The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

To sign-up to receive the CSR Newsletters regularly during the fall and spring academic semesters, e-mail author David Chandler at david.chandler@ucdenver.edu.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Strategic CSR - Dick's + Guns (II)

In the grand scheme of things, the article in the url below is not a big story, especially for a large corporation with over two billion dollars in annual sales. Nevertheless, it seems like a meaningful statement and, as such, something worth sharing with you all:
 
"Edward W. Stack, the chief executive of Dick's Sporting Goods, said in an interview this week that his company had destroyed over $5 million in military-style, semiautomatic rifles and was reviewing whether it would continue to sell guns in its more than 720 stores."
 
As such, this story is a follow-up to the announcement last year that Dick's was going to remove all guns from sale in its stores (see Strategic CSR – Dick's + Guns):
 
"In April 2018, Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the largest firearms sellers in the United States, said it planned to destroy the military-style rifles it had agreed to take off its shelves weeks after the shooting [in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida]. … Previously, the Pennsylvania retailer had also agreed to ban the sale of military-style rifles at its 35 Field & Stream stores, and to stop selling firearms and ammunition to anyone younger than 21."
 
This was not an insignificant decision by the company:
 
"Mr. Stack [said] that the restricted sales cost the company a quarter of a billion dollars."
 
But, it looks as though the decision may now be resonating with key stakeholders:
 
"Despite the shift in strategy, the company has seen signs of improvement. In August, Dick's announced that same store sales increased 3.2 percent in the second quarter."
 
In this sense, Dick's has been rewarded for taking the lead among companies on this controversial issue:
 
"Since the massacre in Parkland, corporations have responded to the public's growing demand for gun control measures. Among them are Walmart, the nation's largest gun seller; L.L. Bean; and Kroger, which said in 2018 it would restrict gun sales at its Fred Meyer stores. Dick's, though, has been one of the most proactive."
 
For Stack, however, the issue is straightforward:
 
"'I don't understand how somebody, with everything that's gone on, could actually sit there and say, 'I don't think we need to do a background check on people who buy guns,'' Mr. Stack said. 'It's just, it's ridiculous.'"
 
Even so, it is refreshing to hear a CEO with the courage to back his/her moral convictions:
 
"Mr. Stack [said] he had already removed all guns from more than 100 Dick's stores and was considering expanding the ban to the rest of them. 'We've got the whole category under strategic review to see what we're going to do,' he said."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Dick's Destroyed More Than $5 Million in Guns
By Laura M. Holson
October 9, 2019
The New York Time
Late Edition – Final
B8
 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Strategic CSR - $70,000

The article in the url below follows-up on a 2015 story about a CEO in Seattle who announced that the minimum wage at his company (a payment processing business) was going to be $70,000 a year. The New York Times' original reporting on this story is here:
 
"Staff members gasped four years ago when Dan Price gathered the 120 employees at Gravity Payments, the company he had founded with his brother, and told them he was raising everyone's salary to a minimum of $70,000, partly by slashing his own $1.1 million pay to the same level."
 
Four years later it seems that, despite some turbulence immediately following the announcement, the company recovered and is doing well:
 
"Business has surged, and profits are higher than ever. Gravity last year processed $10.2 billion in payments, more than double the $3.8 billion in 2014, before the announcement. It has grown to 200 employees, all nonunion. The pay raise also helped attract new employees — including some who yearned to join a company with values. Tammi Kroll, a Yahoo executive, took an 80 percent pay cut to move to Gravity, where she is now chief operating officer."
 
In spite of some concerns expressed by the author about the generalizability of such a decision, it is clear that the firm's employees appreciate their CEO's investment in them:
 
"The gasps when Price announced his $70,000 initiative were echoed in 2016 by his own, after grateful employees led him to the parking lot and presented him with a new Tesla that they had all chipped in to buy, replacing his ratty old car."
 
