Hypocricy, thy name is Home Depot. Or -- a good reason for the government affairs department to report to corporate communications.
For years, Home Depot has been one of those companies that has appeared to embrace “Corporate Responsibility” for all the right reasons. It was an early adopter of the principles of the Forest Stewardship Council, and has a stated policy to give preference to sustainably harvested wood. Now it has either suffered a major change of heart or revealed its true colors. Seeing a major opportunity for energy savings a group of efficiency advocates, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy got together and suggested that energy efficient standards for ceiling fans might go a long way to reducing our energy usage. A number of state legislatures took up the cause and at the moment there are a dozen or so bills pending that would save buckets of energy and move the industry towards a much more economic and energy efficient future. The people behind these bills were not necessarily “tree huggers” or radicals, many of the ideas came from the industry itself.
But along comes Home Depot that sells some 20% of all ceiling fans in America. It had originally agreed to support the national standards proposed by energy efficiency advocates. But it never delivered. Instead it put a sizeable chunk of change behind lobbying to put language into the new energy bill that would essentially emasculate to efforts of the ACEEE. Surprise, surprise, Home Depot's home-town congressman, Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., was the first to offer an amendment to the energy bill that was designed make sure that the standards were kept to a minimum. Turns out it was the second amendment to the energy bill designed specifically to help Home Depot. Last year's tax bill put another $22 million in Home Depot's pockets by eliminating taxes on imported ceiling fans.
So is anyone surprised to find that Home Depot is one of the most generous campaign donors on Capital Hill?
The worst part is that, because the amendments will become federal legislation, it will take precedence over any local laws that folks like you and I (and the others in the communities that Home Depot serves) might want to get behind. Essentially the Home Depot legislation ensures that fans remain just as inefficient in ten years as they are today.
So why the change of heart? Home Depot spokespeople say they are advocating for energy efficient standards, but to us this is pure corporate speak. It sounds to us like a whole lot of corporate clout being thrown around to protect the bottom line. Sure, there’s nothing illegal about any of it. But it does seem egregiously hypocritical. How do you reconcile all the good works that went before with the most recent actions, I’d say its basic corporate greed. They were clearly riding the “America goes green” trend to increase their market share and brand preference and really didn’t give a damn for the environment.
And what happens after a company is shown to be blatantly self serving and hypocritical? Customers become disillusioned and go elsewhere. Surveys have long shown that that women are more environmentally aware than men, and Home Depot’s biggest competitor, Lowes, is already much more popular with women than with men. If I were the communications directors for Lowe’s, I’d be side by side with the ACEEE shouting on the steps of congress.
Since I’m not, I think I’ll just go out to Lee to check out the new Lowes. Bye bye Home Depot, it was a good reputation, nice while it lasted.