Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

Up In Smoke

So, how about another CEO blog on the debacle of “health care reform” in the tortured, partisan nation of America?  Nah… I am gainfully employed running our business, so no time to indulge in the practically pornographic vitriol perfuming the civic square from the Left and the Right; I get paid to deliver sustainable results for our shareholders, a mix of financial profit and civic accountability.  Which is why the overwrought, dishonest “debate” about health care pisses me off so much—if the demagogues on both sides bleat less and seek real solutions more, maybe we could deliver health care for citizens in a sensible fashion.

Here’s a simple case in point.

At our company, turns out that health costs spiral most viciously for two populations—the employee who lives a self-indulgent unhealthy lifestyle (the overweight, outta shape exec) and the employees (cigarette smokers) who buy into the load of crap that Phillip Morris sells (like the idea that smelling like an ash tray is sexy).

Hey, this is New Hampshire on the line, so live free or die—but this is also Timberland, Stratham NH 03855, make your own choice about smoking, but not at work.  We’re not paying for poor choices any more in the form of inflated health costs.  Doesn’t take a politician to figure this one out; don’t need tea parties or white wine spritzer parties- No more smoking at Timberland.

In the scheme of what I can do to run my business more competitively, efficiently and responsibly — this is what consultants call low-hanging fruit.  No more “butt-huts,” no more duck-outside-the-back-door-for-a-quick-cigarette leniencies, no more validating unhealthy choices.  No phony cost saving estimates from politicians—the CEO either reduces health costs, or delivers lower profits and bears that accountability more directly than a mid-term election.  So—no more smoking anywhere on Timberland real estate.

Is this mandate going to upset a subset of our population who don’t agree with my logic or my action?  Undoubtedly.  But I am not pursuing overnight polling–as a CEO committed to the notion of responsibility — for my business, for employees, for the environment — I’ll take my lumps on this one.  Talk is cheap and action is hard – and I’m perfectly comfortable and unapologetic about choosing hard in this case.  Call me names, but don’t call me inert.  Our smoking ban takes effect next Monday – not coincidentally, World No Tobacco Day.

And a smoking ban has to be the beginning, not the end, of this effort to force accountability into the health care system.  Why shouldn’t we eliminate unhealthy foods—the over-processed, nutrition hollow “snacks” that big brands shove at consumers globally—from vending machines and corporate cafeterias at TBL?  We’ve already begun beefing up our health and wellness program offerings, including creating real, concrete, financial incentives for employees to live a more healthy lifestyle.  Exercise and eat healthy, and you pay lower employee contributions to our health plan.  Self destruct on snacks and sodas on your sofa while blowing smoke rings—your choice, but expect to pay for those choices in health premiums at work.

Yeah, I can hear the criticisms—I sound angry at the government for so badly managing “health care,” and I sound pretty worked up about individuals at TBL taking more responsibility for the choices in their life that impact the costs of our health programs.  I know that there is a line between advocating and interfering, between respecting personal choices and doing what’s in the best interest of our business.  How close am I to these lines?

Last summer I proudly announced our corporate bottled water ban, and I got lots of love letters from fellow CEOs in the bottled water business, letting me know that my slot on their holiday card list was rescinded.  Tant pis.

So, with no smoking at Timberland, we square the circle—fire and water.  We aren’t hugging trees here—we’re trying to run a sustainable business.  Feedback appreciated.

Jeff Swartz
President & CEO, Timberland