Chipmaker Woes, Menthol Assault, PG&E Probe: CEO Daily for November 16, 2018
I’ve spent a lot of time recently talking to corporate leaders about how to encourage business to better serve the needs of society. Those conversations inevitably turn to the importance of time horizon. In the short term, pressure to earn a profit often conflicts with the interests of customers, employees and the communities in which they live. But in the long term, the two converge. A company that ignores the latter will eventually run short of the former.
That’s why I’ve watched closely the efforts of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, led by Lynn de Rothschild and EY CEO Mark Weinberger, to devise new metrics to measure companies’ long-term focus. We all know what gets measured gets managed. (And what doesn’t doesn’t.) So getting businesses—and investors—to adopt metrics that gauge commitment to the future can be a powerful force for good.
This morning, the coalition is releasing its first report. CEO Daily got an early look, and likes what it saw. Top of the list is a focus on talent. How companies manage their all-important human capital can be a critical indicator of commitment to the future. Measures of things like employee engagement, voluntary turnover, diversity of leadership, and investment in training can all be signals of long-term health. Also important: measures of “innovation”—i.e. efforts by the company to fulfill the unmet needs of consumers and society; a focus on external stakeholders, with an eye on environmental and social effects; and effective governance, to ensure that management is given incentives to keep its eye on the long-term prize.
There’s no silver bullet in this report. But it is an important step in the right direction. I would encourage you to read it, here. This issue deserves every business leader’s attention. The future of capitalism is at stake.
By the way, the work reflects the input of an all-star group of CEOs, including Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, BASF’s Martin Brudermuller, DowDuPont’s Ed Breen, Ecolab’s Doug Baker, J&J’s Alex Gorsky, Nestle’s Mark Schneider, Novartis’ Vasant Narasimhan, Unilever’s Paul Polman, and PepsiCo chair Indra Nooyi. Hats off to all.
More news below.
Weak forecasts from chip manufacturers Nvidia and Applied Materials have suggested to the markets that there is falling demand for computers, from servers to mobile to desktop PCs. Nvidia, of course, makes graphics processors that are useful for cryptocurrency mining, and the collapse of that scene is hitting it hard. Bloomberg
The Food and Drug Administration is planning to restrict sales of flavored e-cigarettes, which have been accused of luring young people into smoking, and to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which apparently disproportionately harm African-Americans. Many had expected an outright ban on flavored e-cigarettes, rather than restrictions on where they can be placed in stores. New York Times
California is expanding a probe of PG&E, the utility whose transmission lines have started wildfires, to examine the possibility of breaking up the company. Regulators want to know more about safety and accountability practices at PG&E. The probe has already been running since 2015 but is intensifying amid concerns over the utility's role in this year's deadly wildfires. Wall Street Journal
China's Huawei is hoping to become the biggest phone manufacturer in the world by 2020. It has already overtaken Apple and now just has Samsung in its way. "Next year, we will be very close to number one, maybe we will be on par with Samsung. And at least the year after, maybe we have a chance (to be number one)," Huawei consumer chief Richard Yu said. CNBC
Around the Water Cooler
Takeda shareholders who oppose the Japanese drug firm's takeover of Shire have drafted in Kunio Takeda, the last member of the family to run the company, to fight alongside them. There's an extraordinary general meeting on December 5 at which shareholders will discuss the $62 billion deal. Will the dissidents win out? Unlikely. Financial Times
Japan Airlines has a problem with its pilots showing up for work drunk, so it has introduced a new breathalyzer system at foreign airports to stop it happening. Incredibly, Japan does not set an alcohol limit for pilots, so it's up to airlines to keep them sober in the air. One of the carrier's pilots was arrested in the U.K. last month for coming to work at about nine times the country's legal limit. BBC
An escalation of the U.S.-China trade war would hurt both countries, World Trade Organization Deputy Director General Yi Xiaozhun warned today. Yi: "I think we can use two words to characterize the current situation: uncertainty and tension. Businessmen are already holding investments…Both China and the U.S. will be hurt. It’s not healthy for global production." South China Morning Post
Businesses should be optimistic about the results of the midterms, says Benjamin Harris, the executive director of the Kellogg Public-Private Interface at the Kellogg School of Management. Harris, who used to work for Joe Biden, writes for Fortune that immigration reform is a "long shot" possibility, as are compromises on infrastructure and healthcare. Fortune