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 look at what may be a turning point for the U.S. economy. Headlines of President Biden’s first two years often fixated on stubborn inflation, as the administration struggled to pass ambitious legislation to retool the economy for the fight against climate change. In April 2023, there are some encouraging signs that inflation may be moderating. There are also signs that the administration’s signature legislation, passed late last year, is beginning to transform the U.S. economy for the better.
US Online Prices Decline for a Seventh Month on Annual Basis (Alexandre Tanzi, Bloomberg) Is this an early indicator of inflation cooling for good? Perhaps, but it’s important to contextualize this finding within the bigger framework of the U.S. economy: Inflation Cools Notably, but It’s a Long Road Back to Normal (Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times).
‘Transformational Change’: Biden’s Industrial Policy Begins to Bear Fruit (Amanda Chu and Oliver Roeder, The Financial Times) Will the U.S. government’s new industrial policies unlock a multi-industry manufacturing renaissance, and who wants in on the boom? For another perspective on the Biden administration’s policy and the economy, see Biden’s Second-Best Economic Agenda (Walter Frick, ProMarket).
How Did Solar Power Get Cheap? Part I (Brian Potter, Construction Physics) How did policies, incentives and industry play a significant role in the rise of solar energy as a cheap and accessible source of power? What changed, and how can the U.S. reclaim sustainable energy development from other countries?
The Link Between Business Value Creation and ESG (Grant Harrison, Greenbiz) This Bain/EcoVadis research “demonstrates the measurable value of extending ESG ambitions beyond stakeholder communications and into the core business” and finds ESG to be “a solid for-the-long-term business case win.”
In Ohio, Electric Cars Are Starting to Reshape Jobs and Companies (Jack Ewing, The New York Times) Even as the Biden administration’s industrial policy begins to bear fruit, it may not necessarily do so as the administration hoped—namely, in the form of high-paying union jobs in the Midwest. “It could well be that most of the new electric car and battery jobs will end up in the South, where unions face political opposition, and not in the Midwest, where unions have political clout—and where most of the jobs lost in combustion engine vehicles once were.”
Ben & Jerry’s Scoopers Take Key Step to Form Company’s First Union (Lauren Kaori Gurley, The Washington Post) While industrial policy may be generating headlines this month, it’s important not to lose sight of the labor struggles that have been building in the service sector for some years now—often in companies known for their progressive reputation. Ben & Jerry’s is one such example. John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State University quoted in the piece, warns: “An aggressive anti-union campaign would involve a huge amount of reputational risk for Ben & Jerry’s,” calling Ben & Jerry’s “the archetypal progressive corporation.”
America Is Back in the Factory Business (John Keilman, The Wall Street Journal) A reminder that economics and politics aren’t the only factors shaping the employment outcomes of the new industrial policy. The pace of technological innovation is also key, as a quote from one chief executive in this piece suggests: “The automated solution that we’ve created in North Carolina, current version, has about 10 to 12 people on that line because of the high level of automation, and the 2.0 version looks like it’s going to get down to two to three people on the line.”
12 Climate Tech Innovators Building a Net Zero World (Bloomberg Business) We conclude this month’s edition of What We’re Reading with a look ahead. These twelve innovators showcased by Bloomberg underscore the fact that today’s innovations in climate technology are only the beginning of the economic transformation still to come.
For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our publications 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.)
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