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


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Strategic CSR - Guns

At first glance, the article in the url below contains an interesting proposal – that the credit card companies prohibit the purchase of guns using their products:
 
"Here's an idea. What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America? Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn't be hard for them to take a stand."
 
The idea is that, by prohibiting gun sales using Visa and MC, the stores would be faced with either accepting credit cards or selling guns, but could not do both. The effect, the author believes, would be to remove guns from most stores across the country:
 
"For example, Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its 'corporate responsibility,' could easily change its terms of service to say that it won't do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster. … If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system."
 
Although interesting, the logic on which this idea is based is flawed. The author uses Bitcoin as an example of the credit card companies' ability to enact the changes he is proposing:
 
"There is precedent for credit card issuers to ban the purchase of completely legal products. Just this month, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. To be clear: Those three banks won't let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex."
 
But, the primary reason Visa and MC ban Bitcoin purchases is risk mitigation. Bitcoins are a very risky investment. If I use my credit card to buy Bitcoin that then crashes in value, how am I going to repay my debt to the credit card companies? The comparison to purchasing a legal product for regular consumption is not valid (it would only be valid if the credit card companies could be sued if their cards were used to buy guns that later were used in a mass shooting, which is an interesting idea, but another story). If the credit card companies were to take the author's advice and start selecting which legal products to block, their task would never end. Tobacco kills ten times as many people in the U.S. as guns every year, should they prevent those products being bought? Alcohol is another big killer. What about cars, which kill tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S.? Or fast food, candy, or sodas, which all contribute significantly to a variety of health-related issues and premature deaths? The list is potentially endless. Blame is being misapplied here. More specifically, the burden of trying to find a solution is being conveniently shifted. This is not the credit card companies' problem to solve. It is our problem, together, as a society. If anything is to change regarding gun laws in the U.S., it is legislators that will need to take the lead, but that lead will need to come from us. If we say we support such action, then we need to vote for politicians who actually might do something about it. As Thomas Friedman puts it in the article in the second url below:
 
"… ultimately, nothing will change unless young and old who oppose the N.R.A. run for office, vote, help someone vote, register someone to vote or help fund someone's campaign — so we can threaten the same electoral pain as the National Rifle Association. … This is not about persuading people with better ideas. We tried that. It's about generating raw electoral power and pain."
 
In short, we need to follow the inspiring leadership of the Parkland, FL high school students most affected by this most recent tragedy and shame politicians into acting. They are a great example of what I would call engaged stakeholders!
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Congress Fails to Curb Guns. Could Banks?
By Andrew Ross Sorkin
February 20, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
B1
By Thomas L. Friedman
February 21, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A23
 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Strategic CSR - Jobs

The article in the url below does a good job of framing the threats posed to specific jobs over the next few years:
 
"Thirteen years ago, two prominent U.S. economists wrote that driverless cars couldn't execute a left turn against oncoming traffic because too many factors were involved. Six years later, Google proved it could make fully autonomous cars, threatening the livelihoods of millions of truck and taxi drivers. Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won't be enough jobs to go around? That's what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn."

The article provides several graphics that compare types of jobs (goods vs. services), different industries (e.g., telecommunications vs. newspapers), and the effects of education (the less education, the greater risk). One graphic, in particular, though stood out – it compared the amount of jobs lost in the coal industry versus the number of jobs lost in the retail industry:

"In the U.S., for example, department stores employ 25 times more workers than coal mining companies. And as customers increasingly purchased goods via the internet, average employment in the first four months of 2017 was down 26,800 from the same period a year earlier, against just 2,800 job losses in coal."

Those are not the numbers you would expect given the amount of political and media attention devoted to the coal industry. John Oliver also touched on this subject in one of his shows last summer. Enjoy!

 
In spite of the fear mongering, the article concludes by reminding us that predicting the effects of technological innovation is far from a science. In reality, we are only guessing about how current technologies will affect future employment, let alone the effects of technologies that have yet to be invented:

"There's ample room for skepticism. U.S. productivity growth has been slow, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if robots were taking over. Also, advances in artificial intelligence could end up focusing mostly on specific tasks rather than entire jobs, augmenting rather than replacing humans. That said, history teaches us that it's hard to predict how technological change will unfold. Even if, as some economists predict, new jobs and industries eventually replace those being automated, large portions of the global workforce may need retraining. And if work becomes a luxury, widespread joblessness and greater inequality could redefine the challenge of ensuring a social safety net."
 
