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
From the Editor
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
Two million children die worldwide before the age of five from infectious diseases like pneumonia or diarrhea. Research shows that many of these deaths could be prevented by hand washing with soap. Here's where Unilever steps up, according to a new Forbes post by Samir Singh, Global Brand VP for Personal Care.