As business owners, we’re often faced with ethical choices that stretch the boundaries of personal standards. And too often we find companies willing to violate fundamental ethical principles (Enron, Lehman Brothers, BP, to name a few). We can treat single companies within a given industry that violate the basic tenets of our society as an anomaly, but what do we do when an entire industry rationalizes profits over people?

Negative Effect

A remodeler brought his concerns about the ethical lapse that seems to be the current hallmark of both the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to me saying, “It seems completely unethical for our associations to promote legislation [Renovation, Repair and Painting rule opt-out] that could have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the community.”

The ever-hypocritical NAHB has never been known for progressive, ethics-first thinking, but NARI is new to the game of protectionist-style lobbying. It is a shame to witness the remodeling industry drift down the path worn smooth by the builders. When it comes to people’s health, however, there is simply no excuse for the lobbying efforts of both organizations. No amount of rationalizing changes the facts.

We use a plethora of hazardous materials in the construction industry. We come in contact with carcinogenic, corrosive, asthmatic, and otherwise toxic materials. We experience them in vapor, particulate, liquid, and solid forms. We do a piss-poor job of protecting ourselves, our staff, and our subs. We do a laughable job protecting our clients and the community, let alone the environment and critical resources.

Our Responsibility

The harsh reality is that RRP is not a political decision, it’s a judicial one. We had 20 years to get our act together, and we did nothing. We have been putting current and future occupants at risk for far too long, and the cost to reduce that risk is nominal. Let me repeat, nominal.

I’ve been on the chat rooms, discussion threads, and forums and have heard it all. RRP is far from perfect, but it is a step in the right direction, and rather than spending our time and energy to fight it, we should be working to improve it.

The opt-out legislation is morally reprehensible, and NAHB and NARI should be ashamed of themselves. As remodelers, we improve people’s homes, fix builders’ sloppy work, correct architects’ misguided theories. We are advocates for home­owners. We are dedicated to solving problems and doing things the right way. We and our associations have a responsibility to inform and educate, not obfuscate.

We, as remodelers and members of society, have a moral and ethical responsibility to not opt out.

—Michael Anschel is owner and principal of Otogawa-Anschel Design Build, serves on the board of Minnesota Greenstar, and is CEO of Verified Green.

Read NARI and NAHB's response to Michael Anschel's column

For more REMODELING articles about the RRP rules:

NARI Supports Inhofe LRRP Amendments

NARI Lobbyist on Legislation and Regulatory Issues

Lead Safety Is a Best Practice for a Reason