A growing number of millennials are living with their parents. This is one of the findings of a Pew survey on Americans living in multi-generational family households.
According to the survey, young adults ages 25 to 34 (aka millennials) “have been a major component of the growth in the population living with multiple generations since 1980 — and especially since 2010. By 2012, roughly one-in-four of these young adults (23.6 percent) lived in multi-generational households, up from 18.7 percent in 2007 and 11 percent in 1980.”
It’s not necessarily that millennials love their parents nowadays more than ever and have hard time leaving the house. Apparently, there are number of reasons for this phenomenon, including millennials’ delayed entry to adulthood, but also, and probably mainly, economic reasons.
According to a State of the Nation’s Housing report released last month by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University “tight credit, high unemployment and record levels of student loan debt are moderating growth and keeping young people and other first-time homebuyers out of the market.”
So, this is good news, right? Millennials seem to adopt a more responsible economic behavior, avoiding the same reckless financial decisions that got so many people in trouble only a few years ago. And besides, aren’t multi-generational households more sustainable? After all, they use resources more efficiently, serve as an economic safety net and may even help family relationships.
Sometimes it looks like Uber has become the world’s favorite punching bag, from taxi drivers across Europe complaining that Uber is “not playing by the rules” to American customers annoyed with the company’s surge pricing tactics.
Why? Leonard didn’t like the fact that Uber significantly reduced the prices of UberX rides in New York and other cities, making them cheaper now than taxi rides. He suggested that Uber’s deep pockets (it just raised $1.2 billion) could enable the company to lose money on every ride, claiming this is an “anti-competitive market behavior.”
And the connection to Rockefeller? “The founder of Standard Oil built his monopoly by exploiting size to leverage discounted access to railroad transport. Such economies supported price cuts his competitors couldn’t match,” Leonard writes. He’s afraid that we’re about to witness a somewhat similar scenario in the taxi industry, where Uber will use its funds to drive taxis out of business, and then will increase prices, making its investors rich at the expense of the public.
Leonard, as well as others sharing similar concerns, questions the legitimacy or fairness of Uber’s business tactics, especially given the fact that it operates in many places within a “grey area” of the law. Yet, behind these arguments lie even more fundamental questions: Is Uber still considered part of the sharing economy? Is it exploitative? And if you answer ‘yes’ to both questions, what does it say about the sharing economy?
Let’s try to look at these questions one by one.
I consider myself a regular customer at Walgreens – I shop there at least once or twice a week. For some reason I thought I knew the company quite well, at least when it comes to sustainability issues, but this week I’ve learned a new fact that I wasn’t aware of:
Walgreens is considering a move abroad to lower its tax rate.
As Andrew Ross Sorkin reported in the New York Times, Walgreens “is now considering moving the company’s headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain. Why? To lower Walgreen’s tax bill even further.”
According to Americans for Tax Fairness, Sorkin adds, “a move by Walgreen to Switzerland would most likely cost United States taxpayers about $4 billion over five years.”
So what does it mean exactly, and what should Walgreens customers like me do about it? Here are five things to think about:
When “Cradle to Cradle” was published in 2002, it generated great hopes that it could lead to a more sustainable future. The launch of the C2C certification by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute provided companies with a clear framework on how to adopt the concept, making a paradigm shift seem even more likely.
Yet, even with more than 200 companies worldwide participating today in the C2C Certified Products Program, and with hundreds of product lines representing thousands of different products certified, C2C is still a niche market with little influence on the overall economy.
And so, almost a decade after C2C certifications became available, it’s still very much a promise that hasn’t been fulfilled.
Why? I assume there are many reasons, but the main one seems to be that most companies just don’t recognize the value in adopting the C2C certification. In order to address this issue, the C2C Products Innovation Institute commissioned Trucost, a leading global environmental data and insight company, “to develop an assessment framework with clearly deﬁned indicators to determine the effect of optimization on the business, environmental and social impact of products.”
The result is a 145-page report in which Trucost presents its analysis of 10 C2C-certified products from different companies (and industries), including Aveda, Desso, Ecover, PUMA, Shaw Industries, Steelcase and Van Houtum.
Three years after taking over the leadership of Apple, Tim Cook is still struggling to make his own mark in the company. A profile article in the New York Times published last week described the challenges Cook faces while trying to lead a company, living in the shadow of Steve Jobs and “making Apple his own.”
According to the article, there are still many people — including some of Apple’s shareholders — wondering if Cook can fill Jobs’ shoes and maintain the company’s position as an innovation powerhouse and the most valuable company in the world.
One issue where Jobs’ shoes aren’t too big to fill is corporate social responsibility (CSR): In his day, Apple was famous for its reactive CSR strategy, low level of transparency, little commitment to stakeholder engagement and a generally dated approach to what responsibility in business means.
