MIT Sloan Management Review Executive Editor David Kiron
Once upon a time, resource-intensive industries—like paper manufacturing—faced constant criticism and public pressure from environmental groups. Attacks by Greenpeace on Asia Pulp & Paper (AP&P), for example, caused some customers to withdraw their orders.
But times are changing.
When, in 2012, AP&P wanted to remake its business model and how it acquires raw material — a significant undertaking—it waved the white flag and invited Greenpeace into the boardroom to help the company change its forestry sourcing practices.
“Never in our history had our shareholders sat in the same room with a ‘radical’ NGO like Greenpeace,” says Aida Greenbury, an AP&P managing director. “So it’s quite groundbreaking that we now sit together in our boardroom to discuss strategy and incorporate their input.”
AP&P’s experience is just one example of the burgeoning phenomenon of companies collaborating for sustainability, with a focus on transformational, strategic results. The practice of corporate sustainability is steadily moving beyond ad hoc.
MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer and Visiting Scientist Barbara Dyer
Last week, Aetna, Inc., one of the largest healthcare insurers in America, made news when it announced it would boost its minimum wage base to $16 an hour for its lowest-earning employees. Aetna AET 0.35% also pledged to cover more of its employee’s health costs. In a Wall Street Journal interview, CEO Mark Bertolini said the company hopes to reduce its $120 million annual turnover costs and will monitor how this investment plays out.
While a firm’s decision to increase pay for lower-wage workers should certainly be applauded, it also begs the question: Why is the decision to pay workers $16 per hour breaking news?
My answer: because of the message it sends to investors and shareholders.
It’s time all stakeholders — employees, business leaders, government officials, and educators — have a serious discussion about how the nation can create better jobs for the next generation.
Wal-Mart has been getting good press recently for its decision to raise its associates’ wages to a minimum of $9 per hour. And it should. So should the unions and community groups that have been pressuring the U.S. retailer to do just that. They also deserve some of the credit for exposing Wal-Mart’s low wages, reliance of associates on food stamps and other public assistance, anti-union tactics, and bottom of the industry ratings on customer service and employee satisfaction.
The mantra of youth sports where “everyone gets a trophy” is permeating professional leagues. These days every team can claim some semblance of winning. In the bygone era of the NFL, two teams made the playoffs and that consisted of one game, the Super Bowl. Today six teams from each conference advance, and there is talk of adding more. In MLB, it used to be that the league leaders won the pennant and then went to the World Series; now, five teams in each league make the playoffs. In the NBA and the NHL, meanwhile, more than half of all teams make the post-season.
As the definition of post-season success broadens and winning becomes a commodity, a team’s performance isn’t enough to stand out in the $750 billion sports industry. And at a time where traditional revenue streams are under pressure and the competition for money, media, and sponsors remains stiff, sports organizations have to be more innovative.
So, what should they be doing to drive revenue? How can they use technology to attract and interact with fans? And, in the Age of Big Data, what’s the best use of analytics to increase ticket sales? These are some of the questions on the table at the 2015 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
I recently joined 25 of my MIT classmates on an MIT Sloan Technology Trek to Seattle.
Technology is a hot area at MIT Sloan — 26 percent of the graduating class last year went into high technology jobs — so technology treks are very popular.
They are an important tool for students to learn about company cultures. However, we’re not just looking at how many hours we’ll work or how comfortable the lifestyle is. We want to feel like we’re making an impact on others in real ways, and we want to know that our MBA education is truly adding value at the organization.
Treks are a unique opportunity to ask questions and learn from employees, who are frequently alumni.
In addition to learning more about the roles of MBA grads, I also wanted to see if I could deal with Seattle’s climate. Growing up in India and living in New England for the last nine years, I knew that the Northwest would be quite different.