Archive for March, 2012

Book Review: Force of Nature

Monday, March 26th, 2012

image courtesy

Humes, Edward. Force of nature : the unlikely story of Wal-Mart’s green revolution. HarperBusiness, 2011.

The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year at the Whole Foods store on Broad Street in Durham.  In recent years, there are so many customers that they experience gridlock in the store.  An employee is posted outside the doors to prevent anyone from going in until another customer comes out.

Whole Foods is riding the wave of interest in sustainable products and organic food, which has become so popular that even conventional grocers  now offer organic alternatives.  Surprisingly, the largest seller of organic milk is Wal-Mart, a company that is not known for environmental sensitivity but should be, according to a new book by journalist Edward Humes.

Force of Nature is the story of how Wal-Mart, once one of the most unsustainable retailers on the planet decided to go green, not because it was the right thing to do, but because an energy efficient, low waste company enjoys a competitive advantage.   In addition to reducing Wal-Mart’s own energy use and waste, the company monitors packaging, water use and toxic substances in their suppliers, who are forced to be green to do business with the retailer.  Wal-Mart also develops partnerships with environmental groups and supports climate legislation.

The story begins in 2004, when Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, learns that 8% of its customer base had stopped shopping there because of the company’s bad reputation, including problems with local communities and the environment.  White-water expert and sustainability consultant Jib Ellison convinced CEO H. Lee Scott that Wal-Mart could boost their image and their profits by eliminating waste, because waste in packaging, shipping and the supply chain costs money.  Scott hired Ellison to transform the company.

Force of Nature is the inside story of how a gigantic corporation goes green.  This engaging and hopeful book is recommended to anyone interested in the environment.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Book Review: Boomerang

Monday, March 19th, 2012

image courtesy

Lewis, Michael. Boomerang : travels in the new Third World. W.W. Norton & Co., 2011.

Underlying the amusing new book Boomerang is the sad truth that the global economic crisis is far from over.  In the US, the federal government took over the sub-prime loans made by Wall Street banks.  And in Europe, massive private debt was also absorbed by their sovereign governments.  Because people borrowed far more than they could pay, the amount of worldwide debt has more than doubled since 2002.  In Europe, there are at least six nations that are unlikely to pay off their debts.  What then?

Sounds depressing, but in the hands of an expert writer like Michael Lewis, this story becomes a fascinating combination of economics lesson and cultural analysis.  Lewis traveled throughout Europe to explain how the national character of each country played a different role in how the crisis evolved.  In Iceland, young fishermen with little training but with a high tolerance for risk became private bankers who leveraged capital by trading assets among themselves at inflated values.  In the end, Icelanders amassed debts amounting to 850% of GDP.

In Greece, Lewis found an astounding level of waste, theft and bribery.  Greek banks loaned 30 billion euros to the Greek government where they were stolen and wasted.  Raising revenues has been impossible due to massive tax fraud and Greeks have taken to the streets to resist making changes.  By contrast in Ireland, real estate developers used leveraged capital to go on a building boom that bankrupted the country, yet Irish people were resigned to covering the losses.

In Germany, bankers who made conservative investments at home were too trusting of the games played on Wall Street.  They lost giant sums in the risky American subprime and in Greek government bond markets.  Lewis claims that this is in keeping with a German obsession with orderliness, and their fascination with excrement.

At the end of the book, Lewis traveled to California, where his evaluation of Americans was even harsher.  As long term interests were sacrificed for short term rewards, cities were bankrupted.  Americans took cheap money to buy homes far larger than they could afford and allowed the strong to exploit the weak.  Strongly recommended.

This title is also available as an audiobook.

© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Offline for Maintenance

Friday, March 16th, 2012

The Ford Library Blog will be offline for scheduled maintenance of our blog software on Saturday, March 17, 2012 from 2:00AM until 10:00AM.

Thanks for your patience during this upgrade maintenance.

New Movies for March

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Latest titles are:

Dream House
Fireflies in the Garden
Game of Thrones, season 1
The Illusionist
J. Edgar
Like Crazy
The Mighty Macs
Puss In Boots


Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Myth of the American Sleepover
The Skin I Live In
Tower Heist
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, part 1
The Way
What’s Your Number?
The Whistleblower