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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:

CAA: Microsoft boss calls India's new citizenship law 'sad'ND

BBC News, Tuesday January 14, 2019

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has called India’s controversial new citizenship law “sad”, amid ongoing protests against the law that have become violent around India in recent weeks. Thousands of protesters have marched the streets of some of India’s biggest cities against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), criticising it for being discriminatory against Muslims as it only fast-tracks citizenship applications by non-Muslims from India’s neighbouring Muslim-majority nations. While speaking at a Microsoft event in New York, Mr Nadella said he envisages a different India: "I would love to see a Bangladeshi immigrant who comes to India and creates the next unicorn in India or becomes the next CEO of Infosys," he said. Following the event, Microsoft India issued a statement quoting Mr Nadella: “My hope is for an India where an immigrant can aspire to found a prosperous start-up or lead a multinational corporation benefitting Indian society and the economy at large.”

For the full story go to the BBC

Exxon wins New York climate change fightND

BBC News, Wednesday 11th December 2019

ExxonMobil has won a court battle in New York, after being accused of misleading investors about the costs of addressing climate change. The state argued the oil giant used two figures to calculate the risks of climate change, and thus misrepresented the cost in public disclosures. Exxon said the two figures served two different purposes, and a New York judge said the evidence supported this claim. Exxon had called the suit politically motivated, and hailed the victory. “Today’s ruling affirms the position ExxonMobil has held throughout the New York Attorney General’s baseless investigation,” it said. “We provided our investors with accurate information on the risks of climate change.” New York Attorney General Letitia James said that despite her loss in court, the case had forced Exxon to “answer publicly” about its decision-making related to climate change. “We will continue to fight to ensure companies are held responsible for actions that undermine and jeopardize the financial health and safety of Americans across our country, and we will continue to fight to end climate change,” she said in a statement.

For the full story go to the BBC

Nike employees stage protest as company reopens Alberto Salazar buildingND

The Guardian, Tuesday 10th December 2019

Hundreds of Nike employees staged a walkout in Beaverton, Oregon on Monday as the company reopened a building named after controversial athletics coach Alberto Salazar. Mr Salazar has been accused of humiliating and belittling female athletes, and last month admitted he had made “callous remarks” to athletes. “On occasion, I may have made comments that were callous or insensitive over the course of years of helping my athletes through hard training,” he told the Oregonian newspaper. “If any athlete was hurt by any comments that I have made, such an effect was entirely unintended, and I am sorry.” Despite the controversy surrounding Mr Salazar, Nike kept the coach’s name on the building during its renovation, and his image still features strongly around the facility. According to the Willamette Week, around 400 Nike employees marched through the Nike campus on Monday with signs reading “Just Do Better”, “Nike is a woman” and “We believe Mary”.

For the full story visit the Guardian

Green lawyers launch complaint over BP ad campaign amid ‘climate emergency’ND

Emily Beament, Belfast Telegraph UK, Tuesday December 3, 2019

Environmental legal charity ClimateEarth has triggered an official complaint against BP, claiming the company is misleading consumers about its low carbon credentials in advertising campaigns in the UK and elsewhere. The lawyers behind the complaint also said fossil fuel adverts should be banned unless they carry a planetary and person health warning, similar to those forced on the tobacco industry. “BP is spending millions on an advertising campaign to give the impression that it’s racing to renewables, that its gas is cleaner, and that it is part of the climate solution,” said Sophie Marjanac, ClientEarth climate lawyer. “While BP’s advertising focuses on clean energy, in reality, more than 96 per cent of the company’s annual capital expenditure is on oil and gas.” In a statement, a BP spokesperson said: “We have not seen this complaint, but we strongly reject the suggestion that our advertising is misleading. BP has clearly said that the world is on an unsustainable path and must do more to reduce emissions. We support a rapid transition of the world’s energy system.”

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Step up climate action or face catastrophe, says UN reportND

Barbara Bibbo, Al Jazeera, Wednesday 27th November 2019

Countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions well beyond current pledges in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to a United Nations report released on Tuesday. The annual Emissions Gap Report points out the United States and China, Russia and the European Union particularly as doing too little to tackle the climate crisis. "Emissions need to go down by 55 percent by 2030," said the report's colead author, John Christensen. "There is no way we are going to make it if we don't step up action as of next year with ambitious plans." The report states that even if all Paris commitments were implemented, temperatures would likely rise up to 3.2C this century, which would bring with destructive climate change. "Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions, over 7 percent each year," said Inger Andersen, the UN Environment Program's executive director.

