The European Union takes a tax bite of Apple. Apple owes about $14 billion in back taxes: So says the EU (Bloomberg). Apple says it evaded, er, arranged to avoid, those taxes fair and square via Ireland — so it doesn’t have to pay. Plentry of other multinationals have been basing operations and stowing profits in low-tax havens like Ireland for decades now. This latest fight is largely a jurisdictional squabble between Ireland, which defends its tax giveaways, and the EU, which wants to govern who pays and who doesn’t. The U.S. government is backing home team Apple. Even if it has to pay, the company’s got it covered, with a $232 billion cash hoard, mostly outside the U.S. How should global companies apportion their profits for tax purposes? There’s an army of accountants for that. But whatever the specific outcome here, there’s a clear message for Apple and other BigCos that slosh money around the globe, seeking maximum return through minimum tax rates: Profits are only possible in a society that supports its infrastructure, financial system, education, and healthcare. Taxes do that. Sooner or later, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, you’re gonna have to pay somebody. The more voters around the world feel they’re not getting a fair deal, the less they’re going to support free-trade policies. However much companies hate paying taxes on profits, they’re going to hate tariffs even more.
We know where that planet-warming carbon comes from. Carbon emissions cause climate change, and 90 companies are responsible for most of those emissions, according to one scientist’s accounting (Science). Also: More than half of those emissions took place since 1988 — the year Congress heard testimony that warming was definitely for real. In other words: Neither Exxon nor any other corporation can say, “We didn’t know.” Richard Heede is the “carbon accountant” who did these numbers, which have, predictably galvanized environmental activists and alarmed the energy industry and its political defenders. Critics say Heede’s work just pins big “kick me” signs on the backs of specific companies, when it’s really those companies’ customers — all of us — who are to blame. On the other hand, as a Heede supporter argues, “if everyone is responsible then no one is responsible.” Figuring out where all the carbon has come from is surely a valid first step toward arresting the catastrophic advance of global warming. If that data threatens the fossil-fuel industry, don’t blame — or subpoena — the messenger.
That Willy Wonka (RIP Gene Wilder) was many things: an innovative confectionary maverick, whimsical candy dandy, and you could say, a childhood obesity opportunist. If he was a real-life choc baron, I’m sure Jamie Oliver would have a few strong words against his kaleidoscopic, kid-fattening operation. For all his flaws, at least he was ahead of the curve when it came to edible packaging (remember the edible tea cups? If you can’t, see below).
A More Inclusive Workplace. At a time when many Muslims are feeling increasingly unwelcome in the U.S., more businesses are seeking to maintain Muslim-friendly workplaces. As Bloomberg reports, “The motivations may be principled, but the moves are practical. Managers want to keep talented workers and avoid conflict, and litigation.” The practices companies are implementing are modest (such as making sure major events don’t conflict with Muslim holidays and eliminating pork and alcohol from events), yet they add up to a much more welcome environment. And companies battling for talent are smart to make these changes: by 2035, Muslims will be the second largest non-Christian group in the U.S.
This week we introduce the Shift Dialogs, NewCo’s new video series featuring in-depth conversations with the leaders driving significant change across business, culture, and society. Our first episode features Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft. We’ve also released the second episode, featuring Max Ventilla, founder and CEO of AltSchool.
Today’s Top Stories — Want To Please Investors? Be More Sustainable: A new study connects sustainability and finances. — The Case for Universal Basic Income Continues, Despite Voter Rejection: A legendary labor leader takes up the cause. — Nike Turns Garbage Into Shoes: And it jumps on the “circular economy” bandwagon. — Why LinkedIn Sold to Microsoft: Because it had to, mostly. — Apple Begins To Open Up: The Cupertino giant is changing direction.
Want To Please Investors? Be More Sustainable Investors are seeing the connection between corporate sustainability performance and financial performance (MIT Sloan Management Review). It’s a virtuous connection, so more investors are demanding data that sustainability at companies is real and business models that take advantage of it. According to this MIT study, “three quarters of executives in investment firms agree that sustainability performance is materially important for investment decisions, citing revenue growth, operational efficiency, and risk reduction as the boons of solid sustainability management.” So what are companies waiting for?
Today’s Top Stories — Europe Takes the Lead on Clean Driving: Paris and Norway ready rules to lessen air pollution. — The Idea That’s Killing Mission-Driven Companies: What neoliberalism is doing to businesses that want to do more than make a profit. — Swiss Voters Reject Universal Basic Income: Pilot programs remain, but the first full-country referendum is a crushing loss. — Cadillac Dealerships Go Virtual: GM’s luxury brand looks for a way to differentiate. — Even the Biggest Tech Companies Have To Appease Governments: Who holds more power, American tech giants or the countries that regulate them?
Altaeros Energies worked on the world’s first airborne wind turbine at Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA, just outside of Boston. Autonomous Marine Systems used the Labs’ shop to work on its sailing drones, fleets of which now collect data on our oceans. Accion Systems set up shop there to ready its smaller, safer, and less expensive ion-based propulsion system for satellites. Between its founding in 2011 and the end of 2015, Greentown Labs has been home to 103 small businesses.
Today, roughly 50 companies pay rent in exchange for access to desks, lab space, equipment, and software. All of those startups are developing hardware-based clean technologies to solve the world’s largest energy and environmental challenges. Greentown Lab provides the resources startups need to help launch their companies quickly — not just tools but also education programs and access to investors.