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
The Benefits of America’s Hot Economy Have Been Unevenly Spread (The Economist) To compete for workers in a tight labor market, companies are doing everything from training workers to helping them claim tax credits. So why might economists be worried?
Stock Indexes Drop As Bond Market Flashes Recession Warning (Scott Horsley, NPR) This month’s What We’re Reading goes live just days after the bond market flashed a signal frequently associate with recession, known as the inverted yield curve. This piece stresses that though a recession is not necessarily imminent, several data points indicate slowing economic growth both globally and, increasingly, in the US.
Purpose of the Corporation
Economic Inequality, Part 3: What Can Business Do About It? (Jim Freeland and Ed Freeman, University of Virginia Darden School of Business) This post answers the question with a list of solutions, each with an example of a company actually implementing those ideas.
‘Superstars’: The Dynamics of Firms, Sectors, and Cities Leading the Global Economy (McKinsey Global Institute) This report is worth resurfacing for individual data points like the claim that, of the 6,000 of the world’s largest companies, 80 percent record near-zero profit in the aggregate.
Teacher Walkouts Boosted Strikes to Highest Level since 2007 (Marisa Fernandez, Axios) Low wages and benefits are pushing workers, many of them teachers, to strike. This piece offers an excellent data visualization of 2018 labor actions by industry sector.
Could California Reclassify Janitors, Truck Drivers, Construction Workers as Employees? (Carolyn Said, The San Francisco Chronicle) A major ruling by California’s Supreme Court last year is prompting a re-examination of contract and gig economy workers, with potentially enormous consequences for wages and benefits.
Here’s What It’s Like to Accidentally Expose the Data of 230 Million People (Joan Donovan, The Atlantic) Companies of all sizes now have access to “massive, leak-prone databases of personal information—without necessarily having the resources or know-how to secure them.” One CEO discusses his experience and what companies can do to keep an ordinary day from turning into “a waking nightmare.”
How Hate Groups’ Secret Sound System Works (Andy Greenberg, Wired) In the wake of the recent terrorist attack in New Zealand, this article highlights the role of technology in hate group signaling, recruitment and propaganda. As calls for accountability rise, what do companies need to know in order to keep their platforms from being turned into megaphones for hate?
How to Fix Big Tech Without Breaking It Up (Joe Nocera, Bloomberg) There’s more to this interview with antitrust expert Hal Singer than the title would suggest. Example: “But if entrepreneurs watching this appropriation decide it’s not worth the effort to compete against the platform and throw in the towel, then how well off is the consumer in the long run?”
Banks around the World Opt to Offload Coal (Deutsche Welle) Financial and reputational risks to banks are leading to worldwide action against the coal industry, which accounts for almost half of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide. Financial institutions overseeing some 20% of the coal industry’s global assets have announced cutbacks in funding.
Tepco Unit to Tie Up with JXTG on Hydrogen Production for Fuel-Cell Vehicles (The Japan Times) Another interesting example of how concerns about perception can lead to action: Japan’s government is promoting new clean energy technology in advance of the the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
A Transatlantic Front Opens in the Brexit Battle over Derivatives (Gillian Tett, The Financial Times) What may appear to be an isolated standoff between the United Kingdom and the European Union has profound transatlantic implications. As the author notes, global financial stability may be at stake.
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