By Evan Armstrong, vice president, government affairs
Imagine an 18-year-old named Mary starting her first job stocking inventory at a local retailer.
One day, the store is short-staffed and Mary is offered the opportunity to temporarily work as a cashier helping to process customers. After filling-in a few more times, Mary is promoted to a full-time front of the store employee, serving as a cashier in various departments.
Over time, Mary moves up the ranks and is promoted to a store manager.
This specific story may be fiction but it a very common path for individuals working in the retail industry. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, providing jobs and opportunity for 42 million Americans.
Retailers offer countless ways for employees just stepping into the workforce to learn new skills. Workforce training and flexibility is the hallmark of the industry and one of the ways in which retail employees learn the ropes is by cross-training in different departments.
Learning new skill-sets leads to upward mobility but bad policy is threatening that opportunity.
Unfortunately, due to regulations adopted by the Obama Administration and its activist National Labor Relations Board, opportunities for employees to move through the ranks have been stifled as the NLRB’s top-down regulatory approach prevents employee mobility within departments.
One of the most egregious examples of the Board’s overreach is their decision in the Specialty Healthcare case. In summary, the NLRB’s decision upended years of established law in favor of allowing micro-bargaining units — small units of an entire store — to organize without the consent of the majority workers at a company.
In fact, micro-units can be now validated by the NLRB even after a full vote rejected unionization. The Retail Industry Leaders Association recently issued a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the NLRB’s decision to allow a micro-union at Macy’s after the entire workforce rejected unionization. This decision is not only a setback for retailers but has a widespread negative impact on employee mobility.
Without a majority of the NLRB willing to overturn the damaging Specialty Healthcare decision, instances of micro-units will increase, creating static workplaces where unions force employees to remain within a unit rather than learning new skills and advancing careers.
Unfortunately, this is the end result of human resource operations dictated by an overreaching NLRB and its big union allies.
Fortunately, common sense legislation has been reintroduced to turn back this harmful policy.
The Representation Fairness Restoration Act, introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) aims to reverse the Specialty Healthcare decision, which would restore well-founded, proven years of legal precedence.
As leaders in the workforce arena, we want to continue to train our employees and help them grow. We must not let red tape get in the way of progress.
Congress would do right by America’s employees to pass this important legislation.
Armstrong points to the Representation Fairness Restoration Act, introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) this week, as a common-sense solution to restore workplace mobility and flexibility.
To learn more about RILA's efforts to protect workplace flexibility, contact Evan Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This op-ed was originally published in The Hill, May 25, 2017.
After months of public debate surrounding the proposed border adjustable tax, yesterday the House Ways & Means Committee formally began review of the potential impact of the tax on the economy.
Target CEO and RILA Board Member Brian Cornell led the charge for retail, explaining in detail for members of the committee why retailers are opposed to the BAT. In his testimony, Cornell pointed to the 42 million jobs currently supported by retail, and insisted that implementing a border adjustable tax would stifle retail job growth and investment, and hurt Target customers. He added that the economic theories used to support the border adjustment tax were "unproven and untested," and urged Congress not to gamble with American families' budgets.
Watch Cornell's full testimony here:
Retailers have been vocal about the harmful effects the proposal would have on businesses of all sizes and on American families, most notably citing the inevitable cost it would pass on to consumers in the form of higher prices for everyday household items.
Earlier this week, RILA released a report developed by Capital Economics which debunks the theory that the border adjustable tax will appreciate the dollar enough to offset the impact on U.S. businesses and consumers. Report authors go so far as to label the dollar appreciation argument as "unreliable," so much so that it makes the border adjustable tax "not worth the risk of attempting it."
In fact, when asked by Representative Jim Renacci whether they can assure a border adjustable tax would have no economic effect on consumers, the hearing panelists all agreed they could not.
After yesterday's hearing, RILA Senior Executive Vice President Brian Dodge said, "anyone who viewed today's border adjustable tax hearing looking to understand if this would work in the real world could only be left deeply concerned."
