March 10, 2009
Paul Studebaker, CMRP, editor in chief, says to do the right things in a down economy.

It’s easy to obsess about the Dow, get depressed and let it affect your performance. Just the other day, I was talking to my 17-year-old son, Benjamin, about the latest bad news. I mentioned that he might not want to have children.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I think you and your generation will be OK, but I wouldn’t bet on your kids being able to survive, what with nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, global warming, energy and food shortages, and all that stuff. And even if they did, I would feel sorry for them, having to live in a world of too-real TV, Web 13.0, airport DNA tests, implanted chat-phones and the ever-shrinking net weights of consumer products. My calculations predict that by the time your kids are your age, there will be only one M&M per bag and it will cost $57. And it will be made in Tibet, by nanobots.”

Benjamin is a history buff, specializing in the eras between the dinosaurs and the Magna Carta. “What are you talking about?” he replied. “The world’s been changing since the dawn of time. Some things will get better, some things will get worse, and if anything becomes a real problem, we’ll fix it.”

If we follow public opinion, he’ll have a lot to do. The Pew Research Institute regularly analyzes how people perceive the importance of various concerns. The latest report found that five of 20 issues had slipped significantly in importance between January 2008 and January 2009. The study says, “Protecting the environment fell the most precipitously — just 41% rate this as a top priority today, down from 56% a year ago. The percentage rating illegal immigration as a top priority has fallen from 51% to 41% over the past year, and reducing crime has fallen by a similar amount (from 54% to 46%). And while reducing health care costs remains a top priority to 59% of Americans, this is down 10 points from 69% one year ago.”

The study attributes the changes to people’s concerns about the economy: “The share of Americans saying that strengthening the nation’s economy should be a top priority has risen from 68% two years ago to 75% last January to 85% today. Concern about jobs has risen even more sharply. The 82% who rate improving the job situation as a top priority represents a 21-point jump from 61% a year ago.”

It is certainly top of mind and deserves our best efforts to improve it, but there’s no doubt that the economy eventually will come around. We can’t be as sure about the other issues, so it’s heartening to hear about companies continuing to do the right things to address them.

For example, on the environmental front, Kaeser has become an Energy Star partner. Energy Star is not yet certifying industrial equipment, but companies that strongly advocate for energy efficiency both in the equipment they manufacture and in their corporate policies are allowed to sign up and use the Energy Star logo in their promotions (though not on their equipment).

“Our commitment to energy management extends beyond our products and services,” said Frank Mueller, Kaeser general manager and executive vice president. “The design for our headquarters expansion includes many energy-saving elements, and our employees actively participate in energy and waste reduction programs.” Companies seeking similar status should see

Meanwhile, Atlas Copco has joined the United Nations Global Compact (, committing to 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

The company also has been named to the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World for the fourth consecutive year. Global 100 candidates are evaluated on how they manage environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities, relative to industry peers. “Our dedication to sustainable business practices extends across our ability to provide customers with reliable compressed air solutions that save energy and increase production efficiency,” said Paul Hense, president, Atlas Copco Compressors LLC. Learn more at

Finally, every one of us would do well to follow the example of the people at Commtest, who announced they are setting aside a price increase scheduled to go into effect in February. “Despite ever increasing operating costs and rising component prices, Commtest is committed, now more than ever, to being relentless in our efforts to review our internal costs in order to pass the savings on to our customers,” said Jack Henderson, company chairman and CEO. “This decision reflects The Revolution’s dedication to the importance of maintenance and reliability programs. The easy thing to do would be to increase our selling prices, but that would not fit Commtest’s commitment to our customers and the industry.”

Maybe those M&Ms folks will take the hint.

E-mail Paul Studebaker, CMRP, editor in chief, at [email protected].

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