Human Impacts Institute representatives, as part of our Ecopreneurs Program and NYC Climate Coalitioninitiative, embarked on the first of many outreach missions to help make NYC carbon neutral, one store at a time. Representatives walked along Broadway and 5th Avenue in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, noting which stores had their doors open and which had them closed. Open doors with that familiar summer blast of air conditioning was a sign for the Human Impacts Institute to talk with store employees about the benefits of closing their doors (i.e. keep money and energy from flying out the door!) and to sign the NYC Climate Coalition pledge to keep their doors closed.
When talking with over 20 businesses, most store employees and managers cited their powerlessness to close the doors in the face of corporate commands and the allure of open doors, which allegedly leads to an increase in foot traffic and business. One Geox employee even mentioned that the corporate headquarters in Italy literally have eyes on the store doors; there are cameras on the doors that let the head honchos know when they’re closed. Other stores with this “open doors policy” include Sketchers, American Eagle, Puma, Beecher’s, Wolf Home, Clear, Punch Bar and Grill, and Soft Serve Fruit. Not a single store closed their doors when requested.
We also entered stores that already had their doors closed to commend them and asked them to sign our pledge. These stores include Environment, Metropolitan Design Culture, and Innovation Luggage. Even though the doors to Essential were propped open when we entered, the employees stated that the door was only open briefly for deliveries and they signed the pledge.
While smaller businesses are more likely to be able to make the decision, on a managerial level, to close their doors, most of the employees of the larger companies and businesses do not have that power. In future outreach efforts, the Human Impacts Institute team plans to approach large companies and businesses by communicating both with store employees and managers and following-up directly with corporate administrators.
Another potential advocacy tool will be to provide responses to the stores’ need for foot traffic and other ‘excuses’ that stores were giving, offering them different ways to gain customers. When approaching larger businesses, of which the threat of the City-enforce $200 first-time offence and $400 repeat offense fines is insignificant in their overall budget, it may be beneficial to discuss the benefits of closing their doors, specifically the money that they could be saving instead of blowing it into the hot summer wind. It would also be beneficial to address how, by doing their part, they are setting examples for corporate social responsibility and supporting a healthier community.
While many stores were unwilling to take the pledge, the Human Impacts Institute was able to spread awareness of their role and potential contributions to making New York City carbon neutral. If the store employees that promised to contact their bosses about our cause actually go through with it, then the corporate managers in charge are at least aware of their impact and the benefits of closing their doors.
By Jenny Cheng and Mugzy Undemir, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Climate and Coalition Building Interns