This article brings up a really interesting point I hadn’t considered about the criteria the public uses to determine if a company is “green.” You rightly point out that that description is almost universally applied to companies that produce sustainable products, with very little consideration of whether the company’s processes for manufacturing that product are truly sustainable.
I think the used battery point will be particularly important for Tesla as it grows. If the company is able to find a way to reuse the materials in its batteries, it will represent a huge win for the environment, both in terms of reducing the amount of rare earth materials that need to be mined and reducing waste overall. Fortunately it seems like this is a situation where Tesla’s incentives are well aligned with planet Earth’s – reusing these batteries would save the company a tremendous amount of money, so it’s likely they are already investing significantly to determine the feasibility of such a program.
It seems to me like 3D printing sneakers is a win-win-win for Nike: it allows them to reduce waste, save money, and produce new designs more quickly all at once, so doubling down on this technology should be a no-brainer. However, I think the biggest risk is that Nike is at its heart a fashion company. The Flyknit shoes I’ve seen have a very different look and feel than traditional Nike shoes, and while some might find them attractive now, consumer tastes change quickly. Will the market for Flyknit styles be big enough to support Nike’s massive shoe portfolio, or will the technology advance more to allow many different styles and materials?
Perhaps it would be safer for Nike to first try this out on its less expensive, more commoditized products (e.g. soccer balls, sweatbands, socks) where it can achieve scale on a few high-moving SKUs and even innovate with colors and shapes in ways that traditional manufacturing doesn’t allow, without the same fashion risk.
I’m extremely impressed with Disney’s bold decision to launch their own streaming service, even though it’s not yet clear if it will be a success. The rise of Netflix is a classic example of “disruptive innovation” (https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation): when it was launched, its competitors chose not to fight it – not because they didn’t think it would succeed, but because its model had fundamentally different incentives. Content creators like AMC and Disney were happy to play along and put their shows on Netflix because it represented a brand new revenue stream for them. However, now that Netflix has aggregated the consumers, it has started producing its own content in a big way (Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, etc.). It’s not hard to imagine a time in the near future where Netflix doesn’t need outside content providers at all anymore because its original content library is big and popular enough, and if cord-cutting continues there will be no one left to buy this content from the traditional networks. By playing along with Netflix, the content providers like AMC will have funded their own demise.
Disney was smart enough to see this coming and they may be the only content provider with a broad enough library (Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, etc.) to make it on their own. The execution will not be easy, and there are still many questions to be answered (e.g. how does live programming like ESPN fit in?), but if they can pull it off, I predict many future strategy cases being written about this decision.
This is an interesting topic to think about. The author defines “digitalization” very broadly, but one could argue that new technologies have been changing the way business gets done for decades, and McKinsey has survived in a rapidly changing business landscape for almost 100 years. So the big question is: is this time different? Will this latest “revolution” render traditional management consultants obsolete in a way that previous ones have not?
I tend to think that it will not – at the end of the day, management consulting of the type McKinsey focuses on is a people business, and as long as CEOs want advice from smart external advisors with broad industry experience who can handle the qualitative as well as (if not better than) the quantitative, the industry will survive. That said, the nature of some of the work might change as data science becomes more of a separate field and some projects without the need for a strong strategic viewpoint get shifted to internal teams or other types of moe specialized consultants.
Very interesting to read about a growing US startup having to proactively think about global political risks. You mention that Hubble’s supplier, St. Shine, is one of the largest contact producers in the world. Though Hubble is growing quickly, I’d imagine they’re far from the only contact lens company relying on St. Shine, so its possible that any change to US-Taiwan trade policies will affect the contact lens industry as a whole.
Perhaps this could be re-framed as an opportunity for Hubble rather than a threat. If they’re able to switch to an independent supplier in a different location (or maybe even own their own factory, a la Harry’s Razors), they could build in a cost advantage if isolationism persists. While other bigger companies struggle to rebuild their supply chains, Hubble could continue to operate as is. The contact lens industry is heavily consolidated in the U.S. (http://www.euromonitor.com/contact-lenses-in-the-us/report), which is what makes it so ripe for disruption in the first place, and Hubble’s biggest advantage might be its ability to completely redesign its supply chain from the ground up at a much lower cost than its deeply entrenched competitors.
Thanks for writing this thoughtful piece. I agree that Ford is in a tough spot, being repeatedly called out by Trump but still needing to source globally to stay cost competitive. However, Ford is far from the only company to face this pressure from the President (even within the auto industry)  and virtually all large US manufacturing companies benefit from globalization in ways that might upset domestic employees, and this is a conflict that’s been brewing for decades. Thus I have a hard time agreeing that Ford can “lead the public fight for trade.”
I think it will be more productive for Ford to use its resources to collaborate with the government and other corporations to come up with innovative solutions to combat the negative effects of globalization. For example, some portion of the savings from moving factories abroad could be reinvested in local communities or in retraining employees to work in more technical positions that they plan to keep in the U.S. long-term. Ford itself is becoming more of a tech company  – investing in its manufacturing employees so that they can stick with the company through its transition will bring positive externalities on multiple fronts.