It is worth keeping all of this in mind as we sift through the various doomsday articles about this issue.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Is Your Job About to Disappear?
By Mark Whitehouse, Mira Rojanasakul, and Cedric Sam
June 22, 2017
Bloomberg Businessweek
 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Strategic CSR - Girl Scout cookies

The article in the url below discusses the value to Girl Scouts in selling cookies to raise funds – an annual ritual here in the U.S.:
 
"Selling Girl Scout cookies is meant to accomplish more than just distributing Samoas and Thin Mints to the world. Ideally, the girls would learn about setting goals, teamwork, money management and communicating with adults, among other things."
 
But come on, it is also about sales, right? And for that, you need to demonstrate true entrepreneurial spirit – the key is to identify those customers who are most likely to have the greatest demand:
 
"If the girls can develop some business acumen, all the better. And one young scout in San Diego has received nationwide plaudits for her shrewd entrepreneurial sense, setting up shop last week outside a marijuana dispensary. The girl … sold more than 300 boxes in six hours, her father told ABC 10. Boxes now sell for as much as $5 in parts of the country, so she probably raised more than $1,500. Yes, there's money in the munchies."
 
While this Girl Scout clearly has a bright future ahead of her, the Girl Scouts organization is struggling as to how best to respond:
 
"While some have praised the plucky scout for figuring out where the demand would probably be, the Girl Scouts organization has been wrestling with how to handle marijuana-adjacent sales as more states have legalized the drug. … There are no nationwide policies related to marijuana dispensaries."
 
Have a good weekend
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Girl Scout Has Lesson In Business For Us All
By Daniel Victor
February 9, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A20
 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Strategic CSR - Business

Here is an inflammatory quote for you:
 
"When I visit university campuses, I'm periodically asked if students who seek jobs in the business world are immoral, money-grubbing sellouts. I don't think they are, for businesses can be a hugely important force for progress. Can be, but usually aren't."
 
The author continues:
 
"Tycoons always claim to cherish ordinary people's best interests even as they rip them off. American tobacco executives have killed more people than Stalin managed to, and pharma executives recklessly peddling opioids may have killed as many people as Colombian drug lords, yet these business leaders sometimes seem to get moist-eyed describing the work they do."
 
I am a big fan of The New York Times, and Nicholas Kristof, in particular, does wonderful work exposing many of the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting on each other. He has been brilliant, for example, in pursuing those (in politics and business) who allow human trafficking to perpetuate. In this case, however, he is so far off the mark as to be embarrassing. Invoking "Stalin" and "Colombian drug lords" might be a good way of drawing attention to your article, but it is not a particularly level-headed approach to assessing the societal impact of business (all businesses).
 
There is the general point about the extent to which for-profit firms have shaped societal progress in a way that allows us to do so much more today with the same amount of resources. There is the more specific point about tobacco and pharmaceuticals. First, these are legal products that, at some point, society has decided it wants. As such, politicians are just as culpable for any errors as businesses. Second, there is clearly consumer demand. While the role of addiction clearly cannot be dismissed, apparently there are people out there who enjoy smoking, too. And, in terms of opioids, you cannot ignore the benefit these drugs have brought to the management of pain; the medical community has also played a role in over-proscribing drugs that they should have known more about. And, while I am thinking of it, where was the media in exposing this problem much earlier? I am not giving anyone a free ride here; merely pointing out that there is plenty of blame to go around.
 
In the bigger picture, however, it is not reasonable to highlight a couple of major abuses and then tar the whole business community with the same brush. As well as causing major harm, businesses do immense good. More specifically, firms give us what we want. If we want different outcomes, we have to demand them. Consumers do that by paying for what they want, but regulators do that by enforcing laws on their books, and the media does that by holding firms to account (which includes promoting 'good' behavior when they see it). If the collective set of stakeholders fail to do that, or say they want one thing but then incentivize something completely different, the blame lies with all of us (collectively), not an arbitrary organization that, after all, is made up of individuals making decisions. The article in the url below demonstrates that Kristof is so blind to this that it is seriously affecting his judgment. I might even go as far as to say this column borders on being fake news, falling way below the Times' normal high standards.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Is the Business World All About Greed?
By Nicholas Kristof
January 25, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A26
 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Strategic CSR - 100% renewable energy

