Knowledge Centre:
News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

China, other developing BRICS nations seek change in global economic orderND


Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, 15 April 2011

As the US and Europe are recovering from the 2008 recession, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), are uniting in voice to demand global economic restructuring. Demands include an end to the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, change in authorities and rules within the WTO, IMF and UN Security Council. Their first action is their joint agreement on having their development banks provide credit to one another, in form of local currencies, not in U.S. dollars. For more information see www.washingtonpost.com

Sparking creativity in teams: an executive’s guideND


Maria Capozzi, Renee Dye and Amy Howe, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2011

The key to generating creativity is to focus on changing peoples’ perceptions, which involves constantly exposing ourselves to new things. In a corporate environment, this can involve strategies such as looking at products from a consumer perspective and considering competitors’ strategies. Executives also need to challenge their established assumptions regarding their customers, industry norms and existing business models. For more information see www.mckinseyquarterly.com

The rise of SRI and what it means in MalaysiaND


Sharmel Ali, CSR-Asia, 13 April 2011

SRI — socially responsible investing — is a rising trend in investment practices that aims to maximise financial return and social good. While investors choose a broad range of issues to invest in, there are various criteria that investors look for; including transparency and strong governance. The demand for SRI in Malaysian business is growing. Bursa Malaysia is planning to launch an environmental, social and corporate governance index by 2012. Eventually, it is hoped that increased SRI will have a positive impact on national economic growth, and will drive long-term sustainability practices in companies. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

How the ivy league is killing innovationND


G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Viton, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 April 2011

Companies that rely on professors to teach innovation may be missing the real benefits of innovation. Courses taught by professors tend to be process-driven, while what is actually needed for companies to foster innovation is to encourage ‘fast-failures and messiness’. Innovation is best fostered through constant experimentation, which can be learnt through examining the practices of entrepreneurs. For more information see www.businessweek.com

No wins with bullies at workND


Andrew Quilty, Australian Financial Review, 12 April 2011

Companies are being forced to take bullying seriously, with courts awarding high level of compensation in successful cases and the Victorian government recently passing legislation allowing for a jail sentence of up to 10 years for bullies. Given the media attention surrounding bullying, more employees are seeking legal remedies, however they don’t often recognise the hidden costs of litigation, including cost and the difficulty of returning to their workplace. Workers typically have little faith in their companies’ human resources procedures to deal with bullying, instead either choosing to leave the corporation or transferring to a different sector within the company. For more information see www.afr.com

Schools set global track, for students and programsND


Diana Middleton, Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2011

Having recognised the increasing importance of globalisation, most business schools now offer some global aspects as part of their business programme. The aim of this global focus is both to prepare students for overseas work, as well as to raise the international profile of the business school. While some schools have established international campuses, alliances with foreign schools might be a more cost-effective means of ensuring this global component. However there has been some criticism concerning whether or not the efforts of business schools are sufficient in preparing students for overseas work. For more information see www.wsj.com

Talent alone does not make a leaderND


John Baldoni, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 12 April 2011

Leadership qualities should be the major criterion for selecting managers, not just individual excellence. To ensure a candidate has leadership qualities, it is useful to ask three questions. How does the candidate measure success? Success should not be seen as an individual task but something achieved by working through others. Can they contribute to the development of others? Leaders must be able to identify and enhance individual strengths of the team and converge them to achieve results. Finally, have they earned the respect of others? Co-workers’ opinions are invaluable in informing whether the candidate takes initiative and responsibility for results. A true leader is able to help others achieve more than they might have individually. For more information see www.businessweek.com

A meeting of mindsND


Sarah Murray, Financial Times, 11 April 2011

In recent years there has been an increasing number of partnerships between NGOs and businesses. However a new trend is now emerging, seeing the formation of partnerships between NGOs and business schools, with schools recognising the potential of NGOs to inform the content for social and environment related classes. Past collaborations between these sectors has involved informal partnerships and internship programs. While there are risks involved in the partnership, for example the risk of transmuting political motives into course content, it is likely that these partnerships will grow in the future. For more information see www.ft.com

Finding top talent in China, India, Brazil ND


Joann S. Lublin, Wall Street Journal, 11 April 2011

China, India and Latin America are experiencing a shortage of executive talent, with competition for talent becoming fierce. Foreign multinationals based in Brazil are looking in particular for executives who can go beyond simply following headquarters’ orders, and can add value in terms of the strategy. In India, companies are looking for executives that have the ability to navigate between the global and domestic market. While executives operating in these companies may be able to earn considerably more than their counterparts in the developed world, the talent pool for these types of executives is quite small. For information see www.wsj.com

India must create its own research cultureND


Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, Financial Times, 11 April 2011

Although India has established reputable business management schools such as the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs), these institutions are failing to provide innovative ideas. The key to improving these schools is to produce new research, thereby building their reputation as innovative institutions. However to do this, India needs to build a research culture, which includes providing support to trained faculty members, providing research support, and adjusting teaching load. For more information see www.ft.com

Delhi’s mixed message on FDIND


Wall Street Journal, 8 April 2011

In the past, strict regulations have made it difficult for investors in India to operate, thus discouraging investment. However the government has recently introduced new legislation designed to loosen the legal regulations governing investment. These regulations will hopefully create certainty for investors, thus encouraging increased investment. However, at the same time, the government has demonstrated reluctance to allow investors access into India, where investment projects are perceived to threaten the ‘national interest’. Investors are, as such, getting a mixed message from the Indian government, which the government needs to rectify if it hopes to attract investors to fuel economic growth. For more information see www.wsj.com

