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The Dividends from Green Offices

Green office buildings are constructed to save energy. But do better ventilation, eco-friendly carpeting, and increased natural light bring other bottom-line payoffs? Yes, according to a study by the University of San Diego and commercial real estate broker CB Richard Ellis Group (CBG). The researchers surveyed 2,000 tenants in 154 buildings under CBRE's management across the U.S., all with EPA-awarded Energy Star labels or LEED certification.

The survey found that employees took an average 2.9 fewer sick days each year in their environmentally sound offices than in their previous, nongreen workplaces—a cost savings to their employers of roughly $1,200 per worker, based on average salaries. Some 55% of tenants also reported a rise in employee productivity in their green digs—adding up to a 5% average increase worth $5,000 per worker annually. Professor Norm Miller at the University of San Diego's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate says the research didn't pinpoint exactly which green features made employees healthier and more productive. But "generally it's lighting and air quality," he notes.

Most tenants also expressed a belief that their healthier environments helped them retain their staffs (61%) and burnish their image with clients (74%). Energy savings? Sending tenants individual utility bills caused them to consume 21% less electricity on average.

With all this, the green buildings were able to command higher rents—$30 per square foot vs. the national average of $27. And vacancy rates were lower—about 16.6%, vs. 17.2%. David Pogue, CBRE's national director of sustainability, says that difference is "modest" partly because many of the buildings surveyed house financial-services firms that have cut their staffs.

Hey, Good-Lookin'—This May Hurt a Bit

It has been dubbed the "Botax." The Senate health-care reform bill that will be debated after Thanksgiving includes a proposed 5% tax on elective cosmetic procedures such as breast implants, face-lifts, and Botox injections. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax will raise $5 billion over 10 years, but the nation's purveyors of cosmetic procedures say they and their patients are being singled out unfairly. Caroline Van Hove, a spokeswoman for Allergan (AGN), the Irvine (Calif.) company that makes Botox, argues that taxing cosmetic procedures punishes "people who have merely decided to enhance their appearance." The tax discriminates against females, she says, since 86% of people who have cosmetic procedures are working women. And unlike sin taxes on cigarettes and other unhealthy products, she adds, the tax doesn't discourage behavior that adds to the nation's medical bill. The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, representing 1,800 doctors, is also speaking out against the tax. Botox sales are already off 2% this year. And most cosmetic surgeons have seen a 25% drop-off in business since the start of the recession, says Steven Hopping, a cosmetic surgeon in Washington, D.C., and a past academy president. "Asking doctors to be tax collectors is unprecedented," he says. "It's a further burden on our industry."

Putting the Jingle in Jingle Bells

For its holiday marketing campaign in London, Coca-Cola (KO) will sponsor street musicians (or buskers, as they're called in Britain) who perform in the city's vast Underground transport system. But the deal, which starts on Nov. 30 and runs until Jan. 4, has a kink to work out. Coke would like the singers to perform its theme tune Holidays Are Coming and other Christmas-related fare. Many of the Underground's 240-plus buskers, however—from classical performers to rap artists—are balking. "Not in a million years will I play some Coke jingle," Michael Ball, a 47-year-old jazz guitarist, told the London Evening Standard. "What a daft idea." Transport for London, which manages the Underground, says no singer will be required to perform a specific song. Coke, whose logos will surround the buskers, also says the jingle isn't "mandatory." Still, the soft-drink giant is talking with officials about "incentivizing" the musicians to offer holiday songs, including Coke's. That's one way to teach the world to sing.

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