The article in the url below raises the question: Is it possible to get to 100% renewable energy and, if so, at what cost? The article's starting point is a realistic assessment of the current situation. In spite of what you might have read about new renewable capacity last year being roughly the same as conventional fuel sources, all that means is that the gap is no longer getting larger. In reality, the vast majority of our fuel still comes from carbon-based sources, and will do for some time:
 
"Despite falling costs, wind and solar still produce only 5.5% of the world's electricity. Hydropower is a much more significant source of renewable energy, but its costs are rising, and investment is falling. Looking more broadly at energy demand, including that for domestic heating, transport and industry, the share of wind and solar is a miniscule 1.6%. It seems impossible to eliminate fossil fuels from the energy mix in the foreseeable future."
 
There is a lot of good detail in the article, for those wanting to know more. Ultimately, however, the article concludes that 100% sourcing of renewable energy is probably not possible and, if it is, it is probably not worth the cost of achieving it:
 
"The Senate in California, a state that is close to hitting its goal of generating one-third of its power from renewables by 2020, has proposed raising the target to 60% by 2030; Germany's goal is to become 80% renewable by 2050. But whether it is possible to produce all of a country's electricity with just wind, water and hydro is a subject of bitter debate."
 
More realistic is something like 80%, with other clean-ish fuels (like natural gas) making up the difference. Rather than investing large amounts to get beyond 80%, there are many more productive investments to be made in other areas of the economy, such as designing more energy efficient buildings. Ultimately, the goal must be to eradicate the majority of current and future emissions of greenhouse gasses (in particular, carbon dioxide) and then begin to remove past emissions from the atmosphere (e.g., carbon capture technology). The means by which this is achieved are less important. As such, governments should put in place a tax on carbon, incentivizing the market to develop the most cost-effective solution given our current technical knowledge.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
At what cost?
July 15, 2017
The Economist
61-62
 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Strategic CSR - Sharing economy

The article in the url below sheds light on China's sharing economy. On the surface, the sharing economy in China is expanding at a rate that is almost incomprehensible in the West:
 
"Three years ago, bike-sharing didn't exist in China. Today more than 40 companies offer the service. And the top two alone, Mobike and Ofo, handle more than 50 million rides every day, solving the 'last mile' problem of getting people from public transportation to their homes."
 
As a result of this rapid expansion (or perhaps the reason it has been permitted), the Chinese government has now adopted the 'sharing economy' as a centerpiece of the country's economic development:
 
"The state-run press agency, Xinhua, has trumpeted bike-sharing as one of China's 'four great new inventions.' (The other three are mobile payments, e-commerce and high-speed rail.) It may sound absurd to compare a dockless bike to the world-changing inventions of China's past: paper, gunpowder, the compass and movable type. But the boast conveys the importance that Beijing assigns the 'sharing economy' in helping China make the leap from a manufacturing-based to a service-oriented economy. Last year, according to government figures, China's sharing economy accounted for more than $500 billion in transactions involving roughly 600 million people. (An estimated 55 million Americans will use a sharing service this year, according to a CBS report.) And with Beijing planning on an annual 40 percent growth rate, officials are commanding this new economic engine to account for 10 percent of the national gross domestic product by 2020 and 20 percent by 2025."
 
Digging deeper, however, the author highlights the differences between how the sharing economy is defined and how it is practiced:
 
"China's sharing economy has veered sharply away from how the term was originally defined: as a peer-to-peer exchange of underutilized goods and services. In China, 'sharing' now means almost any short-term rental of a product or service activated by a smartphone. Moreover, the things on offer, like Ofo's 6.5 million bikes, are not spread out among individuals but are owned by the tech companies themselves. The same is true for the spoils, from revenue to data. As a result, the ideals that still animate the concept in many other places — the reallocation of unused resources and the community that forms around it — are essentially absent in China."
 
What I found interesting about the article, however, was the underlying reason for the Chinese government's fixation with the sharing economy:
 
"Robin Li, the chief executive of the internet giant Baidu, said last year that 'the idea of a sharing economy is quite similar to that of a communist society,' because both focus on 'distribution according to need.'"
 
The problem with this is that it runs into the reality of human nature that, even in post-Communist contemporary Chinese society, suggests the 'sharing economy' may be more about convenience than 'need,' let alone trust:
 
"The prize for puffery, however, goes to The People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, which in August celebrated umbrella-sharing enterprises as 'a show of human care, releasing the warmth of the city.' A few weeks after that, nearly all 300,000 umbrellas distributed by a new company called Sharing E Umbrella had been either lost or stolen."
 