Cook — who had to address some of the issues that were the result of Jobs’ approach, such as the working conditions at Foxconn – seems to be more open-minded about CSR, promoting an agenda focusing on climate change, human rights and philanthropy.
The interesting question is whether this is enough to build Cook’s own legacy and make Apple not just his own, but also more sustainable? I believe the answer is no. And the reason is not what is in his agenda, but what is missing from it.
Last week at the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego, gDiapers CEO, Jason Graham-Nye said: “I think sustainability is like fight club. The first rule of fight club is don’t talk about fight club. The first rule of sustainability is the word is so dead.”
And he’s not alone. In one of the conference events, Raphael Bemporad – co-founder and chief strategy officer at BBMG and Tensie Whelan, president of Rainforest Alliance – presented a new report entitled The New Sustainably Narrative, which tries to address the following problem:
“Sustainability doesn’t mean anything real to consumers. Too often, it brings to mind technical issues or seemingly insurmountable environmental challenges.”
I guess this problem statement shouldn’t be surprising news to anyone involved in or following the many efforts to engage consumers in sustainability. The issue it raises has long become the Achilles’ heel of the sustainability movement, making companies wonder what on earth can be done to get consumers on board.
So, what can be done to change the status quo when it comes to consumers with or without using the ‘S’ word?
If I ask you to describe Uber – the ride-sharing service — in one word, what would it be? Probably words like app, better, convenience, surge pricing, luxury, service, sharing, fun, cashless and future would come up.
My guess however is that the most popular word would be ‘disruptive.’ Why? Just look at the headlines of articles focusing on Uber: “Invasion of the Taxi Snatchers: Uber Leads an Industry’s Disruption,” “Airbnb, Coursera, and Uber: The Rise of the Disruption Economy,” “Disruptions: Ride-Sharing Upstarts Challenge Taxi Industry,” are just some of the many examples you can find online with the combination Uber + disruption.
But what does it actually mean? In most cases describing Uber as disruptive or a disruptive innovation refers to the notion that the company brought a fundamental change, not just small-scale modifications, to the taxi market — reinventing in a way the whole taxi experience.
Now, while obviously Uber seems to meet the definition of disruptive innovation as most people understand this concept, it would be interesting to see if Uber actually meets the criteria for disruptive innovation defined by the person who actually coined and popularized the term – Prof. Clayton M. Christensen.
Earlier this month Thomas Friedman wrote on the New York Times about two very different groups trying to shape the economic environment worldwide.
The second group was the “square people”–according to Friedman, it includes mostly young people, who are aspiring to a higher standard of living and more liberty, seeking either reform or revolution in their country (depending on their existing government) and “demanding a new social contract.”
On the same day the article was published, describing the differences between the two groups, the Shared Value Leadership Summit was convened in New York. This was an interesting coincidence, as the premise of the summit was that shared value has the power to reinvent capitalism as we know it and become the bridge connecting “Davos men” and the “square people.”
This premise came from the speakers at the summit, many of whom are no strangers to Davos, who explained why it makes so much sense to address societal needs and challenges (of the kind that gets “square people” into the squares) with a profit-driven business model.
Marshall McLuhan famously said: “There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” While it can be applied to every sustainable challenge, this notion is clearly reflected in business efforts to be socially responsible when it comes to the role of consumers.
The idea was and still is that companies’ increasing efforts to make their value chain more sustainable need to be complemented by a growing consumer consciousness about sustainability that will translate to a greater support of companies that move away from ‘business as usual.’ In other words: Companies can’t do it alone. They need consumers on board.
Now, if you look at studies exploring consumer attitudes, you find that consumers indeed seem to be more conscious about sustainability and are more willing to incorporate it into their decision-making process.
For example, according to a 2013 Cone Communications study, 87 percent of consumers consider a company’s social and environmental commitment before deciding what to buy or where to shop. Another study conducted by Nielsen found that 50 percent of global consumers surveyed are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies “that have implemented programs to give back to society.”
Yet, when it comes to actual behavior, (almost) all of these good intentions disappear somehow, and sustainability or corporate responsibility doesn’t seem to make much of a difference for most consumers. Hence my question is: Why is it that whenever we find ourselves at the store or the supermarket we forget all the good intentions we had back home?
“At H&M, we have set ourselves the challenge of ultimately making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable. We want to help people express their personality and feel proud of what they wear. I’m very excited to see the progress we’ve made so far and how this will help us to make you an even better offer – and create a more sustainable fashion future.”
