Very interesting! I am struck by the thesis that doubling the price of solar modules would impact 99% of the solar supply chain. I am curious, if this ITC measure goes through, what the real implication will be for the price of solar modules and the overall solar supply chain. I would imagine new U.S. solar manufacturers would emerge to fill in the void of foreign suppliers, expecting demand for their product would increase. If this happens, PV prices would certainly increase from current levels (due to high U.S. manufacturing costs). However, I wonder if domestic manufacturing may, in part, mitigate the price escalation due to lower shipping and packaging costs. Moreover, PV developers might be able to maintain better relationships with their suppliers, which could help improve their operational efficiency or enable them to lock in better rates. It will be a fascinating dynamic to track!
Thanks Karen – I am glad you wrote about Patagonia! Having read Yvon Chouinard’s book defining his philosophy on business as a means to fuel positive environmental action in the world, I am convinced that true corporate environmentalism stems from a leadership commitment. I think you are right to raise the concern near the end that Patagonia, as a popular consumer brand, should be careful about not selling at an unsustainable scale. However, I think the company, from its roots, has been extremely intentional about not expanding to a point that it cannot support with a sustainable supply chain. One way that it does this is, in my opinion, is with its pricing. Selling somewhat of luxury products, Patagonia, I would imagine, maintains its margins while selling less products than the traditional mass market retail apparel company. In addition, Patagonia should continue with its strategy of heavy environmental marketing, ensuring that its consumers base will be those that champion its sustainable vision of reducing overall consumer greed.
Amia – I am fascinated by this topic! I appreciate the questions that you raised near the end. My concern about Monsanto selling the predictive weather data to farmers, as you allude to, is that it the farmers will be no better off. I am not convinced that the predictive analytics will help increase farmer yields given that weather is likely hard to predict within a degree of accuracy that would translate into substantial yield gains. Furthermore, even if it does increase farmers’ yields, if Monsanto makes farmers pay for such information, I wonder if the earnings gains from increased yields would outweigh the costs for access to the data. I would say that this initiative would be ethically sound if it had the potential to save a farmers’ entire annual harvest from an extreme weather event, but it is not clear if the Climate Corp platform has that capability.
Thanks Michelle – I am fascinated by this topic! It is interesting to me that the cacao trees that Mars is trying to preserve are located in areas that are also marked by deforestation and climate change caused by palm oil cultivation (Indonesia in particular). Given that many of Mars products’ have palm oil in their ingredients, Mars may be, in small part, contributing to the problem that it faces! As such, similar to the company that I wrote about, Bunge, Mars is in a perplexing position as it could be both impacted by and contributing to global climate change. While I appreciate that Mars has committed $1B to fighting climate change, I am skeptical if fixing its transportation and packaging systems will be enough. Allegations came out recently about Mars and other multinational foodservice companies are continually pushing back their sustainable palm oil targets.  It needs to take action across its entire raw materials supply, including its cacao and palm oil inputs, for the long-term preservation of its business.
1. “Nestle, Mars, and Hershey Breaking Promises,” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/27/nestle-mars-and-hershey-breaking-promises-over-palm-oil-use-say-campaigners. (Accessed December 1, 2017).
Mike – thanks for the article! It is fascinating that physical production location – via tariffs and tax regulations – can impact the production costs, Sunrun’s margins and ultimately, end consumer demand. In other industries, I presume that increased costs due to trade regulations can be passed to the end consumer. However, given that the growth in solar adoption has been largely fueled by price decreases in panel costs, I am reticent to think that Sunrun will be able to push these costs downstream, as you allude to. If they do push costs downstream, I am concerned about what then happens to the expansion of the renewable energy industry, from an environmental perspective in the U.S. In such case, it appears that U.S. may be trading a commitment to environmental sustainability to fuel its increased domestic manufacturing adoption.
Mark – thanks for the unique, interactive article! This reminded me a lot of a project I worked on at Disney, thinking about how to leverage data to better predict consumer products sales following the release of a blockbuster movie release. Your proposal that Nintendo should be using predictive analytics to inform its suppliers about demand is similar to our thesis at time. However, one of the challenges we faced was the boom-bust pattern due to content popularity of content-driven business (i.e. movies and games). It is tough to estimate the resonance that a piece of content will have with consumers, even with the best predictive analytics. My take is that unpredictable consumer preferences is the real reason that Nintendo cannot (and should not) use historical data for demand planning. If that is the case, I wonder, if increasing data transparency with its suppliers will truly solve Nintendo’s product delivery issues.