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. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last month, it was in March 2022 that the full extent of its implications for U.S. business and society started to become clear.
U.S. Consumer Spending Growth Slowed in February to 0.2% (Gabriel T. Rubin, The Wall Street Journal) Striking details: even as U.S. consumers have become more optimistic about domestic factors such as the waning of winter’s Omicron wave, they increasingly fear the impact of the war in Ukraine on gas prices.
Confronting Russia Shows the Tension Between Free Trade and Freedom (The Economist) Even the paper of “free-trade bar none” concedes: “The vision of the 1990s, that free trade and freedom would go hand in hand, has fractured.” But even in the 1990s there were of course those who cautioned against such hubris, as we explored in our podcast “They Saw the Dark Side of Globalization 20 Years Ago.”
Three More Starbucks Locations in Buffalo Area Vote to Unionize (Andrea Hsu, NPR) A story we covered in last month’s edition of What We’re Reading, this labor movement as of yet shows no signs of stopping.
Mandatory Meetings Reveal Amazon’s Approach to Resisting Unions (Noam Scheiber, The New York Times) This piece offers more proof of the challenges workers face in unionizing in the United States.
How Did ESG Funds Wind Up Investing in Putin’s Russia? (Saijel Kishan, Alastair Marsh and Frances Schwartzkopff, The Los Angeles Times) “As an investor, you have to consider not just the company, but the environment in which they operate”: Russia’s invasion is exposing investment risks on many fronts, and ESG funds are no exception. How can they assess future risks for whole systems, not just individual corporations?
ESG Fund Bosses Under Rising Pressure to Ax Gas as War Rages (John Ainger, Bloomberg Green) Activists push for blacklisting as Europe considers calling gas “green.” Is there a way to help users transition to renewables that doesn’t involve stretching the concept to a point where it’s no longer meaningful?
4 Reasons Why Putin’s War Has Changed Big Tech Forever (Steven Feldstein, Foreign Affairs) “For years, tech companies have avoided making hard choices about where they operate and how they deal with repressive governments. Instead, they have sought to have it both ways”: How is Russia’s war on Ukraine changing the way platforms do business, and what are the broader consequences for the far-reaching ecosystems they have built?
When Nokia Pulled Out of Russia, a Vast Surveillance System Remained (Adam Satariano, Paul Mozur and Aaron Krolik, The New York Times) “The conflict in Ukraine has upended the idea that products and services are agnostic.” How are tech firms entwined with countries’ policies, what is happening to the tools companies help build, and who is responsible for their use?
Exit Interview: Facebook’s Former Counterterrorism Chief Talks Meta’s Moves in Russia (Issie Lapowsky, protocol) “Besides the fall of the Soviet Union, this is the biggest geopolitical event of my lifetime. It will have longer and broader impacts than 9/11… Nobody who wasn’t working age in 1989 to 1990 has been through something quite like this.“
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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