Business

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 people are exhausted, 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?

The future of A.I. voice technology

There are few technologies being more rapidly adopted and expanded in 2018 than voice A.I. In just a few years, the use of voice systems has evolved from simple voice commands to entire ecosystems of applications and interactions.

We’ve only begun to predict the ways voice A.I. will influence interactions between humans and technology in the decades to come. For instance, consumer behavior may shift to verbally purchasing items through smart speakers as they realize they’re running low, rather than creating a shopping list and then purchasing them all at once later. One possibility in the health care space is self-directed physical and occupational therapy done through A.I. voice assistants.

In a survey by Edison Research and NPR, 39% of respondents indicated they're very interested in having smart speaker technology in their televisions and 24% want it in their cars—two environments that are not conducive to using smartphones.

Discussion: 
What voice A.I. technologies do you currently use? What other applications would you like to see developed?
Does your company currently use voice A.I. technologies? If yes, in what ways? If not, why not? Does your company have a plan for its use in the future?
What are some possible risks in the use of voice A.I. technology?

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?

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?

New minpaku law regulates rentals

A new law will go into effect in June 2018 to regulate minpaku, private residences rented out by their owners as short-term lodgings. The new law will address changes that have occurred in recent years due to the rise of Airbnb, the worldwide online service that allows travelers to book rooms in private homes directly from the owners of those residences.

After June 15, minpaku rentals will be permitted throughout Japan. Under the new law, if owners don’t live in the building where they rent rooms, they will be required to hire a management company to take care of the property. 

Discussion: 
What is your opinion of minpaku?
Are you, or anyone you know, involved in the minpaku business? Do you think it has the potential to create significant revenue for Japan?
When you travel, do you prefer to stay in hotels or in more intimate lodgings such as Airbnb or minpaku rentals?

U.S. lacks paid maternity leave

In most American families led by couples, both parents are in the workforce. At the same time, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. children are being raised by single moms. Yet child care is generally unaffordable and paid leave is not available to most U.S. parents.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act in the U.S. did mandate 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for some American workers. Yet most families can’t forgo the income that moms bring home.

In Denmark, moms get almost 18 weeks of paid maternity leave and dads get two weeks of paid paternity leave. On top of that, couples get up to a total 32 weeks of parental leave, which parents can split.

Discussion: 
What is your opinion about maternity leave?
In your opinion, should men get paternity leave? Why or why not?
Why do you think the U.S. gives so much less parental leave than other developed countries?
Do you think your country has adequate infrastructure for working parents to have babies?

Migratory birds in danger

The Trump administration has announced a position on protecting migratory birds that is a drastic pullback from policies in force for the past 100 years.

In 1916, the U.S.A. and Great Britain signed the Migratory Bird Treaty, which became U.S. law in 1918. The measures protected more than 1,100 migratory bird species by making it illegal to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell live or dead birds, feathers, eggs, and nests, except as allowed by permit or regulated hunting.

Now the Interior Department has issued a legal opinion that excludes “incidental take” – activities that are not intended to harm birds but do so in ways that could have been foreseen, such as filling in wetlands where migrating birds rest and feed. Why? For fear of “unlimited potential for criminal prosecution,” such as charging cat owners whose pets attack migratory birds, or drivers who accidentally strike birds with their cars, with crimes.

Discussion: 
The article says the U.S. "announced a position... that is a drastic pullback." What's another way to say that?
Why is the shift in U.S. policy concerning the MBTA relevant to other nations?
What other issues transcend national borders?
If environmental protections are a financial burden to a nation's economy, should business protections take precedence over environmental ones?