Jason Rantz: Here’s why you should be wary of star-studded, scammy Well-Health Safety Seal

You may have seen the star-studded commercial with Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Robert DeNiro, and Michael B. Jordan promoting the Well-Health Safety Seal for buildings and businesses in the post-COVID era. The ad was even “directed” by Spike Lee, even though every star featured in it recorded his or her scene remotely, in a single shot, staring directly into the camera. It feels like it’s playing endlessly.

The Well-Health Safety Seal promotes itself as a way for you to determine if the business or building you’re entering is safe from the threat of COVID. Be it a bank, school, stadium, or restaurant: if you see the seal, rest assured that J-Lo thinks you’ll be safe!

But many viewers find the ad confusing and even a little creepy. The response by some on social media has people referring to the “new world order:” 

Virtually no one had seen the seal on a building before COVID hit, so why are so many big celebrities vouching for it? The ad itself is short on specifics but promises safety. If you see the seal at a business, you’re told you’ll “feel more confident going inside.”

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In the era of COVID, the seal feels manipulative in the worst kind of way, preying and capitalizing on fears and hysteria. A dive into the criteria a business must follow, reveals a laundry list of processes most businesses already have underway. 

What’s worse, the ad strongly implies that if you don’t see the Well-Health Safety Seal on a business, you shouldn’t consider it safe to go inside. Is that the message we want as companies struggle to overcome the lingering effects of crippling COVID policies in parts of the country?

Since there are few policies the seal mandates that most companies don’t already do practice, this looks like little more than a money grab. Is that what this is? Or are we unfairly judging a short branding ad?

The ad campaign frames its service around the pandemic, with Lady Gaga sympathetically explaining, “we all want to feel safe in the places we spend our time.” And Lopez promises that “if you want to get back to your favorite places and feel confident they have put your health and safety first,” you should look for the Well-Health Safety Seal.

But what the ad never reveals is that the seal can cost a business up to $12,600, depending on its size. Then a company can take advantage of what I consider the virtue-signal model. Businesses don’t really have to change much of what they were already doing. The seal signals a commitment to safety, all with the approval of A-list celebrities.

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Businesses must meet 15 of 22 safety criteria established by the International Well Building Institute (IWBI), which administers the seal. It sure does feel like the IWBI makes it easy to pass once your check clears.

The criteria are a mix of progressive workplace demands that masquerade as “wellness” perks and safety protocols that include procedures most businesses already practice along with the appearance of upgrades. Ironically, the most expensive criteria companies must meet have nothing to do with protecting customers from COVID.

For example, one of the 22 criteria is to provide free or subsidized healthcare, which mandates “sexual and reproductive health services.” Similarly, mental health care must be covered. Citing “climate change, population growth and rapid urbanization,” the IWBI says employees who go “through emergencies are likely to experience psychological distress,” and will need care. 

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But what do these benefits have to do with COVID safety? Combine this with demands of paid-time-off, and it reads like a progressive politician’s wishlist for businesses to offer employees. No wonder so many left-wing celebrities push the seal.

On the other hand, the health and safety criteria include procedures either already adopted by virtually every business or mandated by law. They consist of handwashing stations with soap and paper towels, displaying the letter grading system issued by the local health department, banning indoor and outdoor smoking (as allowable by the law), and cleaning surfaces more frequently. Try finding businesses that don’t already do this. 

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You even get points in their system for innovation, which includes having operable windows. Yes: you get points for having “operable windows that provide access to outdoor air.” How innovative!

The criteria also include assessing ventilation and water quality, reducing respiratory particle exposure, and managing mold and moisture. But the kicker? It does not require performance testing. Indeed, according to the fine print, the seal “is awarded after an annual review of a building’s written policies and protocols.”

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The IWBI rating doesn’t even guarantee the business will be safe or free from pathogens. Perhaps this is boilerplate legalese to prevent them from being sued. Maybe it’s even reasonable. But wouldn’t a reasonable consumer expect that the seal means they will enter a business that will be free from pathogens?

If this sounds scammy, well, you may be on to something.

The Well-Health Safety Seal is the brainchild of Wall Street vet Paul Scialla, who wants his company to replace LEED certification, which establishes buildings as eco-friendly. The difference is that LEED standards are set by a non-profit and Scialla could be looking to cash in on the eco-craze. There’s a lot of money to be made in the world of the Green New Deal, where establishing your eco-friendly bona fides makes you seem like a hero. That’s where the celebrities come in.

J-Lo and others convince their fans to pressure businesses to get the seal: if they don’t pay for the seal, their legions of fans won’t trust the coffee shop, restaurant or bank enough to patronize at a time when they need customers the most. After all, de Niro promises us that “everything may look the same, but the Well-Health Safety Seal means your health and safety are top of mind.”

This is a bad deal for everyone — except Scialla and any business looking to convince the public that they’re somehow doing things much differently than a competitor.

On the one hand, a business with some extra cash to burn could purchase this seal and convince a COVID-weary public that they’re safer than their nearby competitor employing the very same safety protocols to keep them safe. The seal is a literal virtue signal and it came at a steep price.

But, more worrisome, the seal could crush many businesses, putting them in precarious positions if this campaign succeeds.

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Can a small business afford the seal? Can they afford not to buy one?

If the pressure campaign works, the business may feel compelled to go into debt to enroll in the program, thinking it will help them stay afloat. What an absolute shame that would be.

Subscribe to Jason Rantz’s podcast here and follow him on Twitter @JasonRantz.

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