You can take this statement with a grain of salt, especially after the tragedy in Bangladesh last year and given that it comes from the CEO of one of the world’s largest fast fashion retailers. Still, I think it’s also important to read what H&M does to make fashion sustainable. But before diving into the report, I was curious to see what Persson wrote last year, in H&M’s 2012 report, which was published shortly before the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Bangladesh. Here’s what I found there:
“At H&M, we think of sustainability as a word of action. It’s an ongoing journey full of heart, drive and passion with sincere direction, constantly pushing the boundaries. We take a long-term view of our business. Looking beyond short-term profits and investing in sustainability makes good business sense – and is quite simply the right thing to do.” – Karl-Johan Persson, CEO
Last Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Bangladesh’s tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,129 garment workers were killed.
“If a positive can be found, it’s that Rana Plaza has been a turning point — the 21st Century equivalent of New York’s 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, which killed 146 but led to a unionized, safe garment industry,” Dolly Jones wrote on Vogue earlier this month.
This tragedy resulted indeed in significant steps taken by individual companies and European and American coalitions, aiming to improve the safety of the garment workers in Bangladesh and ensure clothing supply chains are more ethical and transparent.
Still, even with all of these efforts to build what H&M describes as “sustainable fashion future,” one question is still hanging out there: Can fast fashion really be sustainable?
I thought about this quote while reading a new report, “How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family,” published on April 15 (aka Tax Day) by Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of progressive organizations. The report estimates that Walmart workers relying on public assistance programs due to low wages cost American taxpayers $6.2 billion a year.
Another interesting figure presented in the report was that Walmart has captured 18 percent of the SNAP (food stamps program) market. Using that figure, the authors estimate that “the company accounted for $13.5 billion out of $76 billion in food stamp sales in 2013.”
It got me thinking that if a substantial number of Walmart’s employees in the U.S. (1.3 million in total) receive food stamps, then the company actually profits twice from paying low-wages – not only does it reduce its costs, but it also increases its income by receiving food stamps from its employees shopping at Walmart.
But is this really the case? Is Walmart that far away from the vision Nick Hanauer offers in quote? And if so, what does it say about its commitment to corporate responsibility or its “responsibility to lead”?
“We can’t do without government, but we do need it to be more effective,” Jennifer Pahlka, the founder and executive director of Code for America (CfA), told the audience in her 2012 TED talk. I guess some people would disagree with the first part of her statement, but probably 99.9 percent would agree with her about the second part.
But how do you do it? Well, for some it might look like an impossible mission, but to Palhka and her small army of talented developers, designers and researchers, who serve as CfA fellows working with local governments, this is a difficult yet doable challenge. “You just have to architect the systems the right way,” explains Pahlka.
Technology is definitely key in CfA’s work helping government become more engaging, user-friendly and effective, but I believe that there’s also a secret sauce that makes it work – empathy.
A great example of how Code for America successfully converges technology and empathy is the story of Promptly, a text messaging notification system that was developed by four CfA fellows working with San Francisco’s Human Services Agency in a project funded by the Vodafone Americas Foundation.
Summer seems so far away, especially if you live in freezing New York like I do, but we’ll get there eventually, and when we do it’s always better be prepared with an air conditioner on your side.
The good news is that, as of this summer, you can have not just a regular AC, but one that “gets smarter over time, learning from users’ schedules, habits, location, weather information and past usage.” Welcome to the age of Aros!
Presented earlier this month, Aros, which is described as a “truly brilliant air conditioner” (I guess “smart” didn’t feel right in this case), is the result of an ongoing collaboration between General Electric and Quirky. What makes Aros interesting is not just the fact that it is the first “brilliant” AC and how it advances the vision of Internet of Things, but also what it means in terms of the relationships between the new collaborative, open economy and the more traditional one.
Here’s a quick question: What’s your smartphone upgrade cycle? Or in other words, what’s the frequency with which you replace your older smartphone in a newer one?
If you’re like the average American, it’s a little less than two years (22 months in 2012, according to Recon Analytics).
This aggressive upgrade cycle is no secret, and it helps the mobile industry grow and generate impressive profits. At the same time, we all know this trend is not sustainable and hurts our wallets. In addition, writes Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times: “Smartphones have crossed the threshold from amazing to boring. High-end phones seem to have hit an innovation plateau, with each new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy just incrementally better than the last.”
Given these circumstances Manjoo suggests it might not be so wild to imagine a world in which we “buy smartphones with an eye to longevity.” In this world, he writes, consumers use their smartphones for more than two years (ideally three); try to repair them instead of replacing them when possible; consider buying used phones instead of new ones; and trade their smartphones in where they’re done with them.
I like Manjoo’s vision. It’s practical and at the same time offers a real change. The only thing I would change about it is aiming somewhat higher with the upgrade cycle to at least twice what we have now – let’s say four to five years. But even without this revision, is it really possible for the mobile industry to become a (more) sustainable closed-loop system, or is it just another green fantasy?