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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive
December 7, 2005
And Now, The 'Eco-Walk Commutation Allowance'

Mazda Motor Corp. has developed an important new message for its Japan-based employees.


Whatever you do, don’t drive cars!


Expressing concern for its employees’ health and for the environment, Mazda is willing to pay its employees something called an “eco-walk commutation allowance” if they walk to work at least 15 days a month.


They’ll pay you 1,500 yen per month, which almost sounds worth it until you realize that’s actually just $12.


In its determination to prevent people from driving, oh, say, Mazdas, Mazda is even developing creative recommendations for how employees can qualify for the program. You can’t cheat and live across the street. The walk has to be at least 2.48 miles roundtrip to count. (Why such a weird number? Because I converted it from the weird metric system.)


But if you live too close, no problem! The company suggests that you take the bus a mile and a quarter in the wrong direction, then walk back.


If you walk briskly enough, you’ll lose weight, in part because it will make you sweat. If enough people are sweating when they show up for work, perhaps they can transfer the smell of the eco-walk to the cars they’re building. Then Mazda won’t have to pay people not to drive them.


We don’t know if employees who live, say, 10 miles from work are allowed to drive their cars 8.76 miles and walk the rest of the way. And that would hardly seem worthy of a walking bonus, as the majority of Americans who work in downtown areas basically do the same thing. Indeed, if you can find a place to park that’s only 1.24 miles from your office, your colleagues will probably ask you to start the coffee after you turn on the lights.


It turns out Mazda is not the first company in Japan to introduce such a system. The first to do so, a few years ago, was Yamaha. (Because God help us if people ride motorcycles to work!)


It is hardly new to see companies trying to encourage healthy behavior (or are we supposed to call it “wellness” now?) among their employees. The initiative being promoted by Mazda and Yamaha clearly has a second objective as well, as the moniker “eco-walk” demonstrates.


They’re not just trying to save you from outgrowing your jeans with the 38-inch waist. After all, you could accomplish that by cutting back on the Teriyaki Chicken. They’re trying to stop you from contributing to the destruction of the planet. Harmful emissions are hurting our planet, so leave that Mazda in the garage! (Oh, buy one. Let’s not be ridiculous here. Just don’t drive it.)


Then again, maybe Mazda is not trying to save the planet. Maybe it is only trying to save Japan, as the only company employees eligible for the eco-walk commutation allowance are those based in Japan.


American Mazda employees are out of luck. Or maybe they’re in luck, since they can still drive their Mazdas to work without fear of their employer’s disfavor.


When I was in college, I got a summer job working at Chrysler World Headquarters in Highland Park, Michigan. Like most college students, I drove whatever I could get my hands on, and that happened to be an Olds Cutlass. Chrysler rules required that those driving competitor cars had to park in a lot in the general vicinity of Toledo. No wonder I was so healthy in college.


But the way I figure it, they owe me 4,500 yen. If today’s Daimler-Chrysler will ante up, I could start a fund to pay my employees to walk to work. Unless, as I suspect, they’d prefer I just buy them pizza.

© 2005 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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