Business

Fast Fashion: Is it worth the cost?

It comes in red, mustard and black, in sizes 6 up to 16; the Boohoo minidress is, according to the online retailer, "perfect for transitioning from day to play". It is not so much the styling and colour, but the price of the £5 dress which attracts thousands of the thriving retailer's U.K. customers to buy it.

The £5 dress epitomises a fast fashion industry that pumps hundreds of new collections onto the market in a short time at pocket money prices. On average, such dresses and other products are discarded by consumers after five weeks. 

But behind the price tag, there is an environmental and social cost not contained on the label of such products. The textile industry creates more CO² a year than international aviation and shipping combined. It also creates chemical and plastic pollution—as much as 35% of micro-plastics found in the ocean come from synthetic clothing, not to mention the scrapped clothing piling up in landfills. 

Discussion: 
The article asks, if the consumer is not paying the real price of the dress, who or what is?
Is fashion something that you value personally? How much do you value it?
Would you consider buying from ethical clothing companies even though they tend to be more expensive? Why or why not?

Food collective you can trust

Seikatsu Club is a huge food cooperative, founded in 1965 by a group of women in Japan, which has exacting standards on everything from radioactivity levels to the number of additives in food.

Their initial focus was on bringing down the price of milk for households by securing bulk-purchase discounts. Fast-forward five decades and Seikatsu is now a sprawling operation of nearly 400,000 members (90% women) that runs its own milk factory and has food supply agreements with about 200 outside producers. In addition, some of the production is now done by workers collectives that are part of the cooperative.

Discussion: 
Would you like to buy food from such an organisation? Why or why not?
Do you think the government in your country does enough to ensure the safety of food?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a cooperative enterprise in today's global market?

One key tool for inclusion at work

The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are, particularly those in underrepresented groups. One of the best practices for this is to segment employee engagement survey results by minority groups.

Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, and role in the organization. By only looking at the total numbers, employers miss out on opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups that could be leading to employee turnover, as the views of the majority overpower those of minorities.

Discussion: 
What's the difference between "diversity" and "inclusion"?
Who is the majority group in your company/organization? How do you think their views and values affect your company/organization?
Have you ever been part of the minority group in a company/organization? Were there any unfair advantages people in the majority seemed to have that nobody talked about?
Can you think of any other best practices or suggestions to create a more inclusive work environment?

Tired? Maybe you're actually lonely

More and more people are feeling both tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work.

What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: the more exhausted people are, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. The problem seems to be pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.

Discussion: 
What was this article about, and would you agree with this?
What can individuals do to feel more socially connected?
What can companies and organizations do to help people feel more socially connected?

Big Four firms stop consulting

PwC and EY told a panel of British lawmakers they would mirror a change already underway at another Big Four accounting firm, KPMG, in a bid to end a “perception” of conflict between selling audit and consulting work to the same customer.

Consulting is better paid than audit work, raising concerns that an accountant won’t challenge a company’s management properly regarding an audit for fear of losing more lucrative advisory work.

KPMG said last November it would phase out advisory work for its British accounting clients as the Big Four faced calls from lawmakers to be broken up after the collapse of construction firm Carillion, which KPMG audited.

“We will do a ban on anything for audit clients other than audit related services,” Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC UK told parliament’s business committee.

Discussion: 
Can you paraphrase this article?
What is the conflict of interest? Describe it in as much detail as you can.
Can you think of any other conflicts of interest in consulting or other areas of business?

Business for social change

Imagine the impact individual organizations could make if they teamed up to solve the world's most intractable societal problems.

That new mindset took center stage in Copenhagen at the inaugural global innovation lab, UNLEASH. There, a thousand carefully chosen, young social entrepreneurs came together from across the world to develop innovative approaches to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Multiple surveys show that public trust and confidence in government, business, NGOs and media is at an all-time low. Business, however, is considered the most likely of these groups to have a positive impact on the world’s most difficult challenges.

Some of the ideas for solutions to global problems at the first UNLEASH were:

Discussion: 
If you were able to participate in UNLEASH, what issue would you want to focus on? (You can choose from the ones mentioned, or think of a specific social issue you know of.)
The article states that, "Business is considered the most likely of these groups [government, business, NGOs, media] to have a positive impact on the world’s most difficult challenges." Do you agree? Why or why not?
Do you think the citizens of the world will ever be able to come together as a whole to solve global problems? Why or why not?

7 Blockchain questions for the boss

Blockchain technology is still in its infancy but is growing at a rapid pace. It is hard to be an expert in the field, but you should at least know the basics. 

At the core, Blockchain uses a shared ledger managed by multiple computers that are networked. This is much different from current systems that rely on one central system with a database.

Leading companies advocating for and working on blockchain projects are IBM, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Intel. This will likely continue to grow to include smaller businesses as well.

Discussion: 
What is your understanding of the blockchain?
What are some ways that you can teach yourself about blockchain technologies?
What companies in Japan are implementing blockchain technologies?
How can your company become a leader in the implementation of blockchain technologies?

Impact of AI on Businesses

Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI, is best described as machine learning. Instead of programming a computer to perform a task, the computer will program itself.

As AI continues to grow it will enhance our lives. We can already see this in action with Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Companies like Amazon are using AI in order to predict your next purchase. Another great example of AI in current use is with chat bots that you find in websites like Facebook, and in customer support apps.

Many people are looking forward to self driving cars that are completely driven by AI. Tesla has already incorporated AI into its autopilot that can be turned on at a moment’s notice. Google and other companies are in a rush to keep up.

Discussion: 
What do you know about AI?
What can you do to improve your knowledge of AI?
How do you think AI will impact your job in the future?
How can you help your company when it comes to AI?

Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper delivery

Walmart and Rakuten will co-create an online grocery service in Japan that will launch in 2018. The service will be operated by Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a Walmart subsidiary, and will be called “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.”

Walmart, via Seiyu, has operated a grocery delivery business in Japan since 2000. This new co-branded service will replace that, the company says.

Some customers’ orders will continue to be fulfilled by their local Seiyu store, as before. But depending on their geography, other customers’ orders may come from a new, dedicated fulfillment center operated by Walmart and Rakuten. The center, which is an existing building Walmart owns, will be exclusively used for online grocery.

Discussion: 
What are the potential advantages of this partnership for Rakuten and Walmart/Seiyu, respectively?
What is the current market situation in Japan for online grocery shopping?
What are the pros and cons of online grocery shopping?

Walk the talk on climate change

New Zealand hasn't been "walking the talk" on climate risk, finds a sweeping new analysis of hundreds of annual reports and statements.

Climate change threatens hundreds of billions of dollars of property and infrastructure, and will require an economy-wide shift toward lower emissions. However, of more than 380 large organisations analysed, just 40 recognised the risks as of serious concern--suggesting that boards either opted not to publicly disclose the implications, or didn't discuss them at all. "Both are horrific—but the latter is particularly more horrific," said Wendy McGuinness, chief executive of Wellington-based think-tank the McGuinness Institute.

Discussion: 
Why might a board of directors choose not to report publicly on their discussions about climate change?
Wendy McGuinness is disappointed in the New Zealand government for not doing more about climate change. Are you disappointed in how Japan's government is dealing with it so far? Why or why not?
What can individual businesses do about climate change?
What can governments do about climate change?