From the Editor

Thursday, October 3, 2013

In all the current media noise about the Affordable Care Act, I keep listening for facts. Here’s some numbers to consider. 28 million Americans would gain health insurance under Obamacare, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. Two-thirds of uninsured Americans have a full-time job. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that six in ten uninsured Americans could qualify for health coverage in the insurance market for less than $100 per person per month.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Looking for something to do in these do-nothing, politically dysfunctional days? Fair Trade USA has ranked the top ten cities in the U.S. for “fairness.” The winner? Philadelphia, followed by Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth (!?), Atlanta, Washington, D.C., San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and New York. (What does it mean that the larger cities are last in fairness?) The 2013 Fair Survey looks at behaviors and beliefs in a wide range of areas, including manners, food, parenting, finances, shopping, and environmental practices.

Monday, September 30, 2013

An energy efficiency bill sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) has accomplished something unusual in today’s Congress: it has won wide bipartisan support. The bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May by a vote of 19-3. The legislation requires the federal government—the largest single energy consumer in the country—to adopt energy saving practices and build at the highest energy efficiency standards. If adopted last year, it would have saved $4 billion and helped businesses create 80,000 jobs.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

As the ideological debates rage on about the Affordable Care Act, the facts are starting to create a clear picture of what this landmark legislation might mean at the bottom line. The Department of Health and Human Services has released a report on health plan premiums and participation in the 36 states where the federal government is either fully or partly running the new health insurance exchanges. The conclusions? Consumers in most states will have many plans to choose from, and premiums will be lower than expected in 2014.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A bill to mandate CSR for companies in the Philippines has been filed in the House of Representatives of that country. All businesses established and/or operating under Filipino laws, whether domestic or foreign, would be required to follow practices outlined in the bill, including accepting limitations made on retained surplus profits, defined as in excess of 100 per cent of paid-in capital stock. The legislation’s sponsors argue that too many corporations in that country have shown “very little care” for the social good. This effort raises some complex questions.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sets rules for renewable energy development and authorizes natural gas pipelines and exports. You’re going to hear a lot about this usually little-known agency, as the nomination of Ronald Binz to be its new chairman is being opposed by a coalition of coal and fossil-fuel energy advocacy groups. Binz, the former head of the Colorado Public Utility Commission, was instrumental in drafting that state’s Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants and increasing wind energy production.

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

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.

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