Climate change, poverty reduction and business — can dialogue platforms break down barriers for engagement? ND


Leena Wokeck, CSR Asia, 6 April 2011

Climate change has been identified as the most pressing CSR issue for business, yet there has been little progress towards formulating long-term climate adaptation strategies. Stakeholders are, however, increasing their pressure on businesses to assist those who are most vulnerable to climate change, and to assume a more proactive role in developing the capacities of these vulnerable communities. Companies should not forget this opportunity to tap into new markets to build their corporate reputation. For more information see www.csr-asia.com

Rush to use crops as fuel raises food prices and hunger fearsND


Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, 6 April 2011

Biofuels are catching on in the developed world as a green technology, with many developed countries passing laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels. As such there has been a rapid increase in the rate exports in developing countries of crops used to produce biofuel such as corn, sugar and palm oil, as well as a huge surge in the price of these crops. While biofuels present a valid alternative to fossil fuels, the products used to make biofuels often form the basis of average diet in developing countries. Consequently, the increase in the price of these crops has led to large food insecurities, which will undoubtedly go on to cause political instabilities and regional conflicts. For more information see www.nytimes.com

India graduates millions, but too few are fit to hireND


Geeta Anand, Wall Street Journal, 5 April 2011

There is a perception that well-educated students from India are challenging the job security of middle class workers in the West. However poor teaching standards and inadequate English communication skills are negatively impacting on the potential of Indian graduates to gain employment both internationally and domestically. Despite the skills deficit, government leaders are far from engaging in education reform. This has significant implications, as economic growth has boosted employment availability in India, however there is a lack of skilled graduates to fill these places. Additionally, the poor educational standards of many graduate schools has resulted in many students becoming disillusioned, as they have invested heavily in their education only to find that they are unable to secure employment. For more information see www.wsj.com

Japan rebuild must focus on region’s potentialND


Robin Harding, Financial Times, 5 April 2011

Following previous disasters, Japan’s reconstruction efforts have largely focused on simply rebuilding the infrastructure that has been damaged. However given the destruction caused by the recent tsunami combined with the fact that the regions hit were already in decline, Japanese authorities are instead realising that reconstruction plans need to be reviewed to accord with the region’s changing economic dynamics. A ‘reconstruction planning conference’ is being scheduled to bring experts and local leaders together to conceive a plan to develop the region, with plan focusing on creating a sustainable economy and possibly incorporating social security and environmental concerns. For more information see www.ft.com

Vietnam to raise minimum wage by 14 per centND


Ben Bland, Financial Times, 5 April 2011

Authorities in Vietnam are set to raise the public sector minimum wage by 14 per cent as a means of combating rising inflation rates in Asia. Approximately one third of Vietnam’s salaried workforce is engaged in the public sector. However private sector companies are also coming under intense pressure by factory workers and trade unions to increase wages to address higher living costs, with the rate of unofficial strikes having risen recently. While increased wages will somewhat alleviate the hardships for workers, several economists have warned that increasing civil service wages will add to inflationary pressures. For more information see www.ft.com

Broken links — Japan and the global supply chainND


The Economist, 31 March 2011

Japan’s recent spate of natural disasters has been a significant strain on the global supply change. Given Japan’s control on certain markets such as the resin needed in smartphones and the polymer needed in iPods, the impact of the disruption of the supply change will be extensive. As such, manufactures are scrambling to find alternative suppliers, which has caused a surge in prices. The disasters will likely prompt changes in the way that manufacturers manage their operations. For more information see www.economist.com

The tobacco industry — the last gapND


The Economist, 31 March 2011

Western tobacco firms have not experienced much success in the Indian and Chinese markets. As such, companies are now looking towards South East Asian countries, particularly Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesia has one of the world’s least regulated markets, and is one of the few Asian countries that haven’t ratified the World Health Organisation’s treaty on tobacco control. Additionally, the tobacco industry in Indonesia provides about 10 per cent of the government’s revenue and provides millions of jobs. Consequently, despite the health risk posed by smoking, Indonesia, and many other small developing countries, are unlikely to impose strict regulations on the tobacco industry given the potential for revenue generation and employment. For more information see www.economist.com

Why sustainability is winning over CEOsND


Duane Stanford, Bloomberg Businessweek, 31 March 2011

Business managers are coming to recognise the cost-saving potential of engaging in sustainable business practices. These practices involve ideas such as using recyclable packaging to reduce shipment weights and consequently transportation costs. The directors of PepsiCo’s Walkers potato chip plant have plans to reuse the steam produced in chip production to clean equipment and wash potatoes, thereby creating a sustainable cycle and reducing manufacturing costs significantly. There are various other sustainable, cost-saving business practices being pursued by different companies. For more information see www.businessweek.com

Seven steps to better brainstormingND


Kevin Coyne and Shawn Coyne, McKinsey Quarterly, March 2011

Despite perceptions that brainstorming sessions are not useful, if approached properly they can be constructive. An innovative approach to brainstorming, termed ‘brainsteering’, involves a more rigourous process, but more rewarding outcomes. Participants should be informed as to the organisations decision-making criteria before beginning the process, and questions should be informed and specific. Organisers should take care to select their participants carefully, and should break the process into a number of focused sessions to ensure that discussions are productive. At the conclusion of the process, the ideas generated at the session should be submitted to higher-level executives, though the participants should be kept informed as to the implementation of their ideas. For more information see www.mckinsleyquarterly.com

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