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Companies can’t survive or thrive if the planet is on fire and society is in crisis

July 1, 2022, 10:06 AM UTC

Happy Friday.

Here’s a thought to ponder over the Fourth of July weekend. Many business leaders have stepped up in recent years to address the climate crisis, social justice issues, and the challenge of training and upskilling millions of workers for the technology revolution—all issues once considered the purview of government. The reason for their activism is simple: In the long term, companies can’t survive or thrive if the planet is on fire, society is in crisis, or companies lack adequate, trained talent.

So should businesses also do more to address our dysfunctional politics? That’s a challenge that’s certainly on a par with the three above…and foundational to success in addressing all three.

The impulse I hear from business leaders today is the exact opposite. They want to stay as far away from politics as possible. And who can blame them? Divisive arguments over voting rights, abortion, educational curriculums, etc., have only served to undermine the government’s ability to function. The last thing any results-driven CEO wants to do is throw themselves in the same dysfunctional soup.

But is there more business could do to restore America’s broken civic culture? Perhaps it’s supporting the kinds of political reforms that Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter and his coauthor Katherine Gehl, among others, have been advocating. Perhaps it’s contributing more to those few politicians who are willing to reach across party lines to compromise and solve problems—like Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn on guns, or Rep. Liz Cheney, or Sen. Joe Manchin. Perhaps it’s turning some of the vast resources companies focus on minimizing their tax bills to instead maximizing the ability of the U.S. government to address problems that the majority of Americans want to see addressed, rather than cater to impassioned minorities that drive today’s partisan politics to the fringe.

There are more questions than answers raised in that last paragraph. Fixing America’s dysfunctional politics is complex, with plenty of pitfalls. But surely it’s no more difficult than fixing the climate? Or reversing centuries of racial injustice? Or retooling a workforce facing a mind-spinning rate of technological change?

The world badly needs an America that works. And no one has a greater interest in that challenge than the businesses that make their home here.

Enjoy the Fourth—CEO Daily will return Tuesday. News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

First half

So, the first half of the year is done—and what a stinker it was. Indeed, it was the worst for the markets in half a century, with the S&P 500 falling 21% and cryptocurrencies (recent innovation as they are) plummeting, along with stocks and bonds in emerging markets. Corporate fundraising also fell sharply, down 25% year on year. Fortune

EPA hamstrung

The conservative majority in the Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot currently force power plant operators to switch from fossil fuel to cleaner sources. The court said Congress needs to explicitly give the EPA that power, before it can exercise it. Fortune

Meta headwinds

In anticipation of what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “might be one of the worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history,” Meta has scaled back its hiring plans, reducing its engineer-hiring target for the year by at least 30%. Reuters

Baltic grid

European grid operators have a long-term plan to switch the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—from Russia’s grid to the EU’s. And now, given Russia’s belligerence, they say they’re ready to make that switch immediately, rather than in three years’ time. Reuters

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

Tesla market share

Tesla’s share of the U.S. electric-vehicle market could drop as low as 11% in 2025, owing to a flurry of new competitors from the likes of GM and Ford. That’s according to Bank of America analyst John Murphy. Tesla currently has more than 70% of the market. Bloomberg

Nio saga

Fortune’s Grady McGregor examines the turmoil around Chinese EV maker Nio, which short-sellers have accused of illegally inflating its revenue and profit figures, and which recently suffered a bizarre and fatal car crash: “Nio denies Grizzly Research’s claims, and some investors remain upbeat, but the short-seller account is likely to inflict more lasting damage than the parking garage crash, providing another test for Nio, which only recently came back from the near-dead.” Fortune

Figs plans

Direct-to-consumer scrubs firm Figs wants to see its product “become the de facto uniform for all health care workers, from nurses to dentists to vets to surgeons,” writes Fortune’s Phil Wahba. Wall Street isn’t sure, but co-CEOs Heather Hasson and Trina Spear see plenty of room for growth. Fortune

Ancestry CEO

Wahba also interviewed Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu about her first 90 days at the company, and how racism in South Carolina “sparked an intense desire to succeed so she could get out of the South, and also made her combative early in her career. Now 46 and with a number of high-powered jobs behind her at marquee companies like PayPal and eBay, Liu admits that she has mellowed as she’s matured, encouraged to do so by her mentor, outgoing Meta operations chief Sheryl Sandberg.” Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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