Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

February 20, 2014 | BioCycle Editorials

Editorial: Face Value

Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle February 2014

The headline in our local paper on Feb. 6, 2014 read, “CVS to drop cigarettes, put heat on rivals.” Noted the article, “CVS said Wednesday that it will halt sales of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products at its 7,600 U.S. drugstores by Oct. 1, forgoing $2 billion in annual sales in favor of bolstering its reputation and bona fides as a true health care company.” Apparently, national drug store chains are positioning themselves more as health care providers, and selling cigarettes is no longer consistent with its business model.
The next day, the paper had this headline: “21 states join fight to halt Chesapeake plan.”  Explains the article, “Attorneys general in 21 states are backing an attempt to derail the Obama administration’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, fearing that the government will use that authority to regulate wastewater in other watersheds, including the Mississippi River Basin.” Farm and industrial pollution in the Mississippi River Basin cause an immense dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that kills marine life by depleting dissolved oxygen. In 2011, the American Farm Bureau Federation had filed a lawsuit in federal court to derail the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, arguing that this “pollution diet,” which it claims will cost taxpayers and farmers billions by its full implementation in 2025 (due to upgrades to deteriorating sewer facilities and fences to limit chemical runoff from farms), is the sole responsibility of the states.
When I read the article about CVS, I found it amazing that a publicly traded company plans to forgo $2 billion in annual sales and reinvent itself as a “walk the talk” health care provider. At face value, that is a bold move. Dig deeper, and my guess is that CVS sees tremendous upside profits in the future.
When I read the article about 21 state attorneys general trying to derail the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, I was amazed that so many elected state officials don’t recognize the value of clean water to their citizens’ public health, their states’ economic prosperity and the overall sustainability of their municipal infrastructure. At face value, that is a very shortsighted move. Dig deeper, and my guess is that this group of attorneys general sees continuing business as usual — in this case fighting to keep polluting waterways — as preserving whatever monies won’t have to be spent.
My reactions prompted me to look up the meaning of the phrase, “face value.”  The term is defined as “the value printed on the face of a stock, bond, or other financial instrument or document.” It also is defined as “accepting something exactly the way it appears to be.” So at face value, CVS is being bold and strategic. The state attorneys general? Well not so bold, and definitely not very strategic. CVS is sacrificing $2 billion/year in cigarette sales, but stands to gain a healthier clientele that will continue spending money at their stores for years to come. It is hard to predict the health of the states that want to avoid going on a pollution diet.
It would be awesome if the CVS executives could help the attorneys general identify the upside profits to be gained by having clean water in the future. Better yet, those attorneys should be hearing from all of you who work day in and day out, to generate revenues by following the “pollution diet.” At face value, that is a smart move.

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