I enjoyed the article, Doug. Regarding the first question, I think I would say that the tax avoidance changes are less about trying to increase tax revenue and more about trying to bring an orderly end to the current system of tax avoidance which seems like a drag on the economy. The vast amount of capital that is stuck in overseas markets and unable to be utilized because of the repatriation cost is on balance a net negative. By simplifying the tax code and also making it more easily enforceable, hopefully this money could be brought back and companies could be incentivized to pay taxes in the localities in which they actually operate. I think this is why it is paired with a simultaneous corporate tax decrease.
For question 2 – I think that nations are definitely not obsolete. In fact, they may be more important than before, as we see increasing moves away from global organizations and globalization as countries look inward. I think that multinationals have an important role to play in promoting globalism in a time like we face now where it is increasingly under attack. They can accomplish this through lobbying and attempting to shift public opinion – both are important for their long-term viability to operate in globally-connected markets.
I’m not convinced that companies like BHP can play much of a role in punishing bad behavior in global trade. Ultimately, their role is to make money for their shareholders – taking a normative view about the behavior of one of their customers seems tough to reconcile with their fiduciary responsibilities. This is a problem best left to diplomacy and trade policy between sovereign nations, who have many levers at their disposal to discourage bad behavior. It is likely that the U.S. did not have a large incentive to utilize these levers earlier on as the overriding goal was to promote globalization. Now that this is less of a focus, it may be possible to use the WTO and other organizations to help promote fair trade policies between countries. Companies like BHP should continue to focus their efforts on lobbying on behalf of free trade.
I think that the asset-light model seems to be working, and that it has in many ways enabled Alibaba to pivot without a huge base of assets to hold it back. This is something that I think may prove to be a drag on Amazon in the future – they’re so heavily invested in their warehouses that they may be left in a bad spot if a disruptive technology comes along to radically change the way their logistics are handled. On the flip side, Alibaba will be able to pivot much more easily due to their use of other entities to handle a large part of their logistics.
This approach does have some downsides – namely that competitors can rely on the same approach, and that Alibaba has less control over the process as a result. I would recommend that they look into the possibility of conducting their own internal experiments and then spinning out new entities that exclusive serve them to develop the concepts as one possibility.
Appreciate you writing this article – I thought it was an interesting look at how some disruptive technologies are potentially set to impact Adidas and other shoe manufacturers. To address your questions – I think that the drone model is still a bit too far off to potentially utilize. Adidas’ core competency doesn’t lie in logistics or same-day delivery; if this an arena they want to enter, I think they would be better served contracting someone else to provide these services, ultimately.
For the sole printing and speed factory models, I think that Adidas could still maintain a strong advantage over new entrants by virtue of its R&D abilities. Even with the ubiquity of 3D printing, I think that the materials science expertise and knowledge of how to build a shoe still present a high bar to entry for new entrants. So, I think that for the moment Adidas can innovate without worrying about smaller entities disrupting them too greatly.
As a fellow patron of the National Parks in the U.S., I also find this article quite interesting. I’m glad that solutions are being thought through, as this is clearly the largest long-term challenge I see facing the NPS.
I would agree with Danny that the NPS must focus on adapting to climate change rather than mitigating it. Primarily, I say this because the NPS has very limited resources – funding challenges will likely continue through the next decade, and even with increased funding the parks will be challenged to conduct their fundamental operations. I think that the NPS would be best served by looking at the impact in each park and seeing how they could best preserve the fundamental character of the park (through preservation work) or adapt as needed (providing drainage for melting glaciers, etc.). Finally, another solution they might look at would be increasing prices in the most threatened parks to help defray the costs associated.
I also enjoyed reading your paper. It’s interesting to see that HPE is using their approach to environmentally responsible production of their servers as a point of differentiation in a fairly commoditized market. Regarding your questions, I have a few thoughts. For the first, I think that large enterprises (as opposed to small/medium) will be the consumer most likely to see this as a helpful point of differentiation. For starts, they’ll be the ones with boards and customers agitating them about taking measures to combat climate change. My guess is that SMEs likely don’t trumpet the fact that they have servers, or who makes them – they’d be more motivated by price than the corporate environmental responsibility angle. This would obviously be a different story for non-profits or other businesses focused on the environment or for whom this is a priority.
For the second question – I think HPE would need to take a bit of a price hit and pay more if they run into issues getting suppliers to meet their GHG requirements. Sacrificing on quality is a quick way to lose the large enterprise customers who could likely absorb some amount of additional costs to have another feather in their cap regarding environmental policies. My question would be what steps HPE is taking on their own end to reduce their GHG emissions, beyond just their suppliers. Are they making concurrent reductions on their own end?