The point of contention I have with the article is that the author describes this as "proof that capitalism can have a heart." In general, I find the rhetoric around good intentions and emotion to be unhelpful. In reality, this is just an example of an entrepreneur who has worked out how to create more value for his employees and, reciprocally, that the employees recognize this value and are rewarding the entrepreneur's progressiveness/creativity with higher productivity and loyalty. In short, it is not capitalism with a heart, but capitalism working exactly how it is intended to work.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


The $70,000-a-Year Minimum Wage
By Nicholas Kristof
March 31, 2019
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
SR13
 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Strategic CSR - Nuclear

What is "the fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions" while providing sufficient energy for the world as it continues to seek higher living standards? The article in the url below thinks it has the answer – one that is controversial within the sustainability community:
 
"Where will this gargantuan amount of carbon-free energy come from? The popular answer is renewables alone, but this is a fantasy. Wind and solar power are becoming cheaper, but they are not available around the clock, rain or shine, and batteries that could power entire cities for days or weeks show no sign of materializing any time soon. Today, renewables work only with fossil-fuel backup."
 
In dismissing renewable sources of energy as simply not being able to scale sufficiently quickly, the authors present Germany as their case in point:
 
"Germany, which went all-in for renewables, has seen little reduction in carbon emissions, and, according to our calculations, at Germany's rate of adding clean energy relative to gross domestic product, it would take the world more than a century to decarbonize, even if the country wasn't also retiring nuclear plants early."
 
In contrast, the authors suggest relying on a proven energy source that has data to suggest it can make the conversion in a much quicker time:
 
"… we actually have proven models for rapid decarbonization with economic and energy growth: France and Sweden. They decarbonized their grids decades ago and now emit less than a tenth of the world average of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. They remain among the world's most pleasant places to live and enjoy much cheaper electricity than Germany to boot."
 
Specifically:
 
"They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power's intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France replaced almost all of its fossil-fueled electricity with nuclear power nationwide in just 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity historically are countries rolling out nuclear power."
 
Of course, there remain issues with nuclear power stations (construction time and waste management) but, primarily, these barriers are presented as political, rather than technical. As with many of the problems we face, we have the knowledge to do much better but the willpower is lacking.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Nuclear Power Can Save the World
By Joshua S. Goldstein, Stefan A. Qvist & Steven Pinker
April 7, 2019
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
SR4
 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Strategic CSR - Sesame Street

Sesame Street has to be one of the best programs on TV today. Not only is it educational and fact-based, but it tackles challenging social issues in a way that can be appreciated by children. The goal is always to raise awareness without any unnecessary judgment. Recently, for example, Sesame Street introduced a muppet with autism (in 2017) and one whose family "experiences homelessness" (in 2018). Exposing children to such sensitive information, during a formative period, increases the likelihood of informed decisions later in their lives, which has to be good. Now, the article in the url below announces the program's decision to tackle the opioid crisis in America. It does so via the introduction of a muppet whose mother is dealing with drug addiction:
 
"Sesame Street is taking a new step to help American kids navigate the thornier parts of life in America: the opioids crisis. Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo's whose mother is battling addiction."
 
The evidence suggests that, unfortunately, addiction is very much a part of many children's lives:
 
"Sesame Street creators said they turned to the issue of addiction since data shows 5.7m children under the age of 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder. America's opioid crisis has grown steadily worse in recent years. The Department of Health and Human Services reported 10.3 million people misused opioid prescriptions last year, and an average of 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses."
 
Of course, such vulnerable children may also be in households where they are less likely to watch Sesame Street. But, the hope of the program's staff is that more exposure on this topic is better than less, and that if addressing these issues aids just a small number of children/families, it is worth it:
 
"'There's nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective,' said Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop. It's also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what they're going through to kids and to offer simple strategies to cope."
 
In the show, the topic is raised in discussion between Karli and a child whose parents are suffering from addiction. As always, there is science and considerable thought behind the way the issue is introduced:
 
"The segment leans on carefully considered language. Creators prefer 'addiction' to 'substance abuse' and 'recovery' to 'sobriety' because those terms are clearer to children."
 