In reality, I think the term is also being stretched in the West. Now, it seems, most Uber/Lyft drivers treat the service they provide as a job, rather than 'sharing' an under-used asset with a stranger, while most Airbnbs seem to be investment properties, rather than someone's couch or spare room. Whether this matters, of course, is another thing. At a minimum, the 'community' that underpins the sharing economy suffers and the technology that founded it becomes merely another platform to bring together buyers and sellers. I remember back to the .com boom around the turn of the century when a company's share price would jump if the company changed its name from Widgit Inc. to widgit.com. The same is happening today with cryptocurrencies, while stories abound about excessive capital flooding Silicon Valley startups seeking returns in a low-interest rate world. While this reduces the importance of the stock market as a means of raising capital (a good thing), it is hard to escape the feeling that there are lots of flimsy ideas floating around fueling speculative bubbles.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
China's Revealing Spin on the 'Sharing Economy'
By Brook Larmer
November 26, 2017
The New York Times Magazine
Late Edition – Final
14
 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Strategic CSR - The Big Me

Over the break, I read David Brooks 2015 book, The Road to Character. I had been meaning to get to this for a while, not least because I use an NPR interview with Brooks about the book in the strategic management class I teach on values:
 
 
The book emphasizes the importance of building a character-based moral life, mostly via profiles of people who have lived such lives (e.g., Ida Stover Eisenhower, mother of Dwight Eisenhower, or George C. Marshall). Brooks refers to this moral life as one that is "internally-oriented," rather than "externally-oriented." The difference is in how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. To live an externally-oriented life, for example, it is necessary to "cultivate your strengths" and seek recognition for those strengths in objectively-acknowledged achievements (i.e., cv-building). In order to live an internally-oriented life (a life of character), however, it is instead essential that we "confront our weaknesses" and use the lessons learned to build loving, trust-based relationships.
 
As well as profiling various upstanding people, Brooks spends a lot of the book building an argument about the extent to which we have moved away from raising children to idealize values and, instead, to focus on meritocratic achievement – what he terms the culture of "the big me." Here are just a few of the statistics Brooks uses to demonstrate how our priorities, as a society, have changed during this shift: 
  • "… in 1950, the Gallup Organization asked high school seniors if they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was asked in 2005, and this time it wasn't 12 percent who considered themselves important, it was 80 percent." (p6)
  • "The median narcissism score has risen 30 percent in the last two decades. Ninety-three percent of young people score higher than the middle score just twenty years ago. … Fame used to rank low as a life's ambition for most people. In a 1976 survey that asked people to list their life goals, fame ranked fifteenth out of sixteen. By 2007, 51 percent of young people reported that being famous was one of their top personal goals." (p7)
  • "In 1966, only about 19 percent of high school students graduated with an A or A- average. By 2013, 53 percent of students graduated with that average, according to UCLA surveys of incoming college freshmen. Young people are surrounded by so much praise that they develop sky-high aspirations for themselves. According to an Ernst & Young survey, 65 percent of college students expect to become millionaires." (pp.254-255)
The consequence for the CSR debate is that we are building weaker communities. In their place, we are instead fostering a stronger sense of individual self-worth – the idea that I do not need others because I am capable of generating 'the best answer' on my own:
 
"But if you proudly believe the truest answers can be found in the real you, the voice inside, then you are less likely to become engaged with others. Sure enough, there has been a steady decline in intimacy. Decades ago, people typically told pollsters that they had four or five close friends, people to whom they could tell everything. Now the common answer is two or three, and the number of people with no confidants has doubled. Thirty-five percent of older adults report being chronically lonely, up from 20 percent a decade ago. At the same time, social trust has declined. Surveys ask, 'Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can't be too careful in dealing with people?' In the early 1960s, significant majorities said that people can generally be trusted. But in the 1990s the distrusters had a 20-percentage-point margin over the trusters, and those margins have increased in the years since."
 