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Activists Build a Grass-Roots Alliance Against AmazonND

David Streitfeld, The New York Times, Tuesday November 26, 2019

Athena, the grass-roots alliance formed to influence and rein in Amazon’s power, is now looking to unify the resistance movement against the tech giant. The coalition comprises three dozen grass-roots groups that are involved in issues like digital surveillance, antitrust and working conditions in warehouses. Pressure on Amazon’s practices have been mounting after a report from the Economic Roundtable – a non-profit research group from South California – investigated the impact of Amazon’s warehouses on communities. It calculated that Amazon trucks last year created $642 million in “uncompensated public costs” for noise, road wear, accidents and harmful emissions. Daniel Flaming, co-author of the Economic Roundtable report said: “Our conclusion is that it’s time for Amazon to come of age and pay its own way.” Previous grass-roots efforts led by labour and immigrant organisations to restrain Amazon’s power are now joining under Athena. “We’re learning from what makes Amazon back down and looking to replicate that as much as possible with as many people as possible,” said Dania Rajendra, Athena’s director.

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Easyjet to offset carbon emissions from all its flightsND

Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, Wednesday 20th November 2019

Easyjet announced on Tuesday it would offset carbon emissions from all its flights, becoming the world’s first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights across its network. The British budget airline said its plan would cost about £25m in the next financial year through schemes to plant trees or avoid the release of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “We recognise that offsetting is only an interim measure, but we want to take action on our carbon emissions now,” CEO Johan Lundgren said. “Aviation will have to reinvent himself as quickly as it can.” Pressure has been mounting for some time for the aviation industry to address its environmental impact, and EasyJet’s decision is a big step in maintaining the industry’s social license by one of the industry’s major players. “Customers increasingly expect companies to do something about it and it is fundamentally the right thing to do,” said Mr Lundgren.

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TikTok’s Chief Is on a Mission to Prove It’s Not A MenaceND

Raymond Zhong, The New York Times, Monday 18th November 2019

In recent months, TikTok has emerged as the refreshing weirdo upstart of the American social media landscape, reconfiguring the culture in its joyful, strange wake. But to some in the US government, it is a menace – namely because of the nationality of its owner, a seven-year-old Chinese social media company called ByteDance. Some in the government fear TikTok is exposing America’s youth to Communist Party indoctrination and smuggling their data to Beijing’s servers. This is what brought the company’s head, Alex Zhu, to Manhattan last week. In an interview – his first since taking over at TikTok this year – Mr Zhu denied key accusations levelled at the company: that TikTok censors videos that displease China, or that it sends data to China. He said all data is stored in Virginia, with a backup server in Singapore. But China is a murky place for companies, and many in Washington remain deeply suspicious of Chinese tech companies to a degree that can feel like paranoia, and that will continue to be an issue for companies like TikTok.

To read the full in-depth report click here

'Responsible thing to do': Qantas pledges zero net emissions by 2050ND

Patrick Hatch, The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday November 11, 2019

Qantas has pledged to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, making it the second airline group in the world to make this commitment. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the goals of the airline group – which includes budget carrier Jetstar – will cap net emissions at their current levels of around 12 million tonnes from 2020. Mr Joyce said airlines around the world have a responsibility to cut emissions as nine European Union (EU) states called for an aviation tax to make airlines pay a “fair price” for the pollution they produce, in a letter sent to the EU’s executive last week. Alternative jet fuel can cut emissions by as much as 80 per cent but currently it only makes up 0.01 per cent of global industry fuel use. Qantas has said it will spend $50 million on research and investment over the next 10 years to help develop a biofuel industry in Australia. "It won’t be a straight line to zero simply because the progress on biofuel and other technology won’t be linear, either. But there will be clear progress," Mr Joyce said.

