From the Editor

Monday, December 9, 2013

Governors of eight Northeastern states plan to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to apply more stringent air pollution regulations to nine states in the Midwest. The reason? For the last 15 years, the East Coast states have operated under stricter requirements than most of the rest of the country while the Appalachian and Rust Belt states have had more lenient rules on pollution from coal-fired power plants and factories—emissions that are carried east by prevailing winds. Northeastern air is often so foul that it violates federal law.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This year, employers and their workers will pay out $900 billion for coverage. Even more attention-getting than this huge figure is the fact that it’s hard to get a proper accounting of what prices buyers are paying for what products and services, and whether those prices are reasonable—or not. It’s well known that the cost of some medical services can vary wildly, from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars—for the exact same procedure. Theoretically, large employers use the clout of their big budgets to negotiate pricing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

£50, about $82, will be cut from each British household’s annual “green levy,” the subsidy that supports the U.K.’s shift to renewable energy, under a proposal put forth by Prime Minister David Cameron. The government will now fund some of the costs currently included in domestic power customers’ energy bills. The rising price of power has become a political issue in Great Britain, as the rapid changeover to renewable sources mandated by the 2008 Climate Change Act is proving costly.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

“Business can do more to engage with social issues that affect key stakeholders in their local communities.” So says Dominic Barton, global managing director at McKinsey & Co. in a recent “expert” blog post in the Wall Street Journal. As notable as the source and the showcase is Barton’s rationale: “This is important not because of the good optics of social responsibility, but because of the long-term benefits of operating symbiotically” (my italics).

Monday, November 25, 2013

As an American holiday, Thanksgiving tracks back to the “thanksgiving days” religious services and English harvest festivals brought to the New World by the Puritans and the Pilgrims. Around the world, many countries have celebrated or will be celebrating similar end-of-harvest celebrations that include bountiful feasts of special dishes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper has worked out an agreement with three of that state’s largest oil and gas developers and the Environmental Defense Fund, a national advocacy group, to reduce emissions. Signing on are developers Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Encana Corporation, and Noble Energy. Hickenlooper's proposal sets strong limits on leaks of methane and other gases from well sites and storage tanks to keep escaping gases to a minimum.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

India has adopted a Companies Act that mandates minimum CSR spending requirements for corporations operating in that country. The new regulations apply to domestic companies and multinationals, and to public and private companies, that meet the defined monetary standards. The Act requires companies to spend two percent of the average net profit from the last three years on CSR initiatives. Companies can choose not to comply with these regulations, but must submit a disclosure about their non-compliance.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Three twenty-something programmers have created a functional, DIY website,, that tells consumers what health insurance plans are available, based on their zip code, plan preference, and personal information. Users can find and compare plans and prices, and work with a subsidy calculator. The trio had each tried to get information from the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, but could not. So they built their own site, using data posted on and other information requested from state exchanges.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prominent scientists concerned about climate change are calling for environmentalists to support the development of nuclear power as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy can’t scale up fast enough to produce the amount of clean power needed, they say. (Renewables, including hydroelectric, currently make up 11 percent of the U.S. energy market.) With worldwide carbon dioxide emissions scoring a three percent rise in 2011, and the U.S.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In an ironic twist on the law of unintended consequences, many of the uninsured who depend on “safety-net” hospitals are facing denial of health care because those hospitals are facing large cuts in the subsidies that support that care. The federal “disproportionate share” hospital payments, for most large hospitals in the millions of dollars, have helped offset the cost of uncompensated and undercompensated care.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A new series of case studies shows the business value of energy management systems and strategies by adding up the ROI and measuring the timeline of reductions in energy use. One report examines the costs and benefits of implementing ISO 50001 as part of the U.S. Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Toms shoes, known for its “buy one, give one” policy which has resulted in 10 million pairs of shoes donated to children living in poverty, has organized 30 other businesses and organizations with a social purpose into Toms Marketplace. The online store features more than 200 products from companies and charities with various models of giving back, so that a customer can shop by cause or even by the part of the world they wish to support. According to Edelman’s annual survey, 53 percent of consumers say a brand’s activities on social causes are the deciding purchasing factor.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some good news: emissions in 2012 increased at less than half the average over the last decade, according to a new report. The two biggest reasons? The shift to shale natural gas in the U.S. which burns cleaner and an increase in hydropower in China by 23 percent. The global rate of increase for 2012 was set at 1.4 percent while the world economy grew by 3.5 percent.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

As 78 million Baby Boomers move toward retirement age, their financial worries about future health care costs are increasing. Even affluent, non-retired investors are getting nervous. A new study shows that the financial risk of rising health care costs in retirement was the greatest concern of non-retired investors; a majority, 55%, were “very concerned,” a rise of seven points from last year’s survey. Overall, 89 percent of this year’s respondents expressed “some concern” about rising heath care costs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A coalition of eight states has teamed up to increase sales of electric cars. The group is adopting various supporting measures, including installing more charging stations, changing building codes to make it easier to own an electric car, and buying EVs for their fleets. Their goal is to achieve sales of over three million vehicles that do not have any emissions by 2025. The coalition—California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—represents more than a quarter of the national car market.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In North Dakota, an estimated 865,000 gallons of oil has spread across farmland after a pipeline rupture. The pipeline’s owner, Tesoro Logistics, only found out about the leak after being alerted by the farmer on whose land it had been spewing for some time. The spill is one of the largest inland oil pipeline accidents in the U.S.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Problems with the software for health insurance offered through the Affordable Care Act have become an “Appegedon.” Millions of would-be enrollees have been unable to log in to the federal government portal or the Web sites of individual state exchanges. Ambitions for these sites are huge: to enroll millions of uninsured by Dec 15. So is the software on which they depend: the underlying code contains an estimated 500 million lines. Some five million lines may need to be rewritten to coordinate the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cutting costs has been the basic reason for outsourcing—in particular, cutting labor costs in countries with emerging economies. It’s not created a pretty picture for developed countries’ business practices. Exploitation, tax avoidance, corruption—almost every bad business behavior has been associated with outsourcing. But what if business process outsourcers (BPOs) were focused on making social change while improving business performance?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Last Friday, executives of the utilities that provide half of Europe’s electricity production capacity called for an end to subsidies for wind and solar power. They charged market “distorting” incentives—priority access to the grid and guaranteed prices for wind and solar power producers—have driven down the wholesale price of conventional power generation while raising retail prices to the consumer. Exhibit A: in Germany, which has the most aggressive renewable energy policy, households now pay double the previous rate.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

“Appalled.” That’s the comment by behavioral ethics researchers who have concluded that cheaters cheat because they get a “high” from unethical behavior. A new study finds that cheaters in a variety of experiments felt an emotional boost that the honest participants did not: a sense of thrill, self-satisfaction, and superiority. Unethical behavior is being increasingly studied to understand what prompts people to breach core values, why cheating seems to be on the rise, and what solutions might help curb it.