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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Business and society in the coming decades

Business exists to serve society.

Over the past several decades, one of the great discussions within capitalism has centered on defining exactly what a business is and what its obligations are to society at large and to the many stakeholders participating in business systems, including customers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, and communities, to name a few.

The obligations to society have been defined in different ways at different points. For many retailers, including Walmart founder Sam Walton, the focus has been first and foremost on serving the customer. For others over the past couple of decades, the focus was myopically on the shareholder. With the advent of shared-value, double-bottom-line, triple-bottom-line, and related movements, we have seen a broadening of the discussion to recognize the importance of multiple stakeholders and the need to promote social, environmental, and financial value.

Long-term capitalism goes one step further, asking companies to actively reshape the systems in which they operate. Those systems could include the complex of logistical and shipping services that move goods around the globe, the web of overseas contract manufacturers on which companies rely, or the array of energy suppliers that fuel worldwide operations. Long-term capitalism takes a deeper view of business’s role in society, recognizing that, in the long run, the interests of stakeholders converge with the interests of the broader community. The actions of any one company may reverberate throughout the various systems in which it operates, generating second- and third-order benefits as well as negative externalities. Under long-term capitalism, companies recognize that fact and, through concerted action with others of sufficient scale, work to ensure constant improvements to those systems.

The basics: Add value for society as well as business

When it comes to serving society, a company’s first task is to ensure that its core business is fundamentally value creating—not just for shareholders but also for customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and the environment.

This stakeholder-value principle may seem obvious, especially given the extent to which triple-bottom-line thinking has seeped into mainstream business discourse. Yet financial short-termism still drives day-to-day decision making for much of the corporate world. For many, shareholder value creation remains the driving force of business initiatives; creating value for stakeholders becomes a by-product or a means to an end. Even when faced with reputational challenges, companies sometimes launch social initiatives as side projects only tenuously linked to the core business, rather than strengthening and articulating the ways in which the core business adds value to society.

Taking a more expansive view of serving society means first ensuring the core business delivers value to the broader set of stakeholders. Is it adding value to the local community, for example, through taxes and engagement with local organizations? It also means addressing externalities related to the core business.

Go beyond the core to change the system

While it is important to operate the core business in a way that delivers value for society and the business, a healthy, high-performing company can and must go further. The world faces social, environmental, and financial challenges of unprecedented magnitude and complexity. No one actor can resolve these issues single-handedly. Governments and civil society are increasingly calling business to the table.

Meanwhile, globalization and technology have heightened interdependence in our social, environmental, and financial systems. Even seemingly small actions can have serious consequences for others far away in space and time. Globalization and technology have also greatly increased transparency. Actions and their consequences, however far removed, are much more visible to all.

So, how can companies define their unique contribution to making society stronger? At Walmart, we use five screens.

1. Prioritize issues that are relevant to the company mission

Like most companies, we look for those issues that sit at the convergence of our business interests and the interests of society. For example, as the world’s largest grocer, we believe the sustainability of the world’s food supply is one of the areas in which we can make a significant contribution.

The United Nations projects that food production must increase by roughly 70 percent to feed the estimated nine billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050. We will need to meet that challenge in a way that is sustainable for the environment and equitable for consumers and farmers (who make up two-thirds of the population in emerging markets).

2. Draw on the company’s particular capabilities

Even in purely philanthropic areas, companies can have greater impact by drawing on their unique business capabilities and applying those skills to complex societal problems. In our own efforts, we try to add value in ways that are different from—and ideally additive to—what others can do.

For example, to address hunger in the United States, we make use of our particular assets. Over the past several years, we have donated nearly 1.5 billion pounds of food to food banks across the United States, including an increasing amount of fresh food nearing the end of its shelf life. This improves nutrition among those most in need, while reducing the amount of food we send to landfills as waste.

In tackling priority issues, we design our initiatives to promote benefits for society as well as business. We set ambitious targets, and we track progress rigorously.

In food sourcing, for example, we pursue initiatives that lower the environmental and financial cost of food production. One of these initiatives, agriculture optimization, aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by eight million metric tons across ten million acres of row crops such as oats and rice by 2020. Similar initiatives in the food chain and our own operations have allowed us to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 18 million metric tons since 2010. To do so, we are working with the Environmental Defense Fund, as well as other large food companies, including Cargill and General Mills, to adjust the use of fertilizer and other inputs. We measure progress by tracking improvements in greenhouse-gas emissions, water, yields, and other critical factors per ton of food produced, by supplier and by category.

4. Reshape the system for lasting improvement

In the era of long-term capitalism, companies can and must go beyond the kinds of improvements described above. They can do this by harnessing their expertise and scale and by joining with other organizations to reshape global systems for lasting improvement.

Now we are exploring opportunities to collaborate with others to strengthen transportation and processing infrastructure in emerging markets. This will help develop local economies, feed local populations, and support local farming families, all while providing a secure supply of high-quality food products for Walmart customers.

5. Engage partners in transforming systems

To achieve lasting solutions to complex social and environmental challenges, we have learned that it is essential to engage and collaborate with other leaders of the systems we seek to strengthen.

