A superb, quietly devastating environmental and business history.

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CITIZEN COKE

THE MAKING OF COCA-COLA CAPITALISM

An eye-opening account of the “unmatched ecological appetite” behind Coca-Cola’s worldwide success.

In this deeply informed debut, Elmore (History/Univ. of Alabama) details the outsourcing strategy that he calls “Coca-Cola Capitalism,” which has allowed Coke to become the world’s top brand, with operations in more than 200 countries, at a huge cost to the environment and human health. Acknowledging the company’s marketing genius, Elmore claims that Coke’s real secret formula has been to rely on other people’s time and money, often using public infrastructure to extract raw materials and transport finished products. The strategy—first developed by mass marketers at the turn of the 20th century and later imitated by McDonald’s, large software firms and other corporations—eliminates upfront costs and risky investments. Since its founding in 1886, Coke has relied on partnerships for the sugar, caffeine, water, cans and bottles, and other raw materials needed to create its beverages (now selling more than 1.8 billion servings per day). Drawing on archival sources, the author devotes chapters to the ecological impact of each key Coke ingredient. At little cost, the company uses 79 billion gallons of public water supplies yearly to dilute Coke syrup and an estimated 8 trillion gallons to produce bottles and agricultural commodities. The company also has bottling operations in many arid world regions. Elmore describes how Coke has weathered supply disruptions and controversies regarding caffeine and sugar obtained from others and how its huge success during World War II paved the way for overseas expansion. In recent years, the company’s sugary beverages have been a major factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic. Without a doubt, Coke has been a good public citizen that stimulates economies and improves lives, writes the author, but the costs to taxpayers—for recycling systems, public pipes and subsidized farms—and the environment call into question how such unsustainable practices can continue in an age of scarcity.

A superb, quietly devastating environmental and business history.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24112-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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