those initial judgments we’re so quick to make. Blind hiring is a good starting point, but it’s far from a perfect solution.

The research bears these nuanced results. One study in Sweden found that women and ethnic minorities were selected for interviews when their names were removed from their application, helping them advance to the next stage of consideration. Another study in Germany found that for employers who were more likely to interview applicants from minority groups, a blinding policy resulted in fewer minority groups being selected for interviews. Blind hiring only improved interview rates for job applicants from minority groups when employers tended to discriminate against applicants from those groups.

There is no one-size-fits all approach. Instead, Fath recommends that companies instead ask questions about whether a blind hiring process makes sense and where are the current roadblocks from having a diverse staff. How diverse is your applicant pool? Are certain questions or qualifications preventing diverse applicants from advancing (e.g., college degrees)? Are you doing enough to get job openings in front of a diverse group of potential applicants, or are you only posting positions on Indeed?

There are no easy answers or quick fixes, but these are important tools to help us more objectively assess what are we doing and offer recommendations for what we could be doing more of. There’s always work to be done, but there’s also always more we can do to create a more inclusive and psychologically safe workplace. And these efforts always pay off, usually in more ways than one.

Read the full article here.

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