The difficult challenges facing the world today are well beyond the scope of any single player to address. Solutions will depend on cooperation among leading organizations in all sectors.

To achieve the magnitude of change the United Nations, World Wildlife Fund, CDP and others have called for in food, such as a reduction in water usage, a 3 percent annual decrease in private-sector greenhouse-gas emissions, and a 15 percent increase in yield in the next ten years, leaders of the food system must take concerted, coordinated action. In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number of multistakeholder collaborations in the food system, including the Consumer Goods Forum, which aligns retailers and manufacturers in achieving global food commitments such as sourcing 100 percent sustainable palm oil and soy; the World Economic Forum, with its Grow Africa and related initiatives; USAID’s Global Development Lab, to harness the power of the private sector and others in addressing development challenges; and the Clinton Global Initiative, with its innovative approach to sparking collaborative commitments from corporations, to name just a few.

5 Business Ideas Poised for Success

Women’s health platform

Aspiring women entrepreneurs looking to make a difference are now in a better position than ever to launch businesses that help other women. An online store that focuses on women’s health needs, or another platform that connects women with important resources and products, could be a great framework for a successful and

Box subscription services

Box subscription services are popping up everywhere in the food, beauty and even pet product sectors, ready to deliver goods right to your door each month. One of the consumer perks is the idea that these subscription boxes are carefully curated just for them based on their likes and interests, and each month, the boxes’ contents are a surprise.

Find a unique product category that’s still untapped by the box subscription industry, or find a way to put a new spin on an existing service, and you could have a lucrative business on your hands. Keep it as inexpensive as possible — according to LearnVest, offering cheaper products will help you stand out from the competition.

Health clubs for millennials

Health and fitness services are being rebranded to become trendier and more sociable. Opening a health club or gym targeted specifically to millennials could be a great way to capitalize on the fitness trend, especially if you focus on creating a strong, fun and engaging social media presence to really connect with young members and potential customers.

Software training

If you’re proficient in a highly specialized software, you can get paid to pass your knowledge on to amateurs and professionals looking to expand their skill sets. Technical manuals are available for programs like QuickBooks and Final Cut Pro, but these are often expensive and difficult for the average user to get through. Schedule small group workshops or private sessions, and charge by the hour for a full tutorial of the program. The best part about this gig is that it can be done part time.

Freelancing

Companies are increasingly turning to freelance and contract workers to fill the skill gaps in their staff. It’s not hard to imagine that you could build a whole company around providing freelance services of one sort or another. Some freelance gigs pay by the project and others pay hourly, and the rates can vary greatly. But as you gain more experience, your earning potential will soar.

6 Business Ideas for Sports Lovers

Sports photography/videographry

Parents of school-aged children on sports teams want lasting records of their kid scoring the winning goal or hitting a home run. Most times, the best they can get is a blurry action shot on their smartphone or digital camera. As a sports photographer, you can work with amateur teams to capture stunning photos of each player and sell them to proud parents. Knowledge of the game and a good single-lens reflex(SLR) camera are essential for this business. Photography retailerDigitalRev offers tips for beginners.

In addition, game footage is a much sought after skill for coaches and media outlets alike. If you’re a skilled videographer, consider freelancing; teams require gameday film to prepare and local media often reports on high school sports.

Sporting goods retail store

Opening a retail store is a great way to get involved in the sports world. Whether you sell professional team paraphernalia, equipment for amateur athletes, or both, you’re sure to find a great customer base just about anywhere. You may want to scope out potential locations for nearby mega-competitors like Dick’s or Sports Authority, and open up in a spot with high demand.

Sports bar

If you’ve ever had an interest in the restaurant business, a sports bar is the perfect idea for you. Provide a place for your fellow sports lovers to enjoy the game while you serve them a cold beer and their favorite game-day appetizers. This will take a considerable amount of startup capital, so it might be a good idea to go in on this venture with a business partner.

PR for athletes

Professional and college-level players frequently make sports headlines with their athletic abilities, but they all have lives outside the game. Many athletes are also entrepreneurs and/or philanthropists, and it takes a greatpublic relations agent to make sure their personal brands are well-known, both on and off the field. If you’ve got an arsenal of media contacts and a go-getter personality, you can launch an independent sports PR firm.

Health/nutrition coach

Both major and minor league athletes need to stay in peak condition all year round, and part of that is making sure they consume a healthy, nutritious diet. Players need nutrition coaches to design healthful menus and keep their food intake on track. Online courses for nutrition certification are relatively inexpensive and usually take less than a year, so you could be making big bucks in no time.

Personal training

In addition to a good diet, athletes also need to follow a strict workout regimen to stay at the top of their game, especially in the off-season. If you want the chance to work with sports players, consider becoming a certified personal trainer. Build up a reputation with local clients, then start advertising to teams. Find out more about how to become a personal trainer here.

6 Unique Pet-Inspired Businesses

Cats are capable of taking care of themselves for the most part, minus cleaning their litter boxes and getting fed (in some cases, however, they know how to break into that, too). But what if your cat could use a cat-size toilet? Dream no more. The Cat Genie, is a full-size cat box that looks, and operates, similarly to a toilet.