As the conversation around tax reform and the border adjustable tax continue in the coming weeks, retailers will remain engaged with lawmakers and will continue working to inform consumers and businesses alike about the damage this proposal would have on the economy.
It's no secret that the retail industry is undergoing a period of immense change. Companies are having to adapt to changing consumer habits, but they're also proactively making changes internally to ensure company resiliency and longevity. One growing component of this transformation is increased investment in sustainability programs. Now, more than ever, retailers are leveraging sustainability as a catalyst for innovation in their operations, service offerings, and products. We at RILA consider ourselves a partner in this journey and are committed to helping our member companies accelerate their sustainability programs.
The 2017 Retail Sustainability Management Report released today serves as a cornerstone of these efforts in helping retailers understand how they compare to others in the industry, and how they may want to progress in the future. Last released in 2015, the new report highlights the strides retailers have made over the last two years in fulfilling past goals, committing to additional goals, and honing their overall approaches to sustainability.
By breaking down an effective retail sustainability program into 30 dimensions, retailers can use the report to track their progress along each category, identify the highest leverage opportunities for improvement, and benchmark their program's maturity against peer companies.
This report is the result of an online survey disseminated to RILA members in March of 2017, which yielded responses from 31 retail companies, representing more than 30,000 locations and $600 billion in global revenue.
Access the full 2017 Retail Sustainability Management Report here. For questions or to learn more about RILA's sustainability program, please contact Erin Hiatt.
Today, RILA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center and the Sustainability Consortium (TSC) launched the Circular Economy Toolbox, an online platform to help companies incorporate circularity into their core principles and business practices.
For retailers, the business community and the public at large, the term "circular economy" might seem like a reference to high school geometry. In reality, the concept is really quite simple. The circular economy moves beyond sustainability to emphasize longevity, reuse, and recycling within business operations. This concept is a transformation of the traditional linear economy which focuses on a 'take, make, waste' model of production. As businesses look to innovate their supply chains and focus on sustainability, the circular model can help them stimulate development and growth.
We teamed up with the U.S. Chamber Foundation and the Sustainability Consortium to create the toolbox as a resource for brands looking to learn more and participate in this growing concept.
The toolbox assists organizations in the development of programs that capitalize on the business value of the circular economy, providing actionable tools and steps for companies to adjust their practices and take advantage of the long-term benefits of becoming more circular.
It features a repository of projects that profile companies' circular activities and also provides useful information for businesses, including:
- Overview of the circular economy;
- Background on the differences between circularity and sustainability;
- Glossary of terms and keywords; and
- List of circular economy resources.
As America's retailers focus on promoting sustainability from shore to shelf, we want to help them every step of the way. This toolbox is a new way to help move industry forward.
Questions about our toolbox? RILA is here to help. Email Adam.Siegel@rila.org to learn more.
As the nation's second largest private sector employer, the retail industry supports over 42 million American jobs. From supply chain to store, retail is offering growth and opportunity to millions of employees. RILA's reach is wide and our member companies take pride in leading the way in career training, wage growth, workforce development, and innovation. As such, we have always known that RILA companies provide a tremendous value to their workforce and year after year the best employer rankings back it up. 2017 is no different.
Recently, Forbes released its list of "America's Best Large Employers for 2017." Not only were several RILA members in the top 50 but the number one and three spots went to CostCo Wholesale and REI, respectively.
As these rankings emphatically demonstrate, retailers, as marketplace leaders, understand the important place they hold in our economy as well as the overall impact our industry has in the marketplace. That is why the RILA members are committed to creating a positive impact each day by fostering their role as the training ground for millions of workers. Whether employees are stepping into the workforce, seeking a leg up, or establishing a long-lasting career, America's retail industry is offering more jobs and career opportunity than virtually any other. Their ability to offer first jobs or second chances is vital to keep our economy and our workforce growing.
