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New To Stern / Economics, Capitalism, Geopolitics & Globalization / Policy & Government / Business Model Innovation / Company Culture / Future of Work / Strategy / Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Issues / Sustainability, Purpose & Climate Strategies / Energy & Renewables


  • IFTF Equitable Enterprise: Conversation with Nick Romeo
    IFTF Equitable Enterprise: Conversation with Nick Romeo
  • The Judgment Call Podcast Episode #35 - Nick Romeo (The connection between ancient Greece and today)
    The Judgment Call Podcast Episode #35 - Nick Romeo (The connection between ancient Greece and today)

Learn More About Nick Romeo

Nick Romeo has spent years covering the world’s most innovative economic and policy ideas for The New Yorker. His features have explored everything from the culture of Mondragon, the world’s largest worker-owned cooperative, to the motives of business owners transferring their ownership to perpetual purpose trusts and enshrining a goal beyond profit maximization. In his upcoming book “The Alternative: How To Build A Just Economy(Public Affairs, January 2024), Romeo explores the stories and successes of people working to build a world that is more equal, just, and livable. From Spain to Austria to America, the book explores a broad range of initiatives that are successfully tackling some of the major issues of our day, such as wealth inequality and the climate crisis.

Romeo has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The MIT Technology Review, and many other publications. He teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nick Romeo is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Nick Romeo was last modified: February 14th, 2023 by Justin Louis

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How Much Do Things Really Cost?

What is the true cost of bread, hamburgers, chocolate, coffee, smart phones, international air travel, and everything else our economies produce? Any reasonable answer requires both empirical research and philosophical debate. Many consumer goods have cheap prices but are produced only by causing environmental damage and relying on abusive labor practices. What would the price of such goods be if all of these damages were prevented or remediated?

An emerging framework developed by researchers in The Netherlands provides standardized principles for calculating the true prices of goods. It’s already used by international companies like Tony’s Chocolonely, and many other businesses and policymakers are incorporating true price principles into their decision-making. In this lecture, based on a popular New Yorker story, learn how true prices are calculated, what assumptions are made by different models, and how true prices have the potential to transform our economies, reducing human suffering and protecting the natural world.

What Is a Living Wage?

The concept of a living wage originated in Progressive-Era America, and it’s enjoying a renaissance today. To say that workers deserve to earn enough to afford the basic necessities of life is no longer controversial, and a growing number of businesses of all sizes are making public commitments to paying a living wage.  There’s just one problem: people don’t agree on what defines a living wage in the first place.

The most influential living wage calculators today use far less generous definitions of a living wage than those from 100 years ago. Today, even ostensibly progressive living wage calculators exclude any savings for unexpected events, any vacation time, and even simple pleasures like occasional meals out in restaurants. Living wages, in short, do not let people live. What would it take to reform our concept and persuade businesses to pay true living wages? This lecture, based on an influential column in The New York Times, explores the answers.

Lessons from the World's First Job Guarantee

What would happen if any person who wanted to work was guaranteed a rewarding job with decent pay?  In a town just outside Vienna, Austria, this question is not theoretical: it’s the site of a Job Guarantee program being closely watched by economists and policymakers across Europe and around the world. Though often pitted as a rival against Universal Basic Income programs, Job Guarantees solve a different problem: They recognize that even with enough money, many people still value the structure and community provided by a meaningful and useful job.

In an age of increasing automation and deindustrialization, Job Guarantees are poised to become an increasingly important policy tool. In this lecture, based on an influential New Yorker story, learn results from the study in Austria, hear stories from participants, and learn about Job Guarantees’ prospects for adoption at different locations and scales around the world.

Lessons From The World's Largest Worker-Owned Cooperative

Worker-owned cooperatives are often dismissed as small, inefficient, and idealistic. The Mondragon cooperatives of northern Spain suggest something very different: that profit- sharing with workers and strict executive compensation limits are compatible with a flourishing, dynamic and internationally competitive network of businesses. Mondragon employs roughly 80,000 people, generates $12.2 billion in annual revenue, and has a fixed ratio between worker salaries and executive salaries of  6:1. This lecture explores the culture of Mondragon’s success and its lessons for other organizations around the world.

Using Investment Capital to Decrease Wealth Inequality

A growing number of investment funds are prioritizing a new strategy to combat wealth inequality: the cooperative takeover. Funds buy businesses on the point of transition, then convert them into some form of employee-ownership, thus sharing equity with the workers who help create it in the first place. This is one of the most direct and impactful ways for investors to decrease wealth inequality.

Multiple funds already pursue this strategy, but nearly all of them want more investors in order to scale more rapidly. In this lecture, learn how and why this tool has the potential to make ESG capable of actually delivering on its promises.

What Happens When Purposes, Not People, Own Businesses?

A growing number of retiring founders – as well as younger business owners – are transferring ownership of their businesses to a legal vehicle known as a perpetual purpose trust. This allows the business to preserve its values after founders retire and dethrones profit maximization as the goal of the business. Indeed, the purposes stipulated in these trusts typically include profit sharing with employees, stewardship of the environment, donations to nonprofits, and other prosocial goals. The trusts also protect these businesses from acquisition by private equity or strategic buyers. This lecture explores the power of perpetual purpose trusts to create a more humane and sustainable capitalism.

The Power of Participatory Budgeting In an Age of Democratic Decline

Every May in Cascais, Portugal, a coastal city of 200,000 twenty miles west of Lisbon, citizens gather at public meetings to discuss an issue generally surrendered to politicians: how to spend the municipal budget. Firefighters lobby for better trucks, middle schoolers pitch a new skate park and Wi-Fi at bus stops, and nurses ask for a fleet of vans to help with hospice care. People argue and debate the measures, and the most popular proposals, if they pass a feasibility study, are funded and implemented within three years. In Portugal and many other countries across Europe, this process, known as participatory budgeting, has become a central feature of urban politics in the last decade.

At a moment of historic distrust in institutions and erosion of democratic norms, participatory budgeting is a radically direct form of democracy in which people decide how their tax money is spent. This lecture summarizes the extensive research showing its power, shares stories and design tips from Portugal, and condenses key lessons for both governments and organizations interested in adopting participatory budgeting.

Romeo - The Alternative

The Alternative: How to Build a Just Economy

(Public Affairs, January 2024)