Also interesting is that the muppet, Karli, had been introduced on the program earlier this year as being in foster care. This latest narrative, therefore, is designed to provide Karli with a backstory that helps explain "why her mother had to go away for a while." Needless to say, I am a big fan of the show – it began in 1969 a few months after I was born and forms a vivid memory from my childhood:
 
"Sesame Street has a long history of masterfully tackling sensitive issues. The show broached the subject of death in 1982, after one of its stars, Mr Hooper, passed away. The show has also touched on racism and adoption and introduced a muppet on the autistic spectrum during its 50-year run."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Sesame Street takes on opioids crisis as muppet's mother battles addiction
By Guardian staff
October 9, 2019
The Guardian
 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Strategic CSR - Warren Buffett

I am not normally a fan of Warren Buffett as I think many of the companies he invests in (e.g., Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, Kraft/Heinz, Dairy Queen, See's Candies, etc., etc.) and even the companies he partners with (e.g., 3G Capital) are hurting, rather than helping, society progress. I also think his investment decisions are luck as much as anything else, given his ill-judged support for CEO pay policies at Coke (that do not reflect performance), his strong support for the train company BNSF (when some 40% of rail freight in the U.S. is coal), or his aversion to investing in IT stock (he only got into Apple by mistake). All of this might somewhat explain why the WSJ recently noted that "Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has underperformed the S&P 500 for a decade … during a historic bull market." Like many executives that have run out of ideas, his main response appears to be to buy back his own firm's shares. But, that is not to say that the man has no idea what he is talking about. In the article in the url below, at least, he is on solid ground by proudly advocating in favor of capitalism:
 
"The most prominent face of capitalism — Warren Buffett, the avuncular founder of Berkshire and the fourth wealthiest person in the world, worth some $89 billion — appeared to distance himself from many of his peers, who have been apologizing for capitalism of late. 'I'm a card-carrying capitalist,' Mr. Buffett said. 'I believe we wouldn't be sitting here except for the market system,' he added, extolling the state of the economy. 'I don't think the country will go into socialism in 2020 or 2040 or 2060.'"
 
The author notes that this frank statement stands in contrast to some business leaders who profess statements on controversial issues that go with popular sentiment, only to quickly reverse their position when the spotlight has moved on:
 
"Some billionaires agonize about inequality and the education system, for example, but don't push for higher taxes on the wealthy to help pay for fixes (one of Mr. Buffett's preferred remedies). A raft of chief executives who boycotted going to Saudi Arabia after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi last year quickly returned to doing business with the kingdom when the headlines died down."
 
I am not convinced that Buffett thinks any more about the detail of advancing society than other business leaders—he is simply convinced that capitalism is the most direct way of getting there:
 
"… at his core, [Buffett] believes that the pursuit of capitalism is fundamentally moral — that it creates and produces prosperity and progress even when there are immoral actors and even when it creates inequality."
 
In this sense, he is following a strategic CSR perspective. In his investment decisions, however, he consistently veers off-track.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/

Warren Buffett's Case for Capitalism

By Andrew Ross Sorkin
May 6, 2019
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
B1
 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Strategic CSR - Anthropocene

This website contains a trailer for a recently released movie that might be a useful resource in discussing climate change, 'Anthropocene: The Human Epoch':
 
 
The photography in the trailer is beautiful – art in the service of depicting the majesty and destructive nature of human progress and its consequences for the planet. As the review in the url below concludes:
 
"As a work of cinema, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch can seem a bit torn in its approach, caught between a desire to spread a message to mainstream viewers and more cryptic, artistic aims. At times, more information would be preferable; in other scenes, images speak volumes without words. But as advocacy, the movie is potent and frequently terrifying."
 
Take care 
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


This is How You Destroy a Planet
By Ben Kenigsberg
September 25, 2019
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
C6
 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Strategic CSR - Mattel

In a sign of the times, the article in the url below reports Mattel's decision to launch a gender-neutral doll:
 
"Mattel is a 74-year-old company slowly taking on Gen-Z values. The maker of Barbie and Hot Wheels has announced the release of Creatable World, its first series of gender-neutral dolls."
 
This reminded me of the department store, John Lewis,' decision in the U.K. a couple of years ago to remove gender specific labels from its children's clothes sections (see here). Clearly, Mattel had similar concerns in mind:
 
"The dolls differ from Mattel's gendered Barbie and GI Joe dolls in subtle but significant ways. The dolls are a blank slate. No broad shoulders, no full hips, no long lashes. Children of any gender identification are encouraged to play with them."
 
