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. July 2021 started off with an extraordinary U.S. jobs report that seemed to portend a strengthened hand for working people coming out of the COVID-19 economic crisis. And yet, anxiety still lingers in U.S. society writ large. This month’s edition explores the role of business in rebuilding trust and shaping purpose at the level of the individual and society.
U.S. Jobs Gain Largest in 10 Months; Employers Raise Wages, Sweeten Perks (Lucia Mutikani, Reuters) Companies are turning to bonuses, higher wages, and expanded benefits to address the ongoing labor crunch. Hiring is picking up.
Growth Is Strong, but the Obstacles to Full Recovery Are Big (Neil Irwin, The New York Times) “The healing is happening. But the new numbers reflect just how severe the scars of last year really were.”
Are Americans More Trusting Than They Seem? (Idrees Kahloon, The New Yorker) What if social and political tensions disguise an important truth about the underlying state of the union? “People don’t see the phenomenal trust embedded in the modern economy for the same reason that David Foster Wallace’s fishes could not fathom water: everything is predicated on its existence.” How does this blind spot influence attitudes even in the face of encouraging economic news, and how can business help?
JPMorgan, Goldman Call Time on Work-From-Home. Their Rivals Are Ready to Pounce. (Julia-Ambra Verlaine and David Benoit, The Wall Street Journal) In a piece titled, How Working From Home Has Changed Employees, last month the Wall Street Journal examined how the remote-work experience has changed the way employees navigate the meaning of work in relation to life. This month’s piece shows how the trend is starting to play out.
Activision Blizzard Employees Walk Out of Work to Protest Rampant Sexism and Discrimination (Zoe Schiffer, The Verge) As Frito-Lay Workers Strike for End to ‘Suicide Shifts’, prominent protests this month show worker discontent in multiple industries. Will labor be able to use its current leverage to push for substantive change?
Purpose of the Corporation
The Corporate Climate Pledges Are as High as an Elephant’s Eye (Nathaniel Bullard, Bloomberg) “In a few categories, however, sustainability commitments aren’t just ahead of last year’s trend, they’re also ahead of the full 12 months of 2020.” Does this offer a new way forward for individual and societal purpose in business?
Toyota Stops Donations to Election Objectors After PAC Targets Company (Riley Beggin, The Detroit News) “It shouldn’t take a public pressure campaign to get them to do the right thing, but we’re glad it worked.” How can companies do more to align their actions and stated purpose, and how likely is it that these changes will stick?
What if Regulating Facebook Fails? (Siva Vaidhyanathan, Wired Magazine) A provocative read that tackles the limitations of current proposals to fix Facebook, from antitrust regulation to the company’s Oversight Board, of which the author says: “It does not question the commitment to growth and engagement.”
Google and Facebook Mandate Vaccines for Employees at U.S. Offices (Bobby Allyn, NPR) Absent a federal mandate, how employers address the issue of required vaccines will have one of the most significant impacts on uptake. And as discussed in the related NYT piece, What if the Unvaccinated Can’t Be Persuaded?, it could also provide valuable information on how to slow the spread of the virus while reopening the economy, and the systems required to make it work.
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