Each month, I take two elderly neighbors to Wal-mart to do their grocery shopping. They buy their meals for the month, along with supplies for their canine and feline companions. The nearest Super Center is more than a half-hour away, so the whole excursion (e.g. driving, shopping, and unloading) is a 4-hour ordeal. It's a long day, but we get a lot accomplished. However, there is one thing that happens during each outing that makes for a very unpleasant experience: the checkout.
I was green before green was even a movement. I bought my first canvas bags from an online catalog and paid $10 each. Now, you can find them for a buck or two at most grocery or drug stores. And, for our Wal-mart shop-o-rama days, I bought dozens of canvas bags for all the groceries. I even made sure to purchase Wal-mart's specially-branded, reusable bags for our trips so there wouldn't be a problem.
Unfortunately, although Wal-mart talks green, that talk isn't making it to their front line workers. Each time we set our canvas bags at the bagging station, the attitude begins. Cashiers start slamming things around and making sour faces. Many try to only put a few items in each bag so they'll use up our bags faster and be able to revert to the familiarity of their usual plastic bags. However, this week, the unhappiness reached a downright unacceptable level.
"I hate these bags," the cashier said. "These make extra work for us. I can't stand using these." And on, and on, and on. I kid you not. We spent nearly $500 dollars on groceries and had to endure a non-stop rant about what annoying customers we were.
Lots of marketing dollars are being tossed around these days so companies can hop on the green bandwagon. However, unless businesses throw an employee engagement component into the mix, the message is doomed.
Employees are the ones who are ultimately responsible for delivering and enforcing the message. And when an employee says, and I quote, "I don't care about the environment, I'll be dead before there's a problem," how can I believe that a company is really advocating environmental change and responsibility?