The article reports this is a recent trend in toys and other children's games, evolving to reflect the contemporary expectations of consumers. The goal for the dolls is for them to be "relatable, rather than aspirational":
 
"Toy companies are vigorously retooling their products to align with advancements in representation, inclusion and diversity that Gen-Z children – not their millennial parents – are largely responsible for. … Just this month, numerous conversation-starting toys and board games have come out. Hasbro released a gender-swapped version of Monopoly entitled Ms Monopoly, where women players earn more than men."
 
Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing:
 
"Mattel released a slew of culturally diverse Barbies (including a "Día de los Muertos Barbie" that garnered accusations of cultural appropriation)."
 
As critics note, there is a fine line between reflecting the values of the societies in which the firm is based and trying to profit from social topics that may be recently formed and, as such, still raw for many:
 
"The response hasn't been unanimously positive. Hasbro and Mattel have been accused of attempting to profit off culture wars."
 
On the other hand:
 
"Mattel's gender-neutral doll has won over some in the LGBTQ community. 'So many children and parents never saw themselves represented in toys and dolls, but this new line raises the bar for inclusion thanks to input from parents, physicians and children themselves,' the LGBT advocacy group Glaad wrote on Twitter."
 
What I did find funny, however, is the pains to which Mattel went to stress that this was not a political decision:
 
"'We're not in the business of politics,' Mattel's president told Time Magazine, 'and we respect the decision any parent makes around how they raise their kids. Our job is to stimulate imaginations. Our toys are ultimately canvases for cultural conversation, but it's your conversation, not ours; your opinion, not ours.'"
 
In other words, while engaging in the "culture wars," no doubt primarily for profit (no problem there if the firm is creating value for its stakeholders), the firm goes out of its way to say that the decision was apolitical. So, what are we to believe – that the firm made a random decision without any sensitivity to the broader cultural discussion? Why didn't the company simply embrace a capitalist argument – that it is sensitive to the needs and evolving expectations of its stakeholders and responded accordingly? In other words, Mattel has evaluated the evolving social discussion and it picked a side. How can it not be political? But, equally, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, if Mattel knows its stakeholders well, it is the recipe for success in the marketplace.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


'It was time': Maker of Barbie launches line of gender-neutral dolls
By Andre Wheeler
September 25, 2019
The Guardian
 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Strategic CSR - Joy

Among the unrelenting crises and accusations of corruption that seem to fill the newspapers every day, the article in the url below caught my eye. Not only is it, unusually, a good news story, but it profiles a job I didn't realize existed:

"For 12 years now, Anita Pires has been working at the call centre for Camelot, the company that runs the UK's national lottery. She is one of a staff of 30 who answer calls from potential lottery winners, checking their numbers for prizes that range from £5 to the multi-millions. … According to a 2016 report, more than 700,000 people in the UK are employed by call centres. The work is often tough: it can be a difficult mix of monotony, stress and the emotional labour of staying friendly for hour upon hour of calls. But for a few call-centre employees such as Pires, the work is pure joy."

What comes across in the article is that, if anything, the people making these good news calls seem to get as much out of the exchange as those receiving them:

"The next step in the lottery process for major winners – anything over £50,000 – is to be referred to a winners' adviser; a team of seven who speak to the winners and then visit them to ensure the cash transfer. … Katie Garrett has been an adviser for almost 10 years. 'Ever since I started I've been bowled over by the difference this news we share makes to people's lives,' she says, 'I remember one 20-year-old who won £50,000 and who was about to be kicked out of his flat with his mum because she had been made redundant. This money changed everything. No two winners are the same and I always get that warm, fuzzy feeling when I get to speak to them.'"