The face of the economy and retail industry may be changing, but RILA members' commitment to their workforce is unwavering. RILA companies will continue to lead the way in creating forward-thinking workforce policies to promote innovation, growth and opportunities in the retail industry.
Want to learn more about the retail workforce? Contact Evan Armstrong here.
CEOs from some of America's largest and most innovative retail companies headed to Washington for RILA's semiannual Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday. The group focused on numerous issues facing retail including the need for pro-growth tax reform and protecting debit swipe fee reform.
Leadership from AutoZone, Chico's, Coca-Cola, Dollar General, Energizer, IKEA, Intel, JCPenney, PetSmart, PVH, Tractor Supply Company, and VF Corporation, met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss economic policies vital to America's retailers.
Attendees used the opportunity to share concerns with the Secretary over the House-proposed border adjustable tax (BAT). Retailers have spent the last six months educating policy makers on both sides of the aisle about the harmful effects the BAT would have on the industry, most notably raising the cost of everyday goods for consumers.
Following the meeting, RILA Senior Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Brian Dodge said,
"There is no industry that wants tax reform more than retail. We are eager to work with Secretary Mnuchin and the entire Trump Administration to pass pro-growth tax reform this year so that American families can keep more of the money they earn and businesses can invest and grow."
News clips from the meeting:
Earlier this year, RILA also led a delegation of retail CEOs in a
meeting with President Trump to discuss the industry's concerns with a border adjustable tax.
To learn more about RILA's Board of Directors or the association's efforts working with the Administration on pro-growth economic policies, contact Jennifer Safavian at
email@example.com. For more information about RILA's stance on tax reform, visit here.
In early May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) kicked off its TecExec Series with "Farm to Table: A Tech Story," an event that highlighted Kroger as an innovative company that utilizes technology to disrupt and transform the agriculture, retail and grocery industries.
The panel was comprised of Chris Hjelm, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Kroger, as well as Stuart Aitken, Chief Executive Officer of 84.51°, Kroger's consumer insights subsidiary company that helps the grocer navigate the complex data landscape to reveal relevant customer patterns. A stored webcast and additional information on the event can be seen on the U.S. Chamber's website.
Below are a few of the takeaways:
- Throughout its history, Kroger has continued to be a source of innovation, beginning with its introduction of automated scanners and customer loyalty cards that revolutionized the retail industry in the 1970s.
- Today, the retailer is following that same path of innovation, implementing new technologies to provide a better shopping experience for its customers, including:
- Incorporating IOT into refrigeration systems to maintain appropriate temperatures;
- Enacting its QuickList program that allows customers to order their groceries online and pick up in-store, and checkout through a dedicated express lane that notifies them of applicable coupons available in their virtual loyalty card and automatically applies them at the POS;
- Implementing entirely digitized shelves with HD video capabilities to better map shelf and store layouts to learned customer preferences.
- Kroger is also working to attract a talented millennial workforce comprised of software engineers and other tech specialists by sponsoring events such as TechLympics, a Cincinnati high school program designed to expose students to more STEM professions.
In sum, Kroger strives to embody what an (R)Tech company ought to be: one that embraces the confluence of retail and technology to delight today's empowered consumers.
If you have any questions, please contact Brennan Duckett, manager of government affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 28, twenty-four general counsel from some of the country's leading retailers met in Washington, D.C. for the annual spring RILA General Counsel Committee meeting.
Former U.S. Solicitors General Paul Clement and Donald Verrilli opened the meeting with a discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court and the newest addition, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Next, RILA member Deirdre Runnette, general counsel of Zulily, Inc., interviewed Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch about his experiences leading the legal function for an innovative new company.
The Honorable Victoria Lipnic, acting chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, shared her thoughts on the direction the Commission is likely to take under the new Administration. And a team from IBM presented a potential application of IBM's Watson technology to retail compliance challenges.
