From the Editor

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has made a provocative statement about management strategy for a service industry: “I think it’s a team effort to make such a company successful.” He also says that the American “hype” about individuals leading companies is “over.” Spohr describes his work schedule as CEO as 30 percent meetings with front-line staff: pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics. This approach keeps him close to the details of airline service and to the employees who execute them.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Impact investing—investing to create quantifiable positive social and environmental change along with a financial return—is not easy in China. Many companies lack management dedicated to impact investing programs and a strategic plan. However, the China Vanke group, the largest residential real estate developer in mainland China, is one example of a successful model of a responsible Chinese corporation through impact investing.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Who are the most and least respected brands in U.S. business? According to a report on 100 top companies by CoreBrand, a consultancy firm, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Walt Disney, and Campbell Soup are among the “most respected” while H&R Block, Philip Morris and Delta rank lowest in respect ratings. The highly ranked companies score high by doing well financially, have few management problems, and avoid issues with product or service quality.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The once near-invisible activity called “supply chain” is now in the transparency spotlight. Globalization has resulted in cheaper goods, but at a high cost at the human level in recent, very public disasters and investigative reports. Many Western companies that source apparel, electronics, and other products from overseas low-wage countries are now ramping up their efforts to verify factory conditions for workers’ safety, using certifying organizations such as Intertek, SGS, Bureau Veritas, Verité, Arche Advisors, and UL Verification Services.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value will take place from September 25-28, 2013 on the HBS Campus. Participants will learn to align CSR with business strategy by defining priorities, integrating social responsibility into business structure and managing risk. To learn more and apply, visit: http://www.exed.hbs.edu/programs/csr/Pages/default.aspx

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value will take place from September 25-28, 2013 on the HBS Campus. Participants will learn to align CSR with business strategy by defining priorities, integrating social responsibility into business structure and managing risk. To learn more and apply, visit: http://www.exed.hbs.edu/programs/csr/Pages/default.aspx

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two recent events offer a moment to pause, in one of those “how far we’ve come and how far we have to go” moments. Muriel Siebart, who died last week at age 84, was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, a pioneer of the discount brokerage business, and the first woman to be superintendent of banking for New York State. Many women now on Wall Street credit her example as an inspiration. And the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington recalls the groundbreaking changes in American society driven by the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Luxury brands aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence as CSR and sustainability, but Tiffany’s latest news turns that truism on its head. The high-end purveyor of classy jewelry and accessories traces 98 percent of its precious metals and all of its rough diamonds to known mines. All of its suppliers for bags and boxes are Forest Stewardship Council-certified, and a new bag made with 50 percent post-consumer recycled content has been introduced. There’s more, spelled out in its 2012 CSR report, but you get the idea.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Some major retailers are forecasting lower sales projections for this year. From budget-focused businesses like Walmart to higher income marketers like Macy’s and Nordstroms, retailers are reporting that customers are spending only on the essentials. These lowered sales projections are blamed on several factors: continuing high unemployment, low-wage paying jobs, part-time work, and an increased payroll tax. Is there another message in this news? Could some shoppers be going back to basics after years of binge buying, through a combination of necessity and choice?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Today’s global economic data tells us that Europe is showing positive growth, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) bloc’s rapid growth rate is leveling off, Japan is coming out of 20 years of deflation, and the U.S. is showing signs of sustained economic recovery from the Great Recession. What does all this mean for business? As a hedge fund manager once told me, any movement, up or down, in any market, anywhere in the world, creates business opportunities.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

U.S. health care consumers pay much more for drugs, devices, and medical services. U.S. health care costs are 17.6% of GDP; for Canada, 11.4%; for the 34 OECD countries, 9.5%. The bottom line: the outcomes are not better, despite the higher level of investment. Now comes news that U.S. hospitals are merging faster and in larger numbers. The driver? The Affordable Care Act, which changes how hospitals are paid by the government and by private insurers, from fee-based volume of service to the total cost of a patient’s care, creating an incentive to keep patients healthy i.e.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Companies are well aware of the expense of CSR, from people and programs to the donation of resources. But what about the ROI on that investment? What if 50% of customers were willing to pay more for goods and services from companies engaged in CSR? And what if 43% actually did? That’s not speculation, but the results of a new Nielsen survey that polled 29,000 online consumers in 58 countries.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Business values volunteers, but college grads looking for that first job and veterans returning to the workforce don’t know it. That’s the bottom line of the 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey that polled HR executives, college seniors, and military veterans. The survey showed that 81 percent of HR execs take skilled volunteering into account when evaluating a potential job candidate, and 52 percent replied that volunteering is an important part of their corporate culture.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Distributors are becoming content producers. That’s the message I’m taking away from the purchase of the Washington Post by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. As distributors reach the limits of organic growth, they are turning to the delivery of original content through their existing networks as a path toward additional revenue and expanded brand value. It’s a logical move. Amazon started as a book distributor and now publishes original books. Amazon joins distributors YouTube, Google, and Netflix, all of which have started to produce original content as well as delivering client content.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Patent trolls" are holding back innovation in the tech industry under current IP law. That’s the argument that tech industry execs presented to House lawmakers in recent hearings. Criticism was directed in particular at the current patent system, under which companies use their claims to broad patents to sue other companies rather than delivering products or services based on the innovation described in the patent.

Friday, August 2, 2013

As if the current threats from climate change aren’t dire enough (floods, droughts, extreme weather), a new study tells us that higher temperatures are tracking with spikes in conflict. A new report by the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton has reviewed 60 previous studies from around the world, and concludes that out of 27 modern societies studied, all 27 showed a positive correlation between higher temperatures and violence.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Chinese solar panel producers have reached an agreement with the European Union to settle a months-long dispute over charges of dumping of their products on European markets. A minimum price of 56 euro cents per watt will be the base price of future imports. Any exporter who decides not to abide by it will be charged the EU’s antidumping tariff of 47.6 percent. EU solar panel producers have complained that Chinese overproduction has resulted in a flood of discounted product that undermines their domestic industry.

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