The article lists several of these jobs that involve people calling others to give them news that will transform their lives (almost always for the better). Whether it is lottery winnings or exam results or a major lifetime achievement, such as the Nobel Prize, the sense of responsibility and wonderment among the people who get to inform the winners of the news is consistent:
 
"Michael Kelleher has been the director of the Windham Campbell prize, one of the largest literary awards, since its inception in 2013 and has called each of the annual winners to share the news that they have won $165,000. … When Kelleher does manage to convince a writer of his authenticity, 'people are always speechless,' he says. 'One winner burst into tears – his phone was going to be cut off the following day because he couldn't afford the bill. We really saved him and had a huge impact in allowing him to keep practising his art.' Kelleher has made the call many times but still finds it nerve-racking. 'If anything, I get more nervous now,' he says, 'because I know how much it means to people and how life-changing the acclaim and the money can be. It's a job I never take for granted.'"
 
It seems clear that these people take great pride in what they do, but also find it immensely fulfilling:
 
"One of the most momentous cold-calling tasks each year is undertaken by Göran K Hansson, who, as secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy, informs Nobel prizewinners of their triumph. He has made the call to 44 laureates in the past 10 years. … Hansson says he feels genuine elation in being able to pass on such career-defining news. … 'All I do in my work now is make people happy – how many people can say that? You form a special bond with that person, even though it is through a phone call, and with many of them we become good friends afterwards.'"

The article reminded me of research that shows the uplifting benefits of spreading joy in the world. For example, I remember reading about an experiment where people were given a small amount of money, say $20, and asked to either spend it or donate it, and were then asked later about issues like wellbeing or self-esteem. The results revealed that people who had given the money away scored much higher on such metrics than those who had spent the money on themselves. The article also reminded me of research on firefighters, for whom working on holidays to serve the community (sacrificing the time with their families) was something core to their identity in which they took great pride.

These anecdotes reinforce in me the idea that those who find specific meaning in their jobs are more likely to be happier and more productive than those who don't see the point of what they are doing. Which, of course, is why firms should strive to build and sustain such purpose. I remember an ad by GE a few years ago where the people who made the jet engines for the Boeing Dreamliner plane were taken to the inaugural launch to reinforce the essential role they had played in the process – a role they may lose sight of if they just remain in the factory focusing on their specific task. Here is a similar ad for employees who made the engines for a new 747 (https://youtu.be/z9SnDrUhZxQ).
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/ 


From the lottery to Nobel prize: Meet workers who make life-changing phone calls
By Ammar Kalia
August 18, 2019
The Guardian
 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Strategic CSR - Amazon

The article in the url below details some of the downsides to Amazon's ruthless approach to business. In particular, it focuses on the accidents caused by the drivers who deliver packages for Amazon (although they usually work for contractors):
 
"In its relentless push for e-commerce dominance, Amazon has built a huge logistics operation in recent years to get more goods to customers' homes in less and less time. As it moves to reduce its reliance on legacy carriers like United Parcel Service, the retailer has created a network of contractors across the country that allows the company to expand and shrink the delivery force as needed, while avoiding the costs of taking on permanent employees. But Amazon's promise of speedy delivery has come at a price, one largely hidden from public view. An investigation by ProPublica identified more than 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors that resulted in serious injuries, including 10 deaths. That tally is most likely a fraction of the accidents that have occurred: Many people don't sue, and those who do can't always tell when Amazon is involved."
 
While it wants none of the legal responsibility for such accidents, however, Amazon wants all of the control:
 
"Even as Amazon argues that it bears no legal responsibility for the human toll, it maintains a tight grip on how the delivery drivers do their jobs. Their paychecks are signed by hundreds of companies, but often Amazon directs, through an app, the order of the deliveries and the route to each destination. Amazon software tracks drivers' progress, and a dispatcher in an Amazon warehouse can call them if they fall behind schedule. Amazon requires that 999 out of 1,000 deliveries arrive on time, according to work orders obtained from contractors with drivers in eight states."
 
I'll just repeat that for emphasis:
 
"Amazon requires that 999 out of 1,000 deliveries arrive on time."
 
But, any mistakes are deemed to be the responsibility of the companies that contract out this work from Amazon:
 
"Amazon has repeatedly said in court that it is not responsible for the actions of its contractors, citing agreements that require them, as one puts it, to 'defend, indemnify and hold harmless Amazon.' Just last week, an operations manager for Amazon testified in Chicago that it signs such agreements with all its 'delivery service partners,' who assume the liability and the responsibility for legal costs. The agreements cover 'all loss or damage to personal property or bodily harm including death.'"
 