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Google sued by the ACCC over alleged misuse of personal dataND

Stephen Letts, ABC News, Tuesday 29th October 2019

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has become the first regulator in the world to take on Google, as it sues the company over allegations it has been misleading consumers about the personal location data it collects, keeps and uses. In documents lodged with the court, the ACCC said Google misled consumers when it made on-screen representations about the location data it collected, and about continuing to collect and use personal data against consumers’ wishes. As such, the ACCC said, Google breached Australian law. "We are taking court action against Google because we allege that as a result of these on-screen representations Google has collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers' location without them making an informed choice," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

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Dissent Erupts at Facebook Over Hands-Off Stance on Political AdsND

Mike Isaac, The New York Times, Monday 28th October 2019

In a sign of growing internal resistance at the world’s biggest social network, a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, signed by more than 250 employees, decrying the company’s position on political advertising, has been publicly visible on Facebook Workplace for the past two weeks. Employees are unhappy about Mr Zuckerberg’s decision to let politicians post any claims they want – even if they are false – in ads on the site. Facebook has already been under increased scrutiny from US lawmakers in recent weeks, but the employee actions show that even employees are divided over Facebook’s policy. “Facebook’s culture is built on openness, so we appreciate our employees voicing their thoughts on this important topic,” Facebook spokeswoman Bertie Thomson said in a statement. “We remain committed to not censoring political speech, and will continue exploring additional steps we can take to bring increased transparency to political ads.”

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Exxon accused of misleading investors on climate changeND

BBC News, Tuesday October 22, 2019

American oil giant Exxon is set to face an unprecedented climate change lawsuit in New York this week after years of investigations into the company’s corporate practices. The state of New York is bringing forward a lawsuit in accusing the company of misleading investors about the potential costs of climate change regulation on its business. In a statement the state of New York said: "by representing that it was applying higher projected carbon costs than it was actually using, ExxonMobil made its assets appear significantly more secure than they really were, which had a material impact on its share price." Exxon does not dispute this claim but argues the calculations were "proprietary" and investors were not misled. "Reasonable investors who reviewed ExxonMobil's disclosures understood that climate risks factored into ExxonMobil's decision-making, which is all that could have mattered to them," the company said. Analysts said this case demonstrates the kind of methods governments are now using to keep firms accountable on prominent issues such as climate change.

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BHP boss Andrew Mackenzie most outspoken CEO on social issues, analysis findsND

Dominic Powell, The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday October 21, 2019

BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie’s stance on climate change makes him the most vocal corporate leader in Australia, according to media researcher Streem. The research – tracked from October 2018 to September 2019 – has Mr Mackenzie as the most quoted CEO in the media with 156 mentions with 112 of these relating to climate change. Some of the issues analysed included climate change, domestic violence, equality, sexual harassment, human rights, mental health, Indigenous issues and LGBTIQA issues. Mr Mackenzie has been an advocate of climate action for some time now. Just recently, BHP announced it would devote $500 million towards reducing its own emissions and customers' emissions. He also urged the government to put a price on carbon. Following him on the list of vocal CEOs was Qantas’ Alan Joyce and Woodside’s Pete Coleman. Climate change was also an issue frequently raised by Mr Joyce, while mentions of LGBTIQA issues ranked highest. In a speech to the National Press Club last month, Mr Joyce said companies refraining from weighing in on social issues was 'bad for democracy'. The survey comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison told chief executives not to be "distracted" by issues such as climate change.

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Bank of England boss says global finance is funding 4C temperature riseND

Richard Partington, The Guardian, Wednesday October 16, 2019

The governor of the Bank of England has delivered a stark warning to international capital markets over the financing of carbon-producing projects that will lift global temperatures by more than four degrees this century. Mark Carney, the governor of Britain’s central bank suggested companies had secured financing from investors in the market worth around US $85 trillion for stocks and US $100 trillion for bonds that will raise the planet’s temperature well above the two degrees agreed on in the Paris Agreement. Governor Carney’s intervention comes after some investment companies have analysed the effects of carbon-linked assets in their portfolios. The risks associated with this dramatic rise in temperatures include a 9-metre rise in sea levels which will affect up to 760 million people. “The contribution of manufacturing or an industrial company in terms of lowering their carbon footprint over the next decade, a big reduction in that, can be as significant if not more significant than further development in the short term on renewables,” Governor Carney said to MPs on the Commons Treasury committee.

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Hong Kong Protesters Are Targeting Starbucks. Apple Could Be Next.ND

Edward Wong, The New York Times, Tuesday October 15, 2019

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong are now singling out companies that are sympathetic with the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. Information is being circulated on apps and websites used by protesters to identify companies that are soft on China. Sometimes the stories of the companies are simply based on rumours or even comments made by executives and their families. Businesses in Hong Kong are being increasingly caught between the two sides, as they often try to avoid offending both China and Hong Kong activists. “All corporations here are walking on eggshells when it comes to what they say, whether it’s about Hong Kong or about the mainland,” said David Webb, a shareholder activist in Hong Kong. At a Starbucks branch in Hong Kong, protesters used hammers and a fire extinguisher to smash glass shelves, while others threw plates and trays on the ground. Activists have also called for protests at Apple stores after the company removed an app that showed the location of police officers. It is unclear whether the backlash against global brands will result in sustained financial damage.