The afternoon continued with Michael Williams, chief legal officer at Staples, leading discussions on managing internal corporate investigations and the merger process, and closed with Jason Schwartz and Theane Evangelis of Gibson Dunn, discussing California employment class action litigation trends.
The day ended with a "bonus session" for those members of the committee who could stay and work with RILA's Adam Siegel and Nicholas Ahrens on projects that RILA is developing through RILA's (R)Tech Center for Innovation.
Members attending the meeting noted its value, saying afterward:
"It was, as usual, very educational, very useful to my day-to-day." – Victoria Donati, general counsel, Crate & Barrel
If you have any questions about this meeting or want to learn more about RILA's community of chief legal executives, please contact Deborah R. White, senior executive vice president & general counsel, at email@example.com.
Last week, RILA's Privacy Leaders Council (PLC), comprised of privacy and general counsel executives representing a wide variety of RILA member companies, convened in Washington, D.C. for its annual in-person meeting. The meeting drew a record attendance of more than 35 individuals representing 18 member companies.
The day began with a design thinking exercise that challenged attendees to think of new and innovative ways to facilitate consumer choice in the use of in-store technologies, which was followed by a brief FTC update from Dan Kaufman, who serves as the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Consumer of Protection at the FTC. The morning session concluded with a privacy advocacy discussion featuring John Verdi from Future of Privacy Forums and Katie McInnis from Consumers Union regarding Consumers Union's Digital Standard, a project designed to educate and empower consumers to make smarter choices about the Internet-connected products they buy.
Mike Bloomquist, Deputy Staff Director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee kicked off the afternoon session providing the group with insight to the potential legislation that could be taken up by the Committee this year.
The group then proceeded to engage in a robust, peer-to-peer benchmarking discussion in which members posed their company-specific privacy challenges to the group. The meeting concluded with an hour-long presentation from the Hunton & Williams privacy team regarding the future of the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the effects it could have upon the U.S. retail industry. It should also be noted that the group was introduced to RILA's (R)Tech Center for Innovation and learned about how the PLC will be folded into this larger campaign moving forward.
If you have any questions about this meeting or want to learn more about RILA's community of privacy and general counsel executives, please contact Nicholas Ahrens, vice president of privacy & cybersecurity, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Erin Hiatt, Director, Energy, Sustainability & Research
The past few weeks have sent me all around the country on behalf of RILA's Energy Program and Sustainability Committee – two key communities of our Retail Sustainability Initiative (RSI). These trips provide a great snapshot of what I'm busy with these days to help our members mature their programs.
First stop: Boston
My trip to the Boston area started on March 22, facilitating a panel at the CFO Rising East Summit on green bonds and external financing for sustainability in general.
In 2015, RILA was the recipient of a Department of Energy (DOE) grant to help us work on energy project financing, recognizing that the internal competition for capital within our member companies often leaves compelling energy projects unfunded. Since then, we've supplied our members with a wide array of tools and workshops to help them address this barrier, whether through increasing their own finance literacy or considering innovative funding options.
One of those innovative options is issuing green bonds, which has gained momentum in the retail industry with announcements from Apple and Starbucks. While RILA has done a good job educating retail energy and sustainability leads about these opportunities, the CFO Rising East Summit panel supplied an opportunity to share these new, exciting options with the other half of the capital allocation equation: finance professionals.
Joined by two fantastic panelists, Ariana Meinz of Bank of America and Cheryl Smith of Trillium Asset Management, we talked about the current momentum around green bonds, their benefits, and the opportunity they present to diversify a company's investor base. I would not be surprised if we continue to see more companies seizing the chance to tackle bundles of beneficial projects, supported by a green bond!