And, if you have read anything about the way that Jeff Bezos does business, you will not be surprised to know that:
 
"Amazon vigilantly enforces the terms of those agreements. In New Jersey, when a contractor's insurer failed to pay Amazon's legal bills in a suit brought by a physician injured in a crash, Amazon sued to force the insurer to pick up the tab."
 
The article goes on and on, listing examples of how Amazon places severe constraints on its partner companies, but will not accept responsibility for any of the consequences of its business model. This approach is reminiscent of the argument Nike used in the 1990s to combat allegations of sweatshop abuse of workers—legally, you see their point but, behaviorally, you know the firm's constraints are shaping the resulting outcomes. Nike essentially said that the workers are not Nike workers (they work for contractors) and, all Nike does is stipulate its expectations in a contract, which the contractors willingly sign. Nike used to put very strict schedules on the delivery of its shoes, occasionally make last-minute changes to the designs, and then shrug their shoulders when it turned out that the contractors were requiring employees to work too much overtime (against Nike's contractual obligations) in order to meet the new deadline. Apple has been accused of similar negligence in its relationship with Foxconn. The exact same framing is being used by Amazon today. Whether we have learned to respond any differently, however, is another story.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


When Fast, Free Shipping Delivers Heartbreak
By Patricia Callahan
September 5, 2019
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A1, A18
 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Strategic CSR - Naturalization

You will have no doubt noticed that the tone and level of civility in public discourse has declined notably in recent years. I think the drivers of this shift are complex and largely operate at the societal level. Any particular individual is a symptom of the problem, rather than being any kind of cause. Of course, we can all exacerbate (or salve) divisions and, at some level, have to live with those decisions that we make on a micro level, every day.
 
This afternoon, I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. I had been looking forward to the ceremony for several weeks – of course on an individual level, but also as a social scientist.
 
As expected, it was emotional for many who were there. And, it was quite a group – extremely diverse on every metric you can think of. I remember that, when attending my final interview appointment, the waiting room was like a United Nations gathering. This sense of the world coming together was enhanced at today's ceremony. We were told that, among the 50 people being sworn in, 25 countries were represented. Two thoughts, in particular, came to mind:
 
First, the event was a very visible (and visceral) demonstration of the extent to which immigration is embedded in this country – central to everything it stands for and will achieve, going forward.
 
But second, I think the emotion of those being naturalized demonstrates the value of U.S. citizenship to those who come from countries around the world that are, relatively, in a much worse state. Of course, there was relief because a long and complicated process had come to an end, which provides security. But, I think there was also a sense of security (pride?) that comes from belonging to something larger than the individual and that has meaning – an idea or project that represents a greater purpose.
 
The more I think about this second point, in particular, the more I think that all Americans should witness one of these ceremonies at some point, so they do not lose sight of what this country means to the rest of the world. I would start with those who seem so opposed to immigration (for whatever reason), but I would extend it to everyone in this massive country. John Oliver was very good on this topic last Sunday:
 
 
If nothing else, a broader understanding of the immigration process in this country provides common ground that all Americans should be able to support. And, as such, it forms the basis for a little more agreement and a little less conflict.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Strategic CSR - Prayers

The article in the url below deals with the issue of religious prayer offered on behalf of others, particularly in the aftermath of a public/national crisis of some kind. In particular, it is an attempt by economists to price such prayers for those who may be the object of such divine intervention. Perhaps not surprisingly, the value of someone else's "thoughts and prayers" depended on the beliefs of the person who was asked. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however, for some in the study, the value was negative:
 
"Rather than settling on one price for all, the study found the value of a compassionate gesture depended overwhelmingly on a person's beliefs. While Christian participants were willing to part with money to receive thoughts and prayers from others, the idea made nonbelievers baulk. Instead of shelling out to receive the gestures, on average they were willing to pay to avoid them."
 
The researchers were trying to understand public reactions to offers of prayer by prominent people (e.g., politicians) following disasters. While many appreciate the sentiment, there are some that are offended and react more viscerally:
 
"The study … focused on 436 residents of North Carolina, the state most affected by Hurricane Florence last year. The participants were given $5 (£4) 'in support of their hardship' and asked how much, if any, they were willing to exchange to receive thoughts and prayers from strangers, most of whom were recruited over the internet."
 
