Chris, thanks for highlighting a critically important issue for consumers and corporations like Apple alike. I disagree with HBS Rules’ comment above that Apple “inconsiderately decided to maximize profits in the short term” by failing to educate domestic workers. As Shrkatck noted, as a public corporation that answers to its shareholders, it’s really not Apple’s role to invest in domestic education – this, I’d argue, is one of government’s most important functions.
As Chris explained, Apple indirectly employs over 700,000 people through its outsourced Asian supply chain. As an American company, does Apple actually owe more to American workers than it does to workers abroad? And how should Apple weigh the benefits it could provide to American workers by manufacturing more iPhone components domestically against the very real value the company provides to consumers worldwide by making an incredible device available for just a few hundred bucks? I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions, but I find it a bit simplistic to blame Apple for using globalization to its advantage to make iPhones more affordable for the masses.
Kenya, you did a great job summarizing all the steps Coca-Cola is taking to make their supply chain more sustainable and lessen its impact on climate change. However, I have to take issue with your recommendation that the company begin using the new iteration of PlantBottle packaging as soon as possible. I assume that Coca-Cola hasn’t yet taken this step because this new, greener packaging is still significantly more expensive than the current packaging, in which only one of the fossil-based ingredients in PET plastic has been replaced by plant-based materials. I’m skeptical that Coca-Cola’s core consumers are willing to pay more for a greener bottle, especially given how competitive the soda space is, so it seems to me that Coca-Cola has a handful of more realistic options at its disposal. The company could wait until the next-generation PlantBottle costs reach parity with its current packaging, it could push for tax incentives in some markets that help offset the cost of this expensive packaging, or it could launch a new marketing campaign around the greener packaging to try to build demand for a more sustainable product. I’m skeptical of the last option, which means we could be in for a long wait before Coca-Cola’s bottles are truly “green.”
MJP, this is a great write-up of a truly disruptive technology in parcel delivery. I found the question you posed at the end to be the most interesting from UPS’s perspective. How does a traditional package delivery company like UPS compete with the likes of Amazon for talent to remain relevant in a drone-enabled future? Partnerships with companies like Workhorse are a good start, but it seems to me that to avoid being completely supplanted by Amazon, UPS must begin to remold itself (and market itself to potential employees) as a technology company. Longer term, I fear that while UPS works on integrating drones into its existing delivery system to improve last-mile efficiency, more innovative companies will make that entire business model obsolete by making it feasible to launch drones from a central warehouse to a network of customers.
CranberryCo, I appreciate you highlighting a really important issue – not just for American automakers, but also for American consumers. It sounds like you take issue with Ford’s short-term response to ramp up investment in domestic manufacturing capabilities, based largely on your belief that the Trump Administration may not be able to codify significant changes to NAFTA with legislation. The article linked below seems to indicate that Trump could likely withdraw from NAFTA altogether, but then would need Congress to pass legislation repealing, among other things, favorable tariff treatment for goods such as imported automotive parts.
Given the difficulties of passing such legislation in the current U.S. political environment, I’m wondering if companies like Ford are investing in domestic manufacturing in part for reasons external to the Trump Administration. For example, they could be concerned that trade isolationism is likely to endure this administration given the lack of good-paying blue-collar jobs in America. Or perhaps they think that manufacturing next-generation electronic vehicles near their end consumers makes good economic sense?
Olivia, I appreciated how you highlighted Bunge’s unique predicament: the company is both vulnerable from and a contributor to climate change. I think Bunge’s efforts to ensure that none of its suppliers are disrupting HCS forests by achieving 100% traceability of its palm oil products are a good start. I’m interested, though, in understanding how you think Bunge could better digitize its palm oil operations to ensure near-term compliance with climate-focused protocols. What would this look like in practice? I’m concerned that such an initiative would put Bunge at a competitive disadvantage given that many of its suppliers likely aren’t accustomed to implementing advanced technologies in their agricultural operations.
Kyle, you did a great job distilling a really complicated subject with fascinating implications for the energy industry. The largest unresolved issue in my mind is whether the clear efficiency benefits of blockchain-based smart contracts outweigh the costs to energy companies of making sensitive information publicly available. For example, I can’t picture the refinery where I used to work logging its crude oil purchases in a blockchain ledger, effectively giving local competitors insights into their production forecasts. These privacy issues of course spill into the consortium itself. Still, I think partnerships like the BP-Shell consortium are a good way for energy companies to limit their risk while still influencing the implementation of this disruptive technology.