There needs to be a strong "S" in "CSR." It is essential to define the boundaries of acceptable behavior within which corporations can be held to account, but those boundaries need to be defined by the group, together, not a bunch of atomistic individuals, separately. Without the strong S (i.e., social/society), there is nothing for corporations to be responsible to.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Strategic CSR - Environmental art

There is a new documentary about the British environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy, whose art is both beautiful and powerful. The trailer for the movie ('Leaning into the Wind') is fascinating and demonstrates Andy's ability to manipulate and comment on nature simultaneously:
 
 
As the artist says, "you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge – two different ways of looking at the world." There is more footage on the movie's website:
 
 
This documentary is a follow-up to an earlier documentary about Andy's work, 'Rivers and Tides,' by the same director:
 
 
Seeing this art reminded me of one of the earliest Newsletters I sent out, back in 2010 (Strategic CSR – Graffiti), which looked at what the artist, Paul Curtis, describes as "reverse graffiti":
 
"Using stencils, water, and scrubbing brushes, British 'reverse graffiti' artist Paul Curtis comments on runaway consumerism—and shows us how dirty we really are. … He strips away years of accumulated soot, dust, dirt, and atmospheric detritus to make pieces like these, which were part of a celebration of street art."
 
The ephemeral, yet extremely intricate nature of this work is astonishing. I am not sure I would have the patience, but the overall effect is an extremely powerful commentary on how we affect the natural environment simply by existing.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Strategic CSR - Value

The article in the url below demonstrates how the concept of value is widely misunderstood – even among those, such as business journalists, who should know better. The author, adopting the stereotypical stance of a Wall Street Journal journalist, equates the creation of value with the largest dollar amount. That is, he suggests that for an investor in a socially responsible investment (SRI) fund to accept a lower return is for that investor to receive less value:
 
"Wall Street considers it a truism that money sloshes around the globe seeking the highest return. But there are countless investors, believe it or not, who are willing to accept lower returns. P.T. Barnum supposedly said there's a sucker born every minute. Many of them go into so-called socially responsible investing. … the basic idea is to throw money away. In reality there is no trade-off of Vice vs. Nice. There are only returns."
 
Putting aside the contentious issue of whether SRI funds are able to match the performance of the market, let's assume SRI funds perform at a lower rate – say 1, or 2, or even 3% below the market as a whole. This doesn't mean that the investor is receiving less value. If the value I get from knowing my funds are supporting companies/issues in which I believe (and, to some extent, build my identity around), then that could easily compensate for any lower financial return, and will probably exceed it. Instead, this journalists resorts to the well-trodden, knee-jerk ground of Milton Friedman's quotes about CSR (which, in my opinion, are also misunderstood – see Chapter 5, pp. 90-92 + Strategic CSR – Bill Gates) to undercut his own argument:
 
"Profits are the best measure of a business's value to consumers—and to society. No one holds a gun to the customer's head. If the buyer weren't glad to pay the free-market price, he would make the product or perform the service himself. Yet this idea is questioned all the time."
 
I agree that "profits are the best measure of a business's value to consumers—and to society," but that is exactly why SRI funds exist. If an SRI fund is profitable then, by definition, it is creating value for the investors who select it over other, more conventional investment options. To see what this means at the societal level (i.e., the population of all firms), it is instructive to look at the makeup of those companies that are considered 'successful.' The fact that many of them are global brands that persuade consumers to pay a significant premium for the 'lifestyles' that accompany their products disproves the author's point about SRI funds. In other words, he cannot say SRI funds are a waste of money because they deliver returns that are below those of other competing investment options, yet also say that a consumer is demonstrating Nike's 'value' by paying a significant price premium for those parts of sneakers (e.g., design, logo) that do not serve a functional purpose. In both cases, consumers are receiving something other than functional value in exchange for the 'price' they are willing to pay. Why is there even a market for $150 sneakers if it is not to provide some value to those who are willing to pay that much? If this argument applies to Nike, then, by definition, it applies to SRI funds. The Wall Street Journal cannot have it both ways.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Stocks Weren't Made for Social Climbing
By Andy Kessler
January 22, 2018
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
A15
 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Strategic CSR - 2017

The article in the url below makes the case that, rather than despair at the daily circus ongoing in Washington D.C., it is important to remember how much good is happening in the world. Here are some uplifting quotes that suggest the arc of humanity's progress is strong enough to survive the many short-term shocks currently being thrown at it. In fact, the author is encouraged to claim that, contrary to today's headlines:
 
"… 2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity. A smaller share of the world's people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell."
 
What does this mean on a more granular level?
 
"Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to calculations by Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data. Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water."
 
And, to put our progress in perspective:
 
"As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch. Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps."
 
Now, I would say (although the author does not argue this), that for-profit firms are the biggest reason for this progress. In other words, the net-effect of democratic, free-market capitalism is undoubtedly positive. As I always ask my students, 'Does anyone want to go back to 19th century dentistry?' Of course, the wrinkle in that argument is climate change – if we have no planet (or, more accurately, cannot survive on the planet we have), then it doesn't matter how good your teeth look! Nevertheless, I think it is essential for the CSR community to remember that the progress we have made so far suggests that, while for-profit firms are the cause of climate change, they are also the key to any solution. We just need to find a way to incentivize them to contribute to a more sustainable economic system. I guess that is where we all come in.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/


Why 2017 Was the Best Year in History
By Nicholas Kristof
January 7, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
SR9
 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Strategic CSR - Recycling

The article in the url below gives an indication of how much the world relies on China to recycle its waste; it also therefore demonstrates the dramatic effects on the global recycling industry of the ban on waste imports to China that went into effect on January 1:
 
"China's ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against 'yang laji,' or 'foreign garbage.' It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables."
 
The immediate effect, essentially, has been to backup all the recycling sites in the developed world that are rapidly accumulating large amounts of plastic (and other recyclables) that they do not know what do to with, simply because they cannot find anyone else to take the vast amounts China had previously been willing to import:
 
"China had been processing at least half of the world's exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. … Every year, Britain sends China enough recyclables to fill up 10,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to Greenpeace U.K. The United States exports more than 13.2 million tons of scrap paper and 1.42 million tons of scrap plastics annually to China, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has reported. That is the sixth-largest American export to China."
 
In response to the lack of an easy solution, the West is beginning to take more seriously the need to reduce plastic consumption:
 
"Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, pledged on Thursday to eliminate avoidable wastes within 25 years. In a prepared speech, she urged supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles where all the food is loose. The European Union, for its part, plans to propose a tax on plastic bags and packaging, citing the China ban and the health of the oceans among other reasons."
 
In the short-term, however, the only solution is a little more basic (and distinctly unsustainable):
 
"Those measures might help ease the situation some day, but for now Britain is faced with growing piles of recyclables and no place to put them. Experts say the immediate response to the crisis may well be to turn to incineration or landfills."
 
For example:
 
"In Halifax, Nova Scotia, which sent 80 percent of its recycling to China, … Stockpiles of those plastics have so exceeded the city's storage capacity that Halifax had to get special permission to bury about 300 metric tons of the material in a landfill."
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Wondering Where to Put All the Rubbish China Now Rejects
By Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura
January 12, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
A8
 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Strategic CSR - Faith

 
 
Welcome back to the Strategic CSR Newsletter!
The first newsletter of the Spring semester is below.
As always, your comments and ideas are welcome.
 
 
The article in the url below (published on Christmas Day), in broad terms, discusses the role of religious faith vs. scientific proof. In the process, the author (a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center) describes his own religious journey, but makes a number of points that are of value to believers and non-believers alike. First, he distinguishes the roles in our lives played by faith and reason, arguing that faith is essential because it relies on aspects of life that are beyond easy empirical demonstration, such as trust:
 
"Perhaps the key to understanding why faith is prized within the Christian tradition is that it involves trust that would not be needed if the existence of God were subject to a mathematical proof. … Every meaningful relationship — parent-child, spouse to spouse, friend to friend — involves some degree of trust. It is better and more vivifying to be the object of someone's trust rather than the last person standing after a series of logical deductions."
 
Although faith and reason are independent, they are also related – in other words, to accept faith is not to reject doubt:
 
"For many of us, shadows of doubt coexist with faith. To emphasize faith … is precisely to take doubt seriously, but also to understand the doubter more completely — not just as a reasoning mind but as a full person, possessed of a divine spark that lets us see, now and then, right through the walls we have built between faith and reason."
 
On a more practical level, the author makes the important point that to be a non-believer is just as much an article of faith as it is to believe:
 
"If it seems like that's asking too much — if you think leaps of faith are for children rather than adults — consider this: Materialists, rationalists and atheists ultimately place their trust in certain propositions that require faith. To say that truth is only intelligible through reason is itself a statement of faith. Denying the existence of God is as much a leap of faith as asserting it. As the pastor Tim Keller told me, 'Most of the things we most deeply believe in — for example, human rights and human equality — are not empirically provable.'"
 
