By Sarah Hodges
I’ve often felt disenchanted by American consumerism, big business greed, and large corporate take-overs. They have such negative impacts environmentally and socially! When Renée gave me a favorable article about Costco, I reached out for confirmation from our long-time family friend Nick Torngren, one of the supervisors at Costco in Hawaii Kai. Hearing his story, I was filled with a sense of relief.
Here’s one large corporation that is really doing the “right” thing!
Nick has worked at Costco Hawaii Kai for the past 16 years, a “drop in the bucket” he says, compared to many of his fellow team members. Despite having worked there for over a decade, he talks about the job with palpable enthusiasm. While some of this is a tribute to his own cheerful, positive outlook on life, I can nonetheless NOT imagine hearing the same kind of enthusiasm chiming out of any of Costco’s rival business workers, such as a Walmart clerk or a Sam’s Club cashier.
Costco has a special formula for its success: they take care of all the employees, no matter their position or level, and they take care of the environment. From its simple beginnings in 1983 in Seattle, Washington, its founder Jim Sinegal wanted a company with integrity, and he made sure the company ethos carried on even after he retired from his post at Costco in 2012. “Costco has always exceeded its state minimum wage requirements,” says Nick.
He and the many veteran Costco workers would have undoubtedly sought other jobs had the need arisen, but folks like Nick can live well on the income they receive and feel appreciated as workers. Nick enthuses: “Our benefits are legendary. We get stock options and competitive wages. If you’re willing to move around, you can go to the highest levels of the company. I feel like they really have our best interests at heart. Every few years we give input and even vote on Costco’s board of directors.”
No doubt Costco also benefits from their workers’ long-time loyalty. Imagine if all businesses treated their employees this well!
Nick continues, “I like that when Costco is going to set up a new warehouse – we currently have 7 on the islands – they go into the community to address people’s concerns. They are not of the mind to come in and conquer. They make compromises.” He reports that the company builds each new warehouse responsibly, mindful of the environment around it.
“I used to joke about Costco being a ‘green’ company before going green was in vogue,” Nick says with a chuckle. Having started the 5th largest retailer in the world, Jim Sinegal knew how large of an impact their sustainable practices would have on the planet. As CEO, he implemented partnerships to assure that any waste product that can be recycled is recycled, and any item that Costco can’t sell is distributed to those in need. For example, Costco has found grateful homes in third world nations for bicycles that didn’t sell over the holiday season.
Nick himself remembers operating a forklift on many early mornings, placing crates of homegoods, food, and other resources into trucks for the foodbank and other nonprofit organizations. Costco also donates spoiled food to local farmers who can then use the produce for compost and feed for chickens, pigs, and other livestock. Costco compacts all its cardboard into big bails and recycles it, minimizing what goes into the landfill. In the last few years even shrink wrap gets separated and sent back to the depot.
“Costco has a solid formula to sustain itself into the future,” explains Nick.That helps to sustain the world at large. Nick points to a key aspect of any sustainable practice: “Costco is always adapting to address the current situations of the present time.”
So, next time you get your week’s or month’s worth of groceries at any Costco store, you can rest assured that you’re supporting a business that truly cares about the environment, its workers, and the local community.
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)