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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

E.S.G. in the Boardroom: A Recipe for Confusion

What would business do without its faddish buzzwords? Is the bottom-line really so boring? Transformational leadership was once in vague, with little actual attention to raising subordinates’ moral compasses. Decades later, everything was about drivers—a power-aggrandized version of cause. Then consultants, dreaming perhaps of their kids’ little league, turned the profession into an analogy and suddenly became coaches. One difference is of course that most actual coaches have been players in their respective sports, whereas how many leadership coaches have been business executives or sat on a board? “Leadership assistant” is better, if in-house, otherwise "leadership adviser," assuming sufficient study or experience in leadership. Then amidst global warming and activist stockholders, “E.S.G.” could be heard in boardrooms with the frequency of a trope.[1] Must business be led by a herd-mentality? Such leadership is internally inconsistent, for leaders are by definition ahead of the crowd, leading it rather than squawking like lemmings. In the case of E.S.G., which stands for “environmental, social, and governance,” the chatter eclipses recognition of the befuddled condition of the combo. With such different things in the mix, it is no wonder that a study attempting to quantify E.S.G. came up with mixed results. So the metric and purportedly related financial performance may not be very useful after all.

1. Andrew Sorkin, “Can Good Corporate Citizenship Be Measured,” The New York Times, June 26, 2017.

The full essay is at "E.S.G. in the Boardroom."

The E.U. Goes After Google: Where Was the U.S.?

In fining Google a record 2.4 billion euros (2.7 billion dollars) in June, 2017, for unfairly favoring its advertisers in its online shopping service, E.U. officials went “significantly further than their American counterparts.”[1] At the time, Google held more than 90 percent of the online search market in the E.U. Why would the E.U. go further than the U.S. in pressing anti-trust violations against a technology company that could be expected to gain monopoly profits? Presumably Google was favoring its advertisers on searches in the U.S. as well. Americans would mind too when an advertiser’s higher-price product comes up rather than a comparable product at a better deal. Was the E.U. more interested in protecting consumers and less concerned about pleasing a large company? The company’s sordid, self-serving practice nullifies any contending claim that the government’s motive was to go after a foreign company. I submit that the E.U. government’s action unwittingly points to a pro-business bias in the corresponding American government. 

The full essay is at "E.U. Goes After Google."

1. Mark Scott, “Google Fined Record $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling,” The New York Times, June 27, 2017.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Religion as Metaphysics: A Category Mistake

The claim that God is real, or even that God's existence is reality, is problematic chiefly because it incurs the category mistake of treating religion as through it were metaphysics. Rather than being an atheistic argument, obviating the mistake privileges God's radical transcendence.

The full essay is at "Religion as Metaphysics."

Related: Spiritual Leadership in Business: Transcending the Ethical, a short book that is available at Amazon in print and as an ebook.

Hedge Fund Set to Hack Nestlé Up: A Case of Sensationalistic Over-Kill

Does the fact that an earnings-per-share figure has not meaningfully improved over, say, five years justify an overhaul pushed by a hedge-fund activist investor?  Put another way, is a steady earnings-per-share tantamount to failure? Especially for an established company, steady numbers do not evince bad performance. An airline would only foolishly fire a pilot for not climbing once having attained a cruising altitude. Maintaining such an altitude during a flight is hardly a reason to turn a plane around or set it in a radically different direction. 

Dan Loeb of Third Point. Relax, Dan, Nestle is not on a nose-dive.

The full essay is at "Hedge Fund Activist."

Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Outstripping the Planet’s Absorption: A Major Turning-Point

The human species has reached such a size—and with the population of Africa expected in 2017 to double by 2050 from an incredulous and oblivious fertility rate (i.e., as if there were no tomorrow) in spite of life-threatening impacts on that continent already from global warming—that profound changes to the planet can from now on hardly be avoided unless or until nature’s swift hand acts through pestilence, famine, or over-crowding conflict. Making matters worse, we are flying without having bothered to detail a navigation flight-plan, for even homo sapiens’ cognitive wiring has been outstripped by not only our inherent selfishness and preference for instant gratification, but also our sheer presumptuousness. In hindsight, we can say we have acted rashly in having polluted so in the twentieth century—the benefit of hindsight being shown in our shortcomings even in being able to keep tabs on the extent of the damage. 

The full essay is at "Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere."