Impactfully No. 90: Universal Income

Seattle experiments with universal basic income to promising results, and the carbon credit economy faces criticism over conflicts of interest and insufficient rigor.

Impactfully No. 90: Universal Income
Photo by Benjamin Massello / Unsplash

Universal basic income takes center stage in this week's newsletter. Findings from a recent pilot in the Seattle area were released, and they show the promising potential of income support for the most vulnerable people – though UBI still seems like a long shot politically.

I have a top-tier product manager role available as our job of the week, and you might find a sustainability-minded role – and a sweet Earth Day deal – in our resource below. Time to dive in!

~ Greg

What we're reading

The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County initiated a universal basic income pilot two years ago, and results from the pilot were released recently. (Business Insider)

  • Pilot participants received $500 per month for 10 months. Funding was shared between public and private sources – Chase Bank is cited as a major funder in the report.
  • Employment roughly doubled, and many of them accessed benefits like life and disability insurance for the first time. Maybe it was the sample size, but what stood out to me most was that many families were able to build savings – none of the participants with children had savings when they started the program.
  • I'm not sure the country is ready for something like universal basic income, but I feel like we're going to have to reckon with it sooner rather than later.
    • Life is unaffordable for an unsustainable portion of the population, and although unemployment is low, jobs are being replaced by new technologies and industries. Someone is going to be left behind, and I'm not sure it's fair to say it's just because they can't keep up.
    • We're also experiencing rapid urbanization. That strikes me as another unsustainable flywheel – housing being a key constraint.
    • Money can't solve all of these problems, but UBI may eliminate the worst of their effects. I'd argue that we'll pay for it one way or another – if not in the form of a check, then perhaps in the form of homeless shelters, crime, or life expectancy.

Carbon credits are ubiquitous, but the methodology used to generate them means that many carbon credits, if not most, fail to offset emissions. (WaPo)

  • Large corporations in particular have looked to carbon credits as part of a net zero strategy. The Washington Post cites a number of familiar faces: Disney, Southwest Airlines, and Shell for example. The last time I flew on United, they offered customers the option of offsetting their carbon by paying into their sustainability fund.
  • These carbon credits can be controversial though. Instead of reducing their carbon impact, companies may opt to offset them instead, and regions used to create carbon credits often rely on existing forests instead of creating new ones. The latter is tied to some of the concerns laid out in this article.
    • Essentially, some companies are saying that because they keep forests from being cut down, they can establish a carbon credit. If those forests were already subject to conservation efforts, however, then they haven't satisfied "additionality" – essentially, the carbon credit has to make the difference between whether the forest is cut down or not.
    • What's news to me is that one of the major certification authorities who gives the rubber stamp to carbon credits actually benefits from them financially. Not only are they making money off the certification, they're making money from each credit sold. They also have an incentive to approve the credits or companies would look elsewhere for certification. These are some major conflicts of interest that contribute to over-crediting, and the overall market is expected to grow 20x from 2021 to 2030.
  • One argument is that at some sort of offsetting is better than no action at all. I can kind of buy that – the problem is that "better than nothing" may turn out to be nothing at all: just a series of predictions and certifications and transactions that had no environmental impact.

Job of the week

Calling all product people! This week's featured job takes you to Guild, a pioneer in career development services and a Certified B Corp besides. They help companies upskill their workforces with online education services and career counseling.

Right now, they're looking for a Staff Product Manager with experience building personalized products – think recommendation systems and the like. The salary is top-notch, and you can work remotely (though they're based in Denver, CO if that interests you).

Community roundup

  • Organizers of the Paris Olympics have spent $1.5 billion cleaning up the Seine for swimming events, but a recent pollution test failed. Apparently, it has been illegal to swim in the Seine for 100 years – the intent is to open to public swimmers next year. (NBC News)
  • Student protests over the war in Gaza have led to multiple high-profile actions over the past week. USC canceled its commencement speakers, and the President of Columbia University testified before Congress, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's Harvard, MIT, and U Penn hearings. (ABC News)
  • Researchers are using AI to identify illegal fishing operations around the world. Major powers have overfished their local oceans, depleting ecosystems. (MIT Press)
  • Employees at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee have voted to join the UAW. The UAW had successfully unionized workers from Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, but this is the first plant to unionize in the South that wasn't owned by one of those three companies. (NYT)
    • Keep your eyes peeled to see if this is the first of many dominos to fall. Nonunion plants, such as those at Toyota, Hyundai, and Tesla, have lower labor costs. I suspect that the Big Three are cautiously optimistic to see some competition in this area, notwithstanding the impacts of an emboldened UAW on the industry as a whole.
  • The Biden administration updated Title IX rules to expand LGBTQ protections at educational programs that receive federal funding. The new rules go into effect on August 1st and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (NYT)
  • Earth Day was yesterday, and this Time article lives up to its "surprising facts." One standout: the time of year was selected to support college schedules so they could attract more student participation. (TIME)

Hot job opportunities

Hiring for mission-driven talent? Post a job for free on our job board.

Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.

Resource of the week

It seems like every holiday gets its own sale, and Earth Day is no different – though it tends to attract a different cadre of companies, including some B Corps you may have seen in this newsletter.

CNN put together a summary of deals on their website across a bunch of categories, from apparel and outdoor to kitchen and bedroom. Some are mainstays in our community, like Allbirds, Prana, and Klein Kanteen, and some are new discoveries.

Job hunter pro tip: if you want to work somewhere that values sustainability, this list can serve as a proxy for your job search.

Test your knowledge

The EPA featured heavily in last week's newsletter with recent rules on vehicle emissions, water quality, and light bulbs. One of those efforts is targeting "forever chemicals" in municipal water supplies, so I asked: how long is forever?

Business Insider published information on the half life of a number of common chemicals, including the PFAS "forever chemicals" that are part of the EPA guidance. Turns out it can take seven years or more for half – just half – of the chemical to be expelled.

This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments that could have a significant impact on the homelessness crisis facing many cities. With many paths to homelessness, it can be easy to make inaccurate assumptions how someone becomes unhoused and how to fix it. Sounds like fertile ground for a trivia question if you ask me:

According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, what percentage of people experiencing homelessness have a job?

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I am excited to hear that Ghost, the platform that hosts this newsletter, is going to adopt the ActivityPub protocol. Threads and other platforms are moving in this direction as well, which means you can follow people and get their updates regardless of where the content is published. We shall see what happens! Speaking of which, you can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson