While this is obviously bad news for the people involved, is it good or bad compared to the industry as a whole?
The tenor of the story implies it is bad news.
But then the details of the story don’t quite back that up.
Firstly, the 440 figure is the total of four years worth of data collected by the GBM union from local authorities via freedom of information requests. The figure for the last complete year, 2017-2018, was 149.
Is this number high? Well, Amazon says it has 25,000 people employed in the UK and the Health and Safety Executive says the average non-fatal accident rate in the warehousing and transportation support industries category in 2016-2017 was 1,577 per 100,000 workers.
Assuming the rate has stayed about the same the following year, for Amazon to have had an average accident rate it would have recorded 394 accidents. So on these data you could say Amazon is a substantially better than average performer on accidents.
The BBC story quotes the GMB saying : “the actual numbers were probably higher, because some local authorities were unable to provide details of incident reports.”
That may well be so, but frankly they could be double and it still would not be much of a story.
Today the IPCC came out with its sternest warning yet about the dangers the world faces if global warming isn’t held to 1.5degC.
The thing is, we already know how Governments can do this. They tax the things they want less of and incentivise the things they want more of. This is simple and it works.
Take electric cars. If you want sales to grow fast bring in an effective incentive scheme. Norway leads the field on this. Its electric car policy saw a huge increase in the sales of electric cars. In 2015 22% of new car sales were electric and this is expected to grow to 30% in 2020. This was achieved through low road tax, VAT exemption, free parking for EVs and access to bus lanes, for example.
Or alternative energy.
Solar energy went from virtually nothing to 3% of the UK’s total energy generation between 2010 and 2017, driven by reducing costs for photovoltaics but mainly by Government incentives in the form of the Feed In Tariff.
Government actions matter. Concerned about the rising cost the Government changed the policy in 2016 with the result that solar installations plummeted by 74% year on year in March 2016. Solar will continue to grow because the economics are getting better, but more slowly that it would have otherwise.
Governments all have a balancing act to perform, trading off the immediate needs of the electorate, without whom they will not remain in power, and the longer-term needs of the country.
To encourage the growth of more environmentally-friendly transport options – cycling, walking, public transport, electric cars – raising fuel taxes is a sensible policy. And yet petrol prices are a sensitive issue with the public so we have not had a rise in duty for nine years.
The best hope of avoiding the short term trap is the law. The Climate Change Act of 2008 was a great example of this – in effect the Government willingly making a rod for its own back.
This law obligates the Government to reduce CO2 emissions to at least 80% below the 1990 baseline. This allows citizens and environmental groups to hold the Government’s feed to the fire if they don’t live up to this challenge. This doesn’t eliminate the short term decisions which will have a potential long-term detrimental effect, but it does make it far more likely that course correction is forthcoming.
It will be interesting to see what this month’s budget tells us about the balancing act.
Many years ago when my boys were young teenagers we used to have to take them off every Saturday to play Warhammer, the strategy game you play in person with others with characters you bought and lovingly painted yourself. It became a big obsession with both of them, rivalling even Pokemon and I got to know Games Workshop well.
I spoke to colleagues at work and unless they also had boys of a similar age they were oblivious to the whole phenomenon.
These Warhammer characters were not cheap and the rules of game were so obtuse that it was amazing so many teenage boys became so hooked (or maybe not, knowing teenage boys).
Anyway, I figured this was an interesting business model so I bought a few shares. Today the company was featured in The Economist as the best performing stock in the FTSE 250.
I may have had to wait 15 years, but I can really pick a stock – this one has risen by over 526%.
Interesting talk this lunchtime at the RSA from Don Carter about his new book Remaking Post-Industrial Cities, which looks at 10 cities in the US and Europe and charts their decline and recovery.
Carter looks at the history of the cities in three phases:
The industrial powerhouse phase, from 1865 to 1945
Renaissance, from 1946 to 1985
Re-invention from 1986 to 2015
He argues that there are clear parallels between all the cities he has studied and that lessons can be drawn.
First up, turning cities around in the post-industrial period takes time and determination. It is important to realise the the scale is large – metropolitan and long-term. This means, a strong vision of what kind of city is being built it critical. And it means strong leadership and being prepared to take risks. Often it has involved very significant investment, such as the Olympics in Barcelona, but these grand plays aren’t enough on their own, as they can fail.
The successful cases have all developed diversified economies, have strengthened the central city and have invested in culture, heritage and quality of life.
The over-riding impression at the end though, underlined by perceptive questions from the audience, was that while the city may recover, many of the people who made their lives there often don’t and that tectonic societal upheavals, such as the election of Trump, or Brexit, or populism in Italy, may the cost.
Maybe we can look back on the cities themselves in 20 years with satisfaction that they recovered so well, but what happened to the broader society in the meantime is quite another question.
Don Carter is an architect, urban designer and developer of international renown. He is currently Director of Urban Design and Regional Engagement at the Remaking Cities Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.
The outcome of the SEC investigation into Elon Musk’s wayward tweet on taking Tesla private could turn out to be either very good, or very bad.
The requirement by the SEC that Musk and Tesla each pay $20m in fines is trivial for both. The instruction to hire an independent chairman to oversee Musk is the crucial condition.
Tech company founders have often found themselves in need of outside experience to lead once their enterprises reach a certain size . Those who can make the product, seldom have the characteristics or experience to morph into successful managers of much larger enterprises.
The best example of this working well was Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to hire Eric Schmidt to front up their rapidly growing company in 1998. It was the persistence of their VC backers which led them to find Schmidt eventually and the arrangement worked like a dream.
However, there are several reasons why a similar successful outcome may be harder for Musk to pull off, and these are two of the major ones:
The SEC has given Tesla 45 days for Musk to resign the chairman’s role, not a lot of time for such a tricky and sensitive search, especially so since it is unlikely Musk has spent any time thinking about what wants or needs from such a relationship.
Musk has a towering self-belief which seems to cover just about every walk of life – extra-terrestrial colonisation, combatting climate change, rescuing children from flooded underground tunnels. It is perhaps unlikely that he recognises the possible benefits which would accrue from a wiser corporate head, experienced in the ways of public companies.
It would be very good for the world if a Schmidt-like outcome occurred. Whether it can or not remains to be seen.