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On December 1, 2017, Megan commented on Monsanto’s Battle for the Future of Farming :

Great post, Laura. I really appreciated the balance in your analysis–I think it is much more common place to portray Monsanto as an evil corporation that polluting our nutrition and taking advantage of farmers.

I agree with you that Monsanto carries a lot of negative baggage from previous business ventures. I believe the only way for them to pull themselves out of this hole is to double down on mitigation initiatives like the ones you’ve described. It isn’t enough for them to develop seeds still produce in the more volatile weather patterns brought about by climate change–they have to produce products that don’t require the use of pollutants as complementary goods.

In terms of the Climate Corp acquisition, I believe David Friedberg did the right thing. If he truly wants the data to affect agribusiness in the largest way, there’s not a larger platform he could be using than Monsanto.

On December 1, 2017, Megan commented on The post-Brexit hangover: One big headache for Diageo :

Great post, Melissa! Watching the fallout from Brexit play out in the private sector has been such an illuminating experience in regard to global supply chains.

To the questions you ended with, I believe all companies have a responsibility to positively impact the communities in which they reside. That being said, companies also have a responsibility to shareholders and stakeholders alike to bring in the best talent in order to make the best product and thus increase profits and longevity. I wonder if having a small talent pool to choose from will act as a catalyst to reinvest and expand their current training programs as a way to keep the same quality of workers they enjoyed when their access to talent was much larger. It will be interesting to see how expensive it becomes to retain their level of competitiveness through talent in the new system.

Great article, EL! In explaining BlackRock’s supply chain, I really appreciated your analogy to manufacturing. I’ve never thought about it that way before and found that as a very clear way to track their system.

Concerning your questions at the end, I’m not too worried about convincing customers to rely on a digital platform for financial advice. There are already so many algorithms that have a disproportionate influence on our decision-making that I don’t think this as big of a leap for a consumer. The harder sell, I think, will be convincing the financial industry itself. Coming from a financial consulting firm before HBS, I think convincing managing directors at large firms to believe that computers can deliver the same value to customers that their research can will be a really difficult challenge.

Your second question is also a fascinating one. Recruiting effort and money, along with headcount distribution, is such a sensitive subject for companies. I think this makes attracting technological talent a two-fold issue: 1) will the company give enough time, money, and headcount to building out a reputable technology department and 2) what will its strategy be to attract talent away from traditional technology companies? We really struggled with this in my last job–BlackRock is going to have to really commit to the initiative in both word and deed in order to be successful.

On December 1, 2017, Megan commented on Starbucks: the rise of mobile orders :

This is great, Sahael. What I find most intriguing about your post is the effect that digitalization is having on the more analog portions of the business. While Starbucks is continuing to use and improve its digital platform, there are parts of the business that cannot be replaced or modified by this (e.g., espresso machine usage) and Starbucks has to adapt current manual processes to fit its digital strategy. Technological solutions aren’t going to replace all of the processes in a coffeehouse just yet, and the issues that are arising in this augmented approach are applicable for all customer-facing services and retailers.

To your last questions, I think the digitalization of ordering has a net-zero impact on the quality debate. I believe this is a smart play towards the customers looking for the most convenient and reliable acquisition, but I don’t think its existence is a huge deterrent for coffee connoisseurs. Becoming the most popular place for quality coffee is a fight they have to wage in the marketing department and product development, not as much in the business operations realm.

On December 1, 2017, Megan commented on Life-Saving Drones: Zipline in East Africa :

What a cool topic, Joe. I am consistently amazed by how technology is rapidly changing the standard of living in remote areas of the world. My first though on Zipline’s business model is in wrapped up in some questions that you may have more information on–are the medical centers publicly or privately funded? If they are privately funded, how long does Zipline plan to be funded by the government before it makes the leap into Business-to-business contracts? My fear is two-fold: 1) at some point, due to political reasons, the funding for this important program gets cut and now medical centers and patients are once again separated from the materials they need and 2) it is operating as a distraction as you describe in your last paragraph.

Chris, Thank you so much for your thoughtful post–as you can see above, it’s really driven some interesting commentary.

I feel particularly torn on the issue that is being debated in the comments–briefly, what obligation Apple has to the US in order to ensure there isn’t a skills gap. While I am 100% for creating a strategy that both creates value for stakeholders/shareholders AND positively impacts social concerns, I think I fall in the camp that this is more of a governmental issue than Apple’s responsibility. The press consistently talks about “job creation” as one of the key tenets of the government’s duty–I think it falls on that entity to provide the opportunities to keep a particular community competitive than it is for the company itself to do that. New, innovative companies create a market for skilled and unskilled labor that communities then respond to and participate in; while I do think Apple should be spending its money thoughtfully in the communities in which it operates, I don’t think it holds the lion’s share of the duty for creating them in certain countries or regions.

On December 1, 2017, Megan commented on Sephora: Combining Beauty and Sustainability :

Annie, Thank you so much for this analysis. Like everyone else that has commented, I was shocked that personal care and beauty makes up 1/3 of landfill waste.

I asked a similar question in my problem set (Amazon and sustainability) concerning a marketplace enforcing standards on the companies that use it, but I wonder how far a current player in the industry can press regulations on other companies. If Sephora does introduce standards similar to Amorepacific Group, how far can they go before a competitor undercuts them by not mandating the standards and they begin losing business? I agree that they have to take this step–I just worry that the first big companies that do are putting a large target on their back.