The next day I met with some of our grant partners at MIT Sloan School of Management, who are also helping us think through new avenues to expose finance professionals to these innovative opportunities. Because there isn't one go-to event to speak to an audience of retail finance professionals, we're thinking through low barrier, virtual ways to make sure companies know their options and hear from industry validators who have tested and benefitted from them. I also learned about SHIFT (Sustainability Help, Information, Frameworks, and Tools), an MIT online aggregator aimed at helping demystify the plethora of sustainability resources out there. You may see RILA's tools featured there soon!
My last day in the Boston area took me to Marlborough, where RILA member TJX graciously hosted a regional benchmarking meeting for sustainability and energy retail professionals in the Boston and New York areas. Twenty representatives from nine retailer companies discussed a range of topics in small groups including lighting, renewable energy procurement, stakeholder engagement, data strategies, and setting sustainability targets, Finally, in keeping with the trip's finance theme, attendees participated in a workshop facilitated by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) on innovative financing options to wrap up the day.
Second stop: Phoenix
April 10 - 12 was spent at one of my favorite conferences to attend, the Edison Electric Institute's Key Accounts Workshop. Many RILA members prioritize this conference because it provides them with a unique opportunity to meet with utility account representatives all in one location, twice a year. Utility-commercial customer relationships are key for setting smart procurement strategies and taking advantage of the all-important rebates and incentives that make many energy projects financially viable.
I spoke on a panel highlighting landlord-tenant efficiency opportunities by introducing the audience to the Landlord-Tenant Energy Partnership (LTEP), an initiative launched Fall of 2016 by RILA and our friends at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) – and managed by IMT. LTEP was started to help landlord and tenants overcome financial split incentives created by leasing agreements and is helping us progress collaborative solution-building. One co-panelist, shopping center developer Regency Centers, spoke about their collaborative tenant solar work that was featured in a RILA case study.
Knowing retail travel budgets are tight, I like to travel to where our members go regularly when hosting meetings of the Energy Management Program. EEI was kind enough to include our meeting in the official agenda for the seventh time, and retailers from twenty companies showed up for a great discussion. We talked about RILA's activities (including financing and LTEP) and benchmarked approaches to procurement, renewable energy strategies, energy management information systems (EMIS)/data analysis, and water management. I cannot wait to see members again this fall at the Gaylord National, right in EEI and RILA's backyard!
Third stop: Dallas
My final trip in April wrapped up just last week at the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association's (PRSM) National Conference. PRSM and RILA are naturally complementary partners. While RILA is a trade group with communities for retail energy and sustainability professionals, PRSM specifically serves retail facilities maintenance professionals. At retail companies with and without dedicated energy and sustainability programs, facility managers are sometimes tasked with elements of those work areas – so that made it a great place to talk to PRSM's own energy and sustainability groups about RILA's existing resources. Partnerships and collaboration make us stronger, so we want the tools they create with PRSM to address facility manager's needs by building on what's already publicly available.
I also spoke in a breakout session alongside IMT's Audi Banny who leads the LTEP to a great group, many of whom were learning about split incentive issues and opportunities for the first time. Coming from a role at Estee Lauder, Audi explained how critical it is for energy, sustainability, and facilities roles to work together towards the common benefits to be gained from partnering with landlords and internal leasing and real estate departments.
At lunch the same day, I joined DOE's Advanced Rooftop Unit Campaign (ARC) as they announced the 2017 campaign award winners including retailers Target, Ulta Beauty, H&M, and Giant Tiger! ARC encourages commercial building owners and operators to replace their old RTUs with more efficient units or to retrofit their RTUs with advanced controls in order to take advantage of substantial savings benefits. It's been a pleasure collaborating with ARC and seeing it grow.
So what's on the agenda for next month?
I'm looking forward to seeing more members at our Southeast regional meeting in North Carolina on May 4, at the DOE Better Buildings Summit in DC May 15-17, and at Sustainable Brands in Detroit May 22-25 where, for the first time, RILA is hosting a Retail Innovation Track (and offering an awesome special registration rate for retailers new to SB).
For more information about RILA's energy program, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.