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Thanks for a great post Ryan! As a Clover fan, I didn’t realize the extent to which they are more like a tech company rather than a food company, and that their high-tech model is precisely what makes their business successful and sustainable (definitely from an environmental standpoint, and presumably from a business standpoint as well). Do you have any thoughts on how Clover can change the expectations consumers have around fast food restaurants in general, which is product consistency (e.g. a big mac sold in NYC should also be sold in Boston)? I definitely think Clover could play a huge role in customer education and emphasizing the importance of local, environmentally friendly sourcing practices and their implications on food availability (which I realize they do some of, but making a more concerted effort with similar companies and even partnering with other fast food chains to change the industry mindset).

On November 20, 2016, NY777 commented on “Google Preferred”: from Cat Videos to Premium Content :

Thanks for such a fascinating post – I had never heard of Google Preferred and was amazed to hear how digital spending will exceed TV spending this year. This is a question for all digital marketing efforts, but how do you think Google can maintain net neutrality in this business model? How would Google deal with a situation where say, a presidential ad (e.g. Trump) is at the top 5% of Youtube inventory, and another presidential candidate (e.g. HRC) or a company at odds with Trump’s policies, buys a premium advertising space? Would they show such ads with such a video? How would Google allocate its ad space among Preferred advertisers?

On November 20, 2016, NY777 commented on Disney – Hakuna Matata! Digital ain’t no passing craze :

Thanks for a fun post, Shray! Disney fully embracing digitization and creating further value both for the company and the consumer will certainly make them even ‘stickier’ and relevant in this age of modernization. I’m curious to hear if you know how Disney employees feel about all the digitization efforts, particularly those in the theme parks whose jobs may become irrelevant (e.g. ticketing, controlling turnstiles, etc.) – particularly in Japan, where customer service at Disneyland is very much focused on face-to-face interactions (a lot of enthusiastic greetings and energy coming out from all the park employees, particularly with young children). The customer experience would definitely change as well. What kind of jobs in their value chain do you think park employees can take up, if their roles become nonexistent?

Thanks Ken, for a great post! I take Turbo Tax for granted now and often forget those years when I did do most of my taxes on paper. It’s mind-blowing to think that American taxpayers spend an average of 13 hours preparing their taxes and pay about $200 for tax preparation services (1). I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Elizabeth Warren’s Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2016 (1) and how Turbo Tax can survive if it’s passed, and if not, what other business models it could consider going into. In the Act, she proposes that IRS develop its own free, online tax filing service that would allow taxpayers to file directly with the government (vs. being forced to share private info with external parties) and would prohibit the IRS from entering into agreements with third parties that restrict their ability to provide free online tax services (2). What’s the future of private tax software companies, if this legislation is passed?

(1) https://www.warren.senate.gov/taxday/https://www.warren.senate.gov/taxday/

(2) http://www.warren.senate.gov/files/documents/Tax_Filing_Simplification_Act_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Thanks Sharif, for a thought-provoking post. I used to work with MSF in Swaziland, where they have taken over one of the four regions in the country that has been most affected by HIV/TB. I was helping them cost their community-based multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) pilot program to assess the feasibility of national scale-up. While Swaziland is not a conflict-ridden country and has much better infrastructure than Central, West, and East Africa, the areas in most need of help are those that are hardest to get to (we could only visit 2-3 patients per day in an 8-hour work day, since we would be going at 10 mph on post-rainy season, terribly muddy and mountainous road) and are the worst-off in terms of access to any reliable forms of infrastructure. While MSF certainly has invested in the local health system, without more fundamental, system-strengthening investments (e.g. developing a reliable electricity grid), their potential for impact is incredibly limited, as are their funds to do so in a world where there’s an unhealthy obsession with minimizing NGO overhead (as someone who used to help Ministries of Health create their budgets for their Ministries of Finance and submit applications to various donor agencies, this kind of tech investment would unfortunately be classified as ‘overhead’). Additionally, as an NGO that won’t be (and shouldn’t be) around forever, MSF shouldn’t be conducting this work single-handedly — it should work closely with the government to build up their health system so that an initiative like telemedicine is ‘building capacity’ rather than ‘adding capacity.’

