The Evolution of Capitalism

Last month was the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s influential report titled ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’, a mantra often heralded as the basis of the capitalist model used globally since, and now quite widely criticised as a cause of social inequalities and environmental externalities. The concept, as we are all aware of, was that business leaders should focus on creating as much value as possible for the owners of the company rather than on improving outcomes for a broader set of stakeholders.

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California wildfires and renewable shift

California seems to be in the eye of the storm at the moment when it comes to the impacts of climate change. Images of yellow smoke-filled skies are proliferating news sources and social media, the result of wildfires that are seasonal for the state due to hot and dry weather, but that this year have burned through over 5 million acres already, worse than any year in the history books. The season for wildfires usually continues until December and may continue to force people to stay at home due to the air quality, further impacting businesses already reeling from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

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Carbon intensity in Japan

We have written about renewable energy and the energy transition in Europe, the US and China.  Today we look at Japan, where multiple factors collude to result in government policies that support a slower transition towards green energy, a source of frustration for many and garnering criticism.

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The flexible future of working

The working day as we know it, in general lasting eight hours between 7am and 7pm and covering five days of the week, dates back 100 years. It has its origins in the industrial revolution, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life. At first the working day would range from 10-16 hours; the work week was six days and the use of child labour was common. A shorter working day as well as improved working conditions was raised by the International Workingmen’s Association at the Congress in Geneva in 1866, but the working week as we know it was not adopted in most countries until shortly after the first world war. There remain exceptions in developing countries and it depends on the type of work, but this structure has held for the majority of the global workforce since.

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The social risks of fast fashion

The fast fashion industry has been a significant economic success story of the last two decades, nearly doubling in size, employing 70m people worldwide and contributing 2% to global GDP. This has been driven by huge advances in supply chain management, shrinking lead times from six months to two weeks and enabling retailers to stock more choice, reduce prices and respond rapidly to consumer demand.

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Family ownership and sustainability

An inherent aspect of sustainability is about encouraging the players of a market economy to consider the long term. This is explicit in the European Commission’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth; one of the plan’s three aims is to ‘foster transparency and long-termism’. If all CEOs and investors were only concerned about the next few quarters, or even years, then it’s easy to understand how sustainable factors such as finite resources, climate change and diversity wouldn’t feature high on the agenda.

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