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One interesting LEGO product that you didn’t mention is LEGO Mindstorms. It’s a series of kits that allow kids to use software and hardware to build robots. As STEM learning takes over, there is an opportunity for LEGO to lead the way in teaching kids critical 21st century skills. On its Mindstorms site, LEGO suggests that the product can be used to “Learn to Program.” Many parents want their children to learn to code (1), so LEGO has a real opportunity to take ownership in the growing teach-kids-to-code market. The brand has been synonymous with educational toys for decades, now it’s time to bring the learning into the 21st century. LEGO already has a relevant product in Mindstorms, but it should work to make it a core offering.

(1) https://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms
(2) http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-ways-to-teach-young-children-to-code-1455049777

On November 20, 2016, EmilyS commented on Does a Library Need Books? :

Digitization is certainly a challenge for libraries, but it’s also an opportunity. Information sharing is just as important as ever, and in the US we face disturbing inequality in internet access. In New York City, 27% of households do not have broadband internet access. That’s 730,000 people in one city alone. On top of that, 17% don’t even have computer access at home. (1)

What can libraries do to serve these people? First, they should invest in enough computers to serve the local population. Second, they should increase their operating hours to serve those who work during the day or on weekends. The neighborhood library in my old neighborhood in New York was open just 7-9 hours a day and closed on Sundays. (2) With so many people relying on libraries for internet access, this is unacceptable.

Before libraries invest in laser cutters, 3D printers, and the like, it’s on them to be the source of information for the local community — and in today’s day and age, that means providing internet access for all.

(1) https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/Internet_Inequality.pdf
(2) https://www.nypl.org/locations/hamilton-fish-park

On November 20, 2016, EmilyS commented on GameStop – A casualty of digitialization? :

Wow, the future of GameStop certainly looks bleak. Another trend working against GameStop is the increasing popularity of browser-based Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Some MMORPG’s, like popular World of Warcraft, require a download — which can be done from GameStop’s website or elsewhere. But others, such as Runescape, which is played completely in the browser with no download required. (1)

Based on the trend in music and movies that favors streaming over downloading, I think it’s possible that video games will also go in this direction. I think this is even more likely to happen in light of increasing broadband speeds worldwide.

(1) http://www.runescape.com/mmo/what-is-rs

On November 20, 2016, EmilyS commented on P2P Lending: LendingClub’s Sprints & Stumbles :

Lending Club is certainly a very interesting business model. It seems that Lending Club has already begun to make a comeback. According to Business Insider, Q3 results show that their comeback strategy is working. Indicators include increase in loan originations and an increased focus on transparency and compliance. (1)

Like Dave mentioned above, competition is a real threat for Lending Club. In fact, just a few days ago, it was announced that Renaud Laplanche, the former CEO of Lending Club who was ousted in May, is starting a new lending site called “Credify.” (2) Few details are available on the new venture, but it’s interesting how quickly and easily Laplanche was able to enter the market. And he certainly has the experience to launch a compelling marketplace. What’s stopping others from doing the same?

(1) http://www.businessinsider.com/lending-club-is-on-a-path-to-recovery-2016-11
(2) http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/17/business/dealbook/former-lending-club-chief-is-creating-a-new-lending-site.html?_r=0

On November 20, 2016, EmilyS commented on USAA – A leader in Financial Services Digitization :

It is fascinating that USAA has managed to be so successful from a customer service perspective, despite the lack of branch locations. As reflected in your interviews with Tabitha and Billy Strobel, USAA gets top marks for customer service. In fact, its Net Promoter Score (NPS) ranking is the highest in the US for: Auto insurance, banking, and home and contents insurance. (1) Let’s take banking for example. A traditional bank spends 40-60% of its operating costs on branches. (2) Despite these high costs, many traditional banks are opening branches every year. In the U.S, the number of physical bank locations rose by 22% between 2000 and 2012. (2)

One reason for this is that people feel safer knowing their money is tied to a physical location. In the early years of online banking, customers may not have felt comfortable completing banking transactions online. In recent years, that sentiment has changed, spurred on by the rise of e-commerce shopping and the electronic filing of tax returns. Armed with a smart phone and an ATM nearby (USAA refunds all ATM fees incurred), customers have very little need for a physical branch location.

I think in coming years, we will see more and more banks shift to this model, thereby saving costs on branches and instead devoting that cost to providing high-touch customer service remotely.

(1) http://www.satmetrix.com/in-the-news/2016-net-promoter-benchmarks-released/
(2) http://www.economist.com/node/21554746

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Whirlpool: A STAR among appliance companies :

Great point Z, I absolutely think that Whirlpool should be doing more to decrease the cost of ENERGY STAR products. Bundling is a great idea to accomplish this goal! I would also suggest that either Whirlpool or the retailers create a pay-over-time program for those who are unable to wait for the long-term savings. The EPA could also implement some type of rebate / incentive to get the word out about the benefits of these efficient appliances.