As noted above, many certainly valued receiving the thoughts and prayers of others:
 
"Prayers from a priest were worth $7.17 to the average Christian in need. Prayers from less exalted Christians were valued at $4.36, while mere thoughts from another Christian were cheaper still at $3.27. The researchers used statistical models to estimate prices people would pay above the $5 they had."
 
Others, however, placed a negative value on the offer:
 
"Atheists and agnostics, meanwhile, were averse to 'thoughts and prayers.' On average, they were willing to pay a priest $1.66 not to pray for them, and more than twice that, $3.54, to ensure a run-of-the-mill Christian similarly refrained."
 
I find this all quite amusing and very human. Of course, if you are an atheist, then why would you pay to alter the thoughts of others, which you do not believe have any effect on you or anybody else? The more important point about the paper, however, is that politicians are perceived to be using the offer of "thoughts and prayers" to cover for their unwillingness to act. As one activist seeking to prevent gun violence in the U.S. put it:
 
"'What we're hearing today at the Capitol and the White House are thoughts and prayers,' he said. 'Your thoughts and prayers aren't going to stop the next shooting. Only action and leadership will do that.'"
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Economists calculate monetary value of 'thoughts and prayers'
By Ian Sample
September 16, 2019
The Guardian
 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Strategic CSR - Carbon Tax

I thought the article in the url below was worth bringing to your attention (it is an open letter), simply because of the people who have signed-onto it:
 
"Editor's note: This statement is signed by 27 Nobel economic laureates, all four living former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 15 former chairmen of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, and two former Treasury secretaries."
 
That is quite a group – and, if they can agree on anything, there is hope that the government can, one day, return to the job of legislating. The article opens with this statement:
 
"Global climate change is a serious problem calling for immediate national action. Guided by sound economic principles, we are united in the following policy recommendations."
 
It then goes on to list five policies. Here is the first line of each statement:
 
I. "A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary."
II. "A carbon tax should increase every year until emissions reductions goals are met and be revenue neutral to avoid debates over the size of government."
III. "A sufficiently robust and gradually rising carbon tax will replace the need for various carbon regulations that are less efficient."
IV. "To prevent carbon leakage and to protect U.S. competitiveness, a border carbon adjustment system should be established."
V. "To maximize the fairness and political viability of a rising carbon tax, all the revenue should be returned directly to U.S. citizens through equal lump-sum rebates."
 
There are more details to each policy in the article itself, but this is interesting stuff from an impressive group! A more critical response appears in the article in the second url below:
 
"A carbon tax is not a miracle solution. There aren't any. We will be living with some amount of climate change due to the highly uncertain effects of rising CO2 levels for the foreseeable future. The difference between a happy and unhappy outcome for humanity will come down to our ability to maintain economic progress in the face of our extraordinarily daunting debt challenges."
 
Perhaps, but this does not discount the fact that a carbon tax is widely acknowledged to be the best tool we have to make rapid progress on reducing the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Economists' Statement on Carbon Dividends
January 17, 2019
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
A13
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
January 19-20, 2019
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
A13
 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Strategic CSR - Oversight

The article in the url below acknowledges how, by some measures, companies today face greater scrutiny than ever before:
 
"Chief executives are now exposed to all that the digital, connected world can throw at them. Social media provide a torrent of feedback from customers, ranging from the quality of sausages to customers' stance on Chinese intellectual-property laws. Companies' supply chains, whether mines in the Congo or sewing factories in Bangladesh, are watched and documented by activists, who ask difficult questions about pollution and labour conditions that many firms once chose to ignore."
 
But, the article questions whether this is the 'right' kind of scrutiny. In many ways, firms remain opaque – held to account on superficial metrics, but not sufficiently challenged on the details of day-to-day operations:
 
"Yet even as those theatrical forms of scrutiny have soared, the other kind [by financial analysts] – methodical, detailed, financial and often dry – is declining. This is harder to spot than grandstanding, but is no less important. People who depend on share prices rising or falling are among the best at holding firms to account. They ask the questions that chief executives find most awkward to answer. The work required to do that can be achingly dry; the best financial analysis is rigorous to the point of rigor mortis. But some information that seeps out serves a wider purpose. An investor might demand that a company's management detail how its underfunded pension pot will impact results in the third quarter, for example."
 
