As 78 million Baby Boomers move toward retirement age, their financial worries about future health care costs are increasing. Even affluent, non-retired investors are getting nervous. A new study shows that the financial risk of rising health care costs in retirement was the greatest concern of non-retired investors; a majority, 55%, were “very concerned,” a rise of seven points from last year’s survey. Overall, 89 percent of this year’s respondents expressed “some concern” about rising heath care costs.
From the Editor
A coalition of eight states has teamed up to increase sales of electric cars. The group is adopting various supporting measures, including installing more charging stations, changing building codes to make it easier to own an electric car, and buying EVs for their fleets. Their goal is to achieve sales of over three million vehicles that do not have any emissions by 2025. The coalition—California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—represents more than a quarter of the national car market.
In North Dakota, an estimated 865,000 gallons of oil has spread across farmland after a pipeline rupture. The pipeline’s owner, Tesoro Logistics, only found out about the leak after being alerted by the farmer on whose land it had been spewing for some time. The spill is one of the largest inland oil pipeline accidents in the U.S.
Problems with the software for health insurance offered through the Affordable Care Act have become an “Appegedon.” Millions of would-be enrollees have been unable to log in to the federal government portal or the Web sites of individual state exchanges. Ambitions for these sites are huge: to enroll millions of uninsured by Dec 15. So is the software on which they depend: the underlying code contains an estimated 500 million lines. Some five million lines may need to be rewritten to coordinate the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors.
Cutting costs has been the basic reason for outsourcing—in particular, cutting labor costs in countries with emerging economies. It’s not created a pretty picture for developed countries’ business practices. Exploitation, tax avoidance, corruption—almost every bad business behavior has been associated with outsourcing. But what if business process outsourcers (BPOs) were focused on making social change while improving business performance?
Last Friday, executives of the utilities that provide half of Europe’s electricity production capacity called for an end to subsidies for wind and solar power. They charged market “distorting” incentives—priority access to the grid and guaranteed prices for wind and solar power producers—have driven down the wholesale price of conventional power generation while raising retail prices to the consumer. Exhibit A: in Germany, which has the most aggressive renewable energy policy, households now pay double the previous rate.
“Appalled.” That’s the comment by behavioral ethics researchers who have concluded that cheaters cheat because they get a “high” from unethical behavior. A new study finds that cheaters in a variety of experiments felt an emotional boost that the honest participants did not: a sense of thrill, self-satisfaction, and superiority. Unethical behavior is being increasingly studied to understand what prompts people to breach core values, why cheating seems to be on the rise, and what solutions might help curb it.
The World Bank is re-organizing to become truly global. The bank, which lends more than $30 billion annually and works in more than 100 countries, is currently running more than 1,000 projects around the world. Those projects are now organized fund by fund, country by country, and region by region. The bank proposes to restructure its operations around 14 “global practices,” including such categories as agriculture, education, energy and extractives, health and nutrition.
The above headline in my Inbox was irresistible—I had to look deeper into this story. Turns out that a survey by Corporate Responsibility (CR) Magazine, conducted with Allegis Group, reveals some intriguing facts. A large majority of the 1,000 men and women polled, 84 percent, would consider leaving their current jobs if offered another role at a company with an excellent corporate reputation.
In all the current media noise about the Affordable Care Act, I keep listening for facts. Here’s some numbers to consider. 28 million Americans would gain health insurance under Obamacare, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. Two-thirds of uninsured Americans have a full-time job. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that six in ten uninsured Americans could qualify for health coverage in the insurance market for less than $100 per person per month.
Looking for something to do in these do-nothing, politically dysfunctional days? Fair Trade USA has ranked the top ten cities in the U.S. for “fairness.” The winner? Philadelphia, followed by Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth (!?), Atlanta, Washington, D.C., San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and New York. (What does it mean that the larger cities are last in fairness?) The 2013 Fair Survey looks at behaviors and beliefs in a wide range of areas, including manners, food, parenting, finances, shopping, and environmental practices.
An energy efficiency bill sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) has accomplished something unusual in today’s Congress: it has won wide bipartisan support. The bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May by a vote of 19-3. The legislation requires the federal government—the largest single energy consumer in the country—to adopt energy saving practices and build at the highest energy efficiency standards. If adopted last year, it would have saved $4 billion and helped businesses create 80,000 jobs.
As the ideological debates rage on about the Affordable Care Act, the facts are starting to create a clear picture of what this landmark legislation might mean at the bottom line. The Department of Health and Human Services has released a report on health plan premiums and participation in the 36 states where the federal government is either fully or partly running the new health insurance exchanges. The conclusions? Consumers in most states will have many plans to choose from, and premiums will be lower than expected in 2014.
A bill to mandate CSR for companies in the Philippines has been filed in the House of Representatives of that country. All businesses established and/or operating under Filipino laws, whether domestic or foreign, would be required to follow practices outlined in the bill, including accepting limitations made on retained surplus profits, defined as in excess of 100 per cent of paid-in capital stock. The legislation’s sponsors argue that too many corporations in that country have shown “very little care” for the social good. This effort raises some complex questions.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sets rules for renewable energy development and authorizes natural gas pipelines and exports. You’re going to hear a lot about this usually little-known agency, as the nomination of Ronald Binz to be its new chairman is being opposed by a coalition of coal and fossil-fuel energy advocacy groups. Binz, the former head of the Colorado Public Utility Commission, was instrumental in drafting that state’s Clean Air Clean Jobs Act, aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants and increasing wind energy production.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Strategies to Create Business and Social Value will take place from September 25-28, 2013 on the HBS Campus. Participants will learn to align CSR with business strategy by defining priorities, integrating social responsibility into business structure and managing risk. To learn more and apply, visit: http://www.exed.hbs.edu/programs/csr/Pages/default.aspx
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has made a provocative statement about management strategy for a service industry: “I think it’s a team effort to make such a company successful.” He also says that the American “hype” about individuals leading companies is “over.” Spohr describes his work schedule as CEO as 30 percent meetings with front-line staff: pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics. This approach keeps him close to the details of airline service and to the employees who execute them.
Impact investing—investing to create quantifiable positive social and environmental change along with a financial return—is not easy in China. Many companies lack management dedicated to impact investing programs and a strategic plan. However, the China Vanke group, the largest residential real estate developer in mainland China, is one example of a successful model of a responsible Chinese corporation through impact investing.
Who are the most and least respected brands in U.S. business? According to a report on 100 top companies by CoreBrand, a consultancy firm, Hershey, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Walt Disney, and Campbell Soup are among the “most respected” while H&R Block, Philip Morris and Delta rank lowest in respect ratings. The highly ranked companies score high by doing well financially, have few management problems, and avoid issues with product or service quality.
The once near-invisible activity called “supply chain” is now in the transparency spotlight. Globalization has resulted in cheaper goods, but at a high cost at the human level in recent, very public disasters and investigative reports. Many Western companies that source apparel, electronics, and other products from overseas low-wage countries are now ramping up their efforts to verify factory conditions for workers’ safety, using certifying organizations such as Intertek, SGS, Bureau Veritas, Verité, Arche Advisors, and UL Verification Services.