Air Quality Should Be Important To Your Business (Here’s Why)
As inversion season rolls in, the quality of Utah’s air is always a topic up for discussion. No matter your profession or politics, it’s impossible to deny that air quality is a challenge along the I-15 corridor, especially at this time of the year. Haze settles into the valley like soup in a bowl, affecting everything from business and travel to moods and health, and it’s natural for us to consider what we can do to mitigate its impact.
Not only does Utah’s air affect all of us personally, but it also impacts your business and career. Air quality affects the bottom line. Below are three reasons why businesses should be concerned about this important issue and how we can participate in voluntary activities to reduce emissions in a way that positively addresses the winter inversion.
Company and employee recruitment
Utah is a business mecca. Its strong economy, culture, recreation, and world-class educational foundation make it attractive for business and talented employees. But when these conditions are marred by the gray winter haze, the state’s attraction is needlessly undermined. In an Economic Development Corporation survey on Salt Lake City business, air quality ranked as the leading factor to improve to make Salt Lake City more accommodating in terms of the city’s value proposition.
As sustainability becomes a high priority for many businesses—especially in industries such as renewable energy, life sciences, and technology—air quality issues will continue to play a larger role in the decisions of companies and prospective employees to either relocate to or stay in Utah. EDCUtah’s report highlights the growing trend to include air quality in the initial site selection process. To recruit and retain the best companies and employees to Utah, the business community must do its part to keep our air clean.
Employee health and well being
Paramount to any business is the physical and mental health of its employees, and long periods of inversion can affect an employee’s wellbeing. In the 2016 Utah Foundation Utah Priorities Project, the report showed that nine out of 10 Utah voters surveyed deemed “health” as their top concern regarding air quality. Poor air is harmful to everyone’s health but especially for children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, or even diabetes.
There are simple strategies employers can implement to improve conditions for the health and well being of their employees during periods of bad air. The Utah Department of Transportation’s TravelWise program states that employers who allow their employees to use TravelWise strategies in the workplace experience an increase in quality applicants, employee retention and productivity, as well as decreased sick leave and need for office space—all because employees are able to arrange their schedules to better fit their lifestyles. The Chamber encourages you to look into these strategies.
Community and economic prosperity
While we are concerned about the welfare of all Utahns, the Salt Lake Chamber has the responsibility to address air quality issues through the lens of economic development and market principles, especially in a way that does not add unnecessary regulatory and expensive burdens on employers. It’s important to use valid science and to rise above political ideology to assure sound policies and engagement. This becomes possible as individuals and businesses engage in thoughtful behavior and voluntary changes that have a real impact.
When Utah companies encourage and incentivize employee health and wellbeing, our economy will continue to prosper, and we will all share the benefits of a pristine and nurturing environment. To achieve this, however, everyone must work together with an understanding that even small things can make a big difference―from thinking twice before jumping into the car and turning off the engine rather than idle to improving the insulation and lighting at our offices and factories. Each of these measures will mitigate the effects of poor air quality and inversion.
With this as an introduction, I encourage you to join the Salt Lake Chamber in our efforts with the Utah Clean Air Partnership and TravelWise. Participate in the Clear the Air Challenge, a month-long competition designed to encourage Utahns to reduce their vehicle emissions by choosing alternatives to their regular commute. Visit cleartheairchallenge.org to learn more.