The article attributes this decline in oversight to two main reasons – first, increased regulation has constrained what executives can or cannot say about their firm, which encourages them "to say as little as possible," especially when pressed or the issue is 'controversial.' And second, the number of the kind of analysts who usually initiate these interrogations ("sell-side analysts") "has tumbled" in recent years as multiple financial crises have highlighted the fact that "they could be prone to conflicts of interest:"
 
"The biggest firms still get lots of attention, for now. But firms in the FTSE 250 index of mid-sized British companies, have seen coverage dwindle to seven analysts each, down by over a fifth in a decade."
 
The decline of this detailed oversight (combined with the increase of more superficial 'governance') has consequences – for example, it explains how United Airlines can face a massive online backlash to its less than ideal customer service, yet deliver record profits the next quarter (see Strategic CSR – United and Strategic CSR – United Airlines). A similar story played out for Uber (see Strategic CSR – Uber). Although a large part of strategic CSR focuses on diminishing the role of shareholders in business today, it still recognizes them as an important stakeholder – one of many, but important nonetheless. Detailed oversight of finances and operations is the most important role they can play:
 
"While the modern firm is constantly interrogated about its conduct and ethics, it is increasingly able to keep its performance under wraps. That makes companies look responsive but in the long run could mean the economy works less well for everyone."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


One eye open, one eye shut
December 15, 2018
The Economist
Late Edition – Final
65
 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Strategic CSR - Anti-plastic

The article in the url below is useful because it maps out legislation to constrain the use of plastic across the U.S., state-by-state:
 
"Maine and Vermont just passed statewide bans on plastic bags, while Orlando, Fla., and Palo Alto, Calif., have both pushed through local restrictions on plastics this month."
 
What does this mean in the aggregate?
 
"Since the start of 2019, 200 bills related to single-use plastics have been introduced in state legislatures, according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators."
 
The rest of the article focuses on identifying the differences among the various laws and regulations, highlighting areas where they are working and, also, areas where there are problems. I am particularly interested in the unintended consequences of laws passed as a result of good intentions. For example, one benefit of single-use plastics (and the main reason they spread) is hygiene. In applications like medical devices, this can mean life or death, in terms of consumer goods, it has become more convenient than anything else. Either way, there are consequences of eradicating these essential items without finding a comparable alternative:
 
"Plastic bags help protect people from illnesses brought on by contact with meat or produce, said Grant Kidwell, director of the energy, environment and agriculture task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council. The nonprofit, comprised of conservative state legislators, helped produce a model for pre-emptive legislation prohibiting plastics bans."
 
I also have sympathy with the argument that we are taking baby steps here. Partly, this is due to the complexity of replacing fossil fuels in our lives, but it is also because we want to convince ourselves we are doing something without having to make any real sacrifices:
 
"Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents plastic-bag manufacturers and lobbies against bans and fees, said while he is open to having conversations about broader waste-reduction, plastic bags have become a 'low-hanging fruit.'"
 
Ultimately, the federal system of government in the U.S. means that laws, such as these, that should be uniform throughout the country are, instead, left to each state to decide individually. Add onto that complexity cities and metropolitan areas, which also want a say:
 
"More city ordinances have helped influence state-level work. At least 414 local ordinances related to plastic bags have been passed in 28 states and Washington, D.C., according to … plasticbaglaws.org, a website that tracks these issues."
 
The result is almost always a more confused, and therefore less effective, approach to something we should be tackling comprehensively and together:
 
"'If we just continue on this path toward banning everything, you end up with a hodgepodge of local laws that don't work for consumers, don't work for businesses and miss the mark on the environment,' Mr. Seaholm said."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: http://studysites.sagepub.comstudy.sagepub.com/chandler5e 
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/ 


Curbs on Plastic Items Take Root in Many States
By Jennifer Calfas
June 24, 2019
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
A3