Thanks for the thought provoking post! I agree with you that a Chilean carbon tax might make Codelco less competitive given the increase in costs (so increasing operational efficiencies would be the way for them to maintain competitiveness) but I’m not sure if the carbon tax would necessarily impede Chile’s economic development — it would all depend on how carbon tax revenues are used by the government. If the government uses the revenues to expand social transfers, it would be welfare-enhancing for low income households, reduce inequality, and push the country onto a stronger path for development. If the government wanted to maintain the mining industry’s competitiveness, it could also use carbon tax revenues to reduce corporate taxes, lessening the burden on companies like Codelco. Government funds are not always that fungible (i.e. can be easily moved across different ministries), but as long as the carbon tax is set up thoughtfully, I think it could potentially be a positive force for Chile’s overall development.

On November 7, 2016, NY777 commented on ITC – an Indian conglomerate fighting climate change impact :

Thanks Rohit, for the interesting post! We’ve been focusing many of our discussions on Western companies operating in emerging markets, so it’s refreshing to read about an Indian company in the Indian market. I agree with you that ITC’s vision should be to have all waste end up in a ‘valued waste stream’, but to the extent that these activities (e.g. recycling, composting, etc) are additional costs and investments that ITC needs to undertake, I’m curious to know who you think should bear these costs. If they are passed onto the consumer, how price sensitive do you think they are, and how easily will they switch to a competitor product that is cheaper? Would ITC be able to internalize these costs? Should the government play a role here, and help offset some of these costs?

Thanks Kristina, for the great post! I agree with you that climate change offers the opportunity for insurance companies to innovate and take the lead in addressing the risks posed by climate change. There’s already been a great example of this with ‘pandemic insurance’, in light of the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks and their direct links to climate change (specifically that extreme weather events and rising temperatures changes the ecology and migratory patterns of animals and insects, putting humans in closer contact with infected species). In May of this year, the World Bank launched the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) – a global financing mechanism to quickly disburse funding in times of pandemics – which will create the first ever insurance market for pandemic risk (1). This will be a stark move away from previous practices, where financing for large outbreaks has been poorly coordinated and mostly done on an ad hoc basis, which as we saw in the Ebola outbreak, significantly slows down the response time and increases the mortality rate. Pandemic risk is presumably incredibly hard to price, but I personally hope that the PEF encourages private sector involvement in pandemic financing and overtime improves disease modeling, lowers the cost of insurance, and makes pandemic insurance affordable for countries that are most vulnerable to the health consequences of climate change.

(1) http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2016/05/21/world-bank-group-launches-groundbreaking-financing-facility-to-protect-poorest-countries-against-pandemics

On November 7, 2016, NY777 commented on Procter’s Environmental Gamble :

Thanks Stephen, for the great post! This ties in really well with our class discussion on IKEA, specifically around how they should set the company up for expansion in emerging markets where consumers may not have the same awareness around climate change and the ability to afford prices that absorb the negative externalities on the environment. P&G currently gets 39% of its sales in emerging markets. Unilever is at ~60%(1). Assuming that P&G will soon see similar proportions in sales as Unilever, how (if at all) do you think P&G should “bring consumers into the conversation and innovate with environmentally focused products” in the developing world? Given that CPGs are a competitive industry, if P&G cannot increase prices on their products in that part of the world, should they pass those costs onto consumers in the developed world, or absorb the costs on their own?

(1) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304632204579340292194328288

On November 7, 2016, NY777 commented on Hershey’s Profits May Melt as the Earth Warms :

Thanks Nancy for a great post! I didn’t know about the Learn to Grow program and how it fits into Hershey’s overall strategy in addressing climate change. I am wondering though if it’s potentially doing more harm than good in West Africa, and how sustainable the program is, if Hershey is the only company in the chocolate industry that is undertaking this initiative. As Hershey becomes the sole purchaser of these premium beans, farmers will only grow this type of bean, and therefore will no longer be able to sell to other potential buyers (assuming these buyers, i.e. other chocolate companies, are not interested in purchasing these premium beans). So the moment Hershey ends this program and pulls out, the smallholder farmers are left with excess supply and may lose their businesses immediately. I would argue that in order to make these sourcing practices actually effective and welfare-enhancing for supplying countries, and actually make a dent in fighting climate change, Hershey should initiate the entire industry to engage in these sourcing practices that enable long-term, widely shared sustainable gains.