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Aerospace industry seeks Brexit reassuranceND

Faisal Islam, BBC, Friday October 11, 2019

As negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union draw to a head, the UK’s leading aerospace industry body has sought reassurance from the British government over its commitment to EU regulatory institutions after Brexit. The peak industry body is growing increasingly worried about regulatory alignment across Europe and the ability to bring products to market after a Brexit deal is made. They have asked that the UK continue to be a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), after previous negotiations between the May Government and the EU made such assurances. The British government is facing criticism from key manufacturers amid growing industrial concern that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s negotiators have dropped existing commitments to participate in vital EU regulatory institutions. The letter sent to Cabinet Ministers said the failure to continue its membership with EASA will result in "huge new costs and disruptions to many of our member companies." A government spokesperson said: "Where necessary, the government will pursue additional agreements to cover areas outside traditional FTAs - for example, on aviation and civil nuclear cooperation."

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BHP adds ‘social value’ into its business planningND

Neil Hume, Financial Times, Wednesday 9th October, 2019

Ahead of an investor briefing in London, BHP has announced that its Anglo-Australasian group will add a social value assessment to the business plans of all its assets. BHP’s Chief External Affairs Officer, Geoff Healy said: “In order to deliver financial value, you have to deliver social value… This is just good, sensible business.” The announcement comes after America’s Business Roundtable dropped the “shareholder first” mantra for the first time in over fifty years last month. The Roundtable, which represents 181 of the world’s largest companies agreed to consider communities, the environment and employees alongside profit. The need to maintain a social license is crucial in the mining industry as it navigates changing community expectations. BHP’s CEO Andrew McKenzie’s tenure has been marked by a more aggressive approach on the environment. In July, Mr. McKenzie said the company would set public goals to reduce greenhouse emissions.

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NBA boss Adam Silver defends freedom of speech amid China rowND

BBC News, Wednesday 9th October 2019

The National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States has defended free speech after the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protests. The tweet caused an uproar among basketball fans in China, while his attempt to backtrack upset American fans who support the protests. NBA boss Adam Silver issued a statement saying: “The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues." Mr Silver told reporters later he’d be travelling to Shanghai to "find mutual respect" with officials. Many have called the NBA’s move bold, given the financial clout of China. Mark Dreyer, an expert on China’s sport industry tweeted: "The vast majority of foreign companies apologize profusely at the first sign of discontent from Chinese consumers, which makes the NBA's response all the more remarkable."

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Nissan’s Crisis Goes Much Deeper Than Carlos GhosnND

Noriko Hayashi, The New York Times, Tuesday 8th October 2019

An external law firm investigating Nissan over its former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s compensation has now found Hari Nada - the insider behind the chairman’s departure - had improperly overpaid himself. It was found Mr. Nada received about $280,000 in “unjust enrichment” during 2017. A senior Nissan compliance officer planned to share the findings with the company’s board of directors, but no information was ever shared. In the weeks after the findings, Nissan sidelined two in-house counsels after they warned the company Mr. Nada was still influencing inquiries into the company’s problems. The findings now raise questions about the credibility of witnesses against Mr. Ghosn, who has been charged of trying to conceal his pay level from regulators in Japan. The future of the Japanese manufacturer remains uncertain, with some members of its own board being left in the dark.

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Why you should write down your company’s unwritten rulesND

Karen Niovitch Davis, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday 8th October 2019

Unwritten rules are ingrained in the corporate world, but if they’re not regularly revisited to ensure continuing alignment with the organisation’s goals, they can turn from a positive force to a destructive one. Elon Musk for years inspired his employees and shareholders with his charisma and bold vision in his quest for dominance with Tesla and SpaceX. However, sometimes the CEO’s actions brought unwelcomed attention. After several questionable public decisions such as tweeting about a private takeover of Tesla and his infamous podcast with Joe Rogan, NASA - which now works with SpaceX - ordered a workplace culture and safety review of the company. All these actions signal to employees what kind of leader they’re following and what kind of company they’re working for. Here’s how leaders can assess unstated rules, behaviours and expectations to improve their organisation: write out the unwritten rules, challenge your accepted norms and overcommunicate when the goalposts move.

For the full story click here

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