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Whirlpool: A STAR among appliance companies :

Great point Erik! I think Whirlpool could be doing a lot more to educate consumers about the best way to use their products to reduce their energy costs. T.S. pointed out that some consumers are not willing to pay for energy-efficient products, but perhaps if they truly understood how much they’d be saving over time, they would be more willing. Since the first ENERGY STAR clothes dryer only came out a few years ago, I hope that there is lots of opportunity to improve efficiency and education around dryers. And like MB said, drying outside is always an option for those that have the available space!

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Whirlpool: A STAR among appliance companies :

You’re right — not all consumers are willing or able to buy energy efficient appliances. The burden should be on Whirlpool to make its energy efficient models more cost-effective. I truly hope that Whirlpool doesn’t mark up its ENERGY STAR models to exploit increased WTP!

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Whirlpool: A STAR among appliance companies :

Thanks for sharing! It’s a great point that the most energy-effective solution of all is to dry clothes outside helped along by our good friend wind. It even has the added benefit of a great and fresh scent!

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Whirlpool: A STAR among appliance companies :

That’s a great point, Cara. I agree that there is absolutely more that can be done to change consumer behaviors. I also think there is an opportunity for the EPA / ENERGY STAR to participate in this effort too. Another idea is to engage companies that make detergent or other complementary products to include these types of suggestions on their packaging.

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Meltdown in the Ski Industry :

Ski resorts are an interesting example because they are not (mostly) part of the problem, but rather a victim of climate change. Sure all businesses consume resources that contribute to climate change, but many other industries are implementing sustainability initiatives because of government regulation, societal pressures, corporate responsibility, or consumer demands. The ski industry is making changes by necessity. And more important than changes to reduce their own impact on the environment are strategies to simply survive — like those made by Whistler Blackcomb. Another place I think is very important for the ski industry to focus is advocacy. They have a very real example of how climate change is effecting us right now. Not in 200 years, but right now. I remember feeling inspired by the realization that I may not be able to teach my children to ski in lower New England where I first learned due to climate change. Examples like this, where climate change isn’t some far off intangible concept are critical to influencing public opinion.

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on H&M and the Push for Sustainability in Fast Fashion :

Thanks for bringing light to an important issue, Z! One thing that H&M is doing right now that I think is pretty awesome is actually what Amir suggested! They provide 20% off your purchase if you bring in your old clothes. You can drop off your clothes at any location and claim the discount right away. http://twocents.lifehacker.com/h-m-offers-a-20-discount-if-you-give-them-your-old-us-1692304128

However, even with these results in mind I wonder whether the problem, like others have mentioned, is fundamentally with H&Ms business models. They pump out hundreds of styles and provide cheap quality. Much like IKEA they essentially, through their design choices, encourage and even force consumers to purchase new clothes much more often than needed. Even efforts to collect and donate use clothing are less impactful than we think. This articles describes what really happens to donated clothing and how the negative impact can cross oceans to developing countries. Furthermore, 11% of clothes donated to Goodwill end up in landfills. http://fashionista.com/2016/01/clothing-donation

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Global Climate Change: Should we really be “wine”-ing? :

Thanks so much for the post, Cara! And I agree with BAL, nothing like a good pun. “Farm production and food processing… represent 80% of California water used for business and home.” We hear lots about what we can do to conserve water during a drought. Quit watering lawns! Take a shorter shower! These small changes can certainly have a big impact, but not nearly on the scale that you’re describing. This is a very different issue, but it reminds me of other posts including one by Chaewon that brings up the huge impact of food (in her case, meat) production on the environment. I think if we are to promote sustainability we need to think carefully of where our food comes from and how its sourced.
Similar to a world without meat, many consumers hate thinking about a world without wine. Some might even argue that wine is an important part of cultures around the world. Where do we draw the line between enjoyment / culture and what is right for the environment. When are sacrifices too great? Is there another way? I’m reminded of the case we did on Indigo Agriculture — they have created plants that are drought resistant. Could they ever create drought-resistant grapes? Could this help?

Thanks Heather for a great post. Shake Shack is a well-loved brand that’s growing quickly especially since its IPO last year. I agree with Parker that Shake Shack’s fundamental model is problematic. It’s a business that relies on meat, which you correctly pointed out is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. I second Dave’s recommendation to consider synthetic meat. I also suggest you read Chaewon’s post on animal-free beef which goes into this potential solution in more detail. Frankly, I worry that many of Shake Shake’s other initiatives such as working with sustainable suppliers are merely a PR vehicle to cover up its fundamental issues. I also echo Amir’s points, yes Shake Shack has these vegetarian options, but what is it doing to make those options more attractive?

Check out Chaewon’s post here:

On November 7, 2016, EmilyS commented on Animal-free Beef: A Meaty Idea :

When I first learned that meat production was the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, I was shocked. A lot of attention in the media is paid to the transportation and auto industries, but we rarely hear much about the environmental impact of the meat industry. I think it’s because consumers have a hard time imaging a world without meat, as illustrated by pervious comments. People fail to acknowledge that perhaps the simplest thing they can do to reduce their carbon footprint is not to buy a Tesla but rather to become a vegetarian. I truly hope that Memphis Meats is able to achieve a price that will allow it to reach a wide market.