According to the site, Cat Genie is a full-size, automatic cat box that uses permanent Washable Granules. Unlike disposable cat litter, Cat Genie’s Washable Granules never need changing and are 100 percent dust-free, biodegradable and septic-safe. The self-cleaning product rids itself of liquid and solid cat waste without owners ever having to handle cat litter again.

The cleaning system will run you approximately $244 without the cost of additional supplies.

If leaving your felines alone while you go off to work every day makes you sad, Kittyo might be just the thing you need. Cat owners can use the device and app to interact with their furry friends even when they’re not in the same room.

The device, which retails for $249, allows users to speak to their cats, play with them, dispense treats to them and even watch what they do while the owners are gone. The product works by connecting to a smartphone app, which in turn allows you to control the device from anywhere, as long as you’ve got an internet connection. You can use the device to shine a laser around the room for your cat to play with and record videos with a few taps on your screen. With Kittyo, you don’t have to work from home to play with your cat on your lunch break.

Do you love your pet so much you want an exact copy? Although actual cloning may not be an option, Cuddle Clones solves this problem by making custom stuffed animals that look identical to your fur baby.

Cuddle Clones creates one-of-a-kind plush replicas of your pets, based on photos and your chosen customization options. You can personalize everything from eye color and ear position to pose and tail position, so that your stuffed animal is as close to the real thing as possible. And yes, you can even get one that’s true to size. You’re not limited to dogs and cats, either; Cuddle Clones will replicate horses, turtles, rabbits, ferrets, birds, pigs and more.

Cuddle Clones also donates to animal-related causes, so while you’re getting a plush copy of your furry friend, you’re also helping Cuddle Clones give back and assist animals in need.

The thought of having farm-fresh eggs at your disposal and an adorable feathered friend to call your own might be appealing to some, but not everyone is equipped to handle a hen. Rent The Chicken gives you the opportunity to see exactly what goes into raising chickens before you bring one into your home permanently.

So how does it work? According to the company’s website, Rent The Chicken provides you with everything you need, including two egg-laying hens, a portable chicken coop, food and water dishes, enough food (with a non-GMO option as well) for the length of your rental time, and instructions for everything. Rental periods are open from May to November, which is when chickens lay the most eggs.

And, of course, if you absolutely fall in love with your chickens, you can adopt them for a fee that includes their supplies.

DoodyCalls says it’s “the nation’s trusted leader in pet-waste-removal services for homeowners and communities.” That’s right — DoodyCalls is the company you call to help pick up after your pets.

Providing dog-pooper-scooper services, cat-litter-box cleaning, patio and deck deodorizing, and dog-waste-station setup and maintenance, DoodyCalls helps keep your yard and community waste-free. According to the company’s FAQ page, DoodyCalls will scoop deer and goose poop, too: “We are happy to help keep any kind of poop off your lawn or off your community common areas.”

Sometimes, you just can’t get outside to take your dog for a walk, or can’t make it home in time to let your pets out to do their business. With The Pet Loo, you don’t need to worry; it brings the outdoors inside, so your dogs can relieve themselves without ruining your carpet.

The Pet Loo is a portable, square pet toilet that has a layer of synthetic grass to resemble the outdoors and drain urine into its base. It also contains a removable waste container for easy cleanup. According to its website, The Pet Loo is ideal for apartments and new puppies, and is a more convenient alternative to pee pads and midnight bathroom breaks. The company also sells cleaning products, odor-eliminating cat litter and more.

5 Businesses You Can Start with Your Kids

If your teen excels in a specific subject or has exceptional grades, encourage him or her to assist those in need of help through tutoring services. Your child can get paid for his or her knowledge and time spent helping others learn a skill or subject matter. This type of business is scalable, and live videoconferencing and electronic payments can bring your child’s skills online as well.

Kids are absorbing tons of social media knowledge at a young age. They’re becoming YouTube and Instagram stars with millions of followers for just being themselves. This could be invaluable knowledge for small businesses in your area. Encourage your child to apply his or her understanding of social platforms to consult for local shops and restaurants.

As long as houses come with lawns and outdoor maintenance, there will be a need for landscapers.The simplicity of the job, from mowing the lawn to trimming trees, means it can open doors to college degrees in the field, which can lead to jobs with theme parks or college campuses.

Technology has brought traditional job choices for teens into the modern age. Sites like SitterCity, Care.com and Rover.com have made it easy for people to hire and pay child or pet sitters. Encourage your child to gain some experience by babysitting for family members or neighbors. After they’ve gotten some experience, they can set up an online account to allow them to truly grow their business in an accessible way.

Etsy shop owner

Sites like Etsy have transformed the way crafters bring their talent to the world. They no longer have to rely on fairs and events to show off their creations; instead, they can sell their products online to customers around the world. If your child has a knack for crafting and creativity, Etsy may offer a great business opportunity. Etsy has a comprehensive guide on fees and owning your own business, along with guidelines for minors.