Most important to the CSR debate, however, he highlights the complementary role that faith and reason play in making sense of life. Faith is important because it speaks to meaning and purpose in ways that reason cannot:
 
"Our most important forms of knowledge rarely come from logic or proof. … Faith can allow us to understand things in a different way than reason does. … [Reason] can analyze things like quantum physics and modern cosmology. But what faith can do is to put our lives in an unfolding narrative in ways reason cannot. It gives us a role in a gripping drama, … a drama that includes sin and betrayal, redemption and grace; and ultimately it gives purpose to our lives despite the brokenness and pain we experience."
 
Wishing everyone a happy and productive 2018!
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt?
By Peter Wehner
December 25, 2017
The New York Times
 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Strategic CSR - Stakeholders

 
This is the last CSR Newsletter of the Fall semester.
Happy Holidays and I will see you in the New Year!
 
 
The article in the url below presents a startling statistic:
 
"Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report."
 
The advantage of the report is that, rather than calculate emissions at a national level, it traces emissions to individual firms, with a focus (perhaps unsurprisingly) on fossil-fuel producers:
 
"The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report."
 
Although this makes for a dramatic headline, it is important to remember that blame is shared between those of us who consume fossil fuel (and, therefore, actually generate emissions) as well as with those firms that sell the fuel to us. A significant problem with much of the CSR debate, in my opinion, is that it seeks to frame companies as the 'bad guys.' While being inaccurate from a practical perspective (firms do not act; it is their stakeholders, principally executives and employees, who act), it also shifts the blame away from actors who can potentially solve the problem (i.e., all of us, collectively) to an amorphous actor that is easy to demonize (i.e., large corporations). Of course, one consequence of this is it helps us feel better about ourselves. In reality, however, blaming companies does not move us any closer to solving the problem. It is only when we accept that it is the firm's stakeholders who are to blame (whether internal or external) that there is a chance of meaningful change. Companies are a social construction that we have created to help us solve resource allocation problems. As such, they will deliver what the collective set of stakeholders ask/want them to deliver. By blaming companies rather than stakeholders, therefore, we are easing our consciences, but making a solution more difficult to identify and achieve.
 
Take care
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says
By Tess Riley
July 10, 2017
The Guardian
 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Strategic CSR - Starbucks

The article in the url below is a powerful reminder of the potential for success for those companies that define their values clearly and then stick by them. The stimulus for the profile is Starbuck's commitment to investing in underserved communities, but it is also a review of the firm's underlying philosophy of business:
 
"This café in Missouri represents one of 15 that Starbucks has committed to opening in underserved communities nationwide by the end of 2018 as part of its larger social-impact agenda, which over the past three years has grown increasingly aggressive, targeted, and sometimes controversial. In 2013, the company pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and military family spouses within five years and, having met the goal a year and a half early, upped its 'hiring and honoring' commitment to 25,000 by 2025. In 2015, the Seattle giant launched another hiring initiative, this one to bring on board 10,000 'opportunity youth' (men and women between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or working). The company has since hired 40,000, and this past spring pledged to reach 100,000 by 2020. In January, as an immediate rebuke to the restrictive travel and refugee-acceptance policies President Trump announced upon taking office, Starbucks launched yet another hiring effort: to partner with trusted agencies around the world and by 2022 hire 10,000 refugees in its stores across the world."
 
Starbucks has faced criticism for its various social causes (whether the #racetogether campaign or the commitment to hire refugees). The key, however, is Howard Schultz's belief that, while the firm makes mistakes, the commitment to follow-through on its values can only be a benefit:
 
"At the annual shareholders meeting [following the #boycottstarbucks campaign], Schultz reiterated to the crowd that 'we have never shown a harmful impact on our business due to our compassion.'"
 
The article is long, but well worth the read if you are looking for reaffirming evidence of the power of business to deliver optimal outcomes across the broad range of stakeholders.
 
Have a good weekend
David
 
 
Instructor Teaching and Student Study Site: https://study.sagepub.com/chandler4e
Strategic CSR Simulation: http://www.strategiccsrsim.com/
The library of CSR Newsletters are archived at: https://strategiccsr-sage.blogspot.com/
 
 
Starbucks Digs In
By Karen Valby
September, 2017
Fast Company Magazine
78-85