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. The pandemic-era economy, with its disruptions to work and high inflation, was already a peculiar one. This month it’s gotten stranger still, with yet more twists and turns in the politicization of ESG and new uncertainties about the value of human capital in the world of tech.
Payrolls Rose 311,000 in February, More Than Expected, Showing Solid Growth (Jeff Cox, CNBC) An encouraging topline number, though one that might feel a bit strange when one digs into how job gains and losses are sorting out: The Class of 2023 Faces a Jittery Job Market: ‘The World Seems to Have Flipped on Its Head.’ (Chip Cutter, The Wall Street Journal).
How ‘Excuseflation’ Is Keeping Prices — and Corporate Profits — High (Tracy Alloway, Joe Weisenthal, Bloomberg) Another example of the weirdness of the U.S. economy at this moment: ‘Excuseflation’? One “defining factor of this excuseflation — and one potential reason it’s proving difficult to stamp out — is that it gives companies a cover to raise prices together, limiting in the process customers’ ability to vote with their feet by shopping elsewhere.” A related view from the U.K.: The Guardian View on Corporate Greed: It’s Causing Inflation (The Guardian).
The Business Community to Conservatives: Your Anti-ESG Culture War Could Bankrupt State Pension Systems (John Hanna, Tom Davies, The Associated Press) A reality check for anyone who imagines that there’s a consensus on anti-ESG politics in red states.
Comment: We Must Protect the Freedom to Invest Responsibly in the U.S. (Mindy Lubber, Reuters) There are so many excellent lines in this piece, we have to restrain ourselves from quoting the entire thing! Just one example: “It only takes a moment of reflection to realize how self-defeating and self-destructive it is to stand in the way of sustainable investing. Investors are trusted to properly manage risk so they can generate long-term returns for their beneficiaries.”
Why Scrutiny of Starbucks’ Alleged Union Violations Is Boiling Over Now (Justin Stabley, PBS NewsHour) There’s been a rush of headlines about Starbucks and its burgeoning labor movement. Here is a good overview of the issues involved, from the big-picture context of shifting public opinion on unions to specific critiques of Starbucks’ practices.
Essentially Unprotected: Health Data and Surveillance of Essential Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Livia Garofalo, Amanda Lenhart, Ireti Akinrinade, Joan Mukogosi, Data & Society) How did workers experience Covid-related “tensions between health data privacy and worker safety,” and how was this complex dynamic impacted by more or less equal balances of power in the workplace?
Where Have All the Sacked Tech Workers Gone? (The Economist) “Releasing talented tech workers back into the wild could be a boon for other sectors wrestling with digital reinvention. For years unsexy industries like industrial goods have struggled to compete with the tech industry for talent. Now they are pouncing.”
Workers Are Concerned AI Like ChatGPT Will Take Their Jobs (Megan Leonhardt, Fortune) History holds lessons on the often difficult relationship between labor and technology. Will this moment’s fears about technology-driven job loss be borne out by time, or are they fueled by recent headlines and a jittery job market?
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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