What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. This month we read work on the role of business in tackling inequality and other grand challenges, worker voice, and more.
The Business Cycle
How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt? More Consumers Struggling (Jennifer Surane, Bloomberg) What do the rising charge-off rate and declines in credit quality say about how the economic tide may be turning?
When an Industry Consolidates, What Happens to Wages? (Kellogg Insight) How does labor market concentration impact the labor market? This article reviews research from an increasingly consolidated industry, healthcare, and lays out the effects.
Purpose of the Corporation
The Enlightened Capitalists (Book by James O’Toole) The question of how corporate purpose can be balanced with profits has surged to the headlines in recent years. Anyone exploring that issue today would do well to consider this book, which examines historical cases to trace how efforts to do so fare over the long run.
Can Uber Ever Make Money? (The Economist) The company that became a shorthand for innovation in the last decade has yet to turn a profit, consistently reporting billion-dollar losses. How will the company need to change its model in order to reach profitability?
Our Digital Past Is Getting Erased, through Product Shifts and Corporate Negligence (Owen Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle) Though ostensibly a story about technology, this piece presents a deeper problem: what does it mean when we entrust companies to be the keepers of our memories?
Visits by Loyal Stop & Shop Customers Decline 75 Percent during Strike (Katie Smith, Boston Globe) The headline number isn’t the only remarkable one. Analysis suggests that shoppers avoiding Stop & Shop increased traffic to competitors Market Basket by 115% and Trader Joe’s by 75%. As little as 40% of these customers may return to Stop & Shop.
At Google Workers’ Town Hall, Employees Pledge to Protect Each Other from Retaliation (Richard Nieva, CNET) Google employees and contractors alike were at the forefront of the activism in the tech sector last year. Sticking together is proving critical to keeping worker voice strong.
The Fragmentation of Truth (danah boyd, Points) Facebook and Twitter are often the focus of discussions about the spread of misinformation and extremism. For the next generation, YouTube is even more important.
See No Evil (Miriam Posner, Logic Magazine) New technology would seem to offer new transparency into supply chain sourcing—making it possible to root out labor and environmental abuses. What if the economic stakes are precisely in not seeing?
How Drones and GPS Are Helping Indigenous People in Ecuador Save the Amazon (Kimberley Brown, Pacific Standard) This article spotlights ways in which marginalized communities are using maps and other technological tools to reshape their relationships with business and government.
Scandal-Hit German Fintech Wirecard Secures $1 Billion Investment (James Jackson, Deutsche Welle) Not just a story about corporate misbehavior abroad, this piece sheds light on how Japanese investment firm Softbank is driving a German company’s expansion into East Asia.
For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our monthly newsletter and visit our website. (Please note, the purpose of this newsletter is to highlight what Aspen BSP staff are reading, and is not intended as advertisement or endorsement of content or viewpoints.)