Ghosn Out, Bloomberg Out, GE Warning: CEO Daily for March 6, 2019
“Amazon is greenwashing; Walmart is really doing it.”
That was inventor Tony Fadell on the Fortune Brainstorm Design stage in Singapore this morning, talking about the retailers’ efforts to address environmental problems. Fadell is one of the rock stars of the design world, having invented the Nest thermostat and cofathered the iPod. These days he runs a company called FutureShape, that “helps entrepreneurs” develop design solutions “to very hard problems”—including in the environment.
Fadell’s line about the two giant retailers underscores a challenge those of us in the business press often face in distinguishing PR efforts from real organizational commitment. Every big company these days says that they are taking action to help the environment, because their employees and customers expect and demand it. But it’s not always easy to detect if those efforts are driven purely by PR needs, or are a sincere commitment to change.
“Are we really just talking about capitalism, or are we thinking about larger, circular economy issues,” Fadell said. “Walmart is pushing all kinds of packaging changes to the supply chain” that reduce environmental damage.
Later in the day, IBM Vice President of Design Doug Powell put his finger on one problem in this area: business has sophisticated tools to measure financial results, but only crude ones to measure good design or its contribution to society.
“We are at a point in the maturity of design in the enterprise…we need to figure out how to scale. We need to figure out how to have conversations with business leads. And we need to figure out how to measure the value of design in the enterprise,” he said.
Powell says IBM, which now employs 2,000 designers, tries to deal with that problem by using user sentiment measurement in employee performance reviews. But he agreed with his co-panelist Nathan Shedroff, executive director of Seed Vault, that “we need entirely new tools” to run business.
You can read more from Brainstorm Design here. And in other news, “white-shoe” investment bank Goldman Sachs has finally joined the tech world, abandoning its policy requiring formal business wear. The new dress code? “We trust you will consistently exercise good judgment,” the firm told its employees.
Carlos Ghosn is out of jail, after prosecutors failed in their appeal against his bail approval. The former Nissan chair has to stay in Japan and be closely monitored, as part of his $9 million bail conditions. "I am extremely grateful for my family and friends who have stood by me throughout this terrible ordeal," said Ghosn, who was detained for 108 days. If convicted of allegedly understating his income and other charges, he faces up to 15 years. CNN
Michael Bloomberg won't be running for president next year, he said yesterday in—where else?—a Bloomberg op-ed. "I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field," he wrote, revealing his plan for making a difference without gunning for the top job: an effort called Beyond Carbon, aimed at "moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100% clean energy economy." Bloomberg
GE CEO Larry Culp doesn't want anyone to expect a turnaround this year. He said yesterday that GE would lose money this year, thanks to its ailing power business, and the news sent the conglomerate's shares down by almost 5%. Culp: "This is a multiyear turnaround in power. I don't want to sugarcoat that in any way, shape or form. There's a lot of work. It's a game of inches." Wall Street Journal
The French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire today unveiled the country's new "digital tax," which targets the services provided by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. France is going it alone after the EU failed to reach a common position on such a tax, but it hopes to convince the rest of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to back a global deal later this year. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
Capital Economics thinks China's growth could fall as low as 2% over the next decade, which is way off the 5-6% the IMF is forecasting. In the short term, though, Credit Suisse says newly-announced stimulus measures could see the Shanghai Composite jump by 10%. CNBC
Belt and Road
Speaking of China, the Financial Times is reporting that Italy is set to formally back China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative by the end of this month—a move that will seriously annoy the U.S. Italian official Michele Geraci: "The negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [President Xi's] visit… We want to make sure that 'Made in Italy' products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world." Financial Times
The Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind is reportedly no longer in talks with the U.K.'s power grid manager, National Grid, about using the outfit's "A.I." tech to optimize the network. DeepMind had been touting its technology as a tool for better predicting electricity demand and improving grid resilience, but initial talks apparently ended with no deal. Forbes
Facebook's VP of product design, Margaret Gould Stewart, said at Fortune's Brainstorm Design conference that design considerations were essential when implementing changes that would affect the platform's enormous user base, but caution is key. "The data that we have can inform our design decisions, but it’s kind of dangerous to be led around by the nose by the numbers," she said. Fortune