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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:

Bots are listening to your CEO’s conference callND

Simon Jemison, Bluenotes, Wednesday 16th July 2019

Natural language processing (NLP) is changing the way we operate. Algorithms, linked mostly to targeted advertising on social media, are now working on divining corporate speak from spin. Why read 20 pages or labour through a conference call when an algorithm can alert you when the company’s investment thesis is pivoting? Or when voice forensics suggests the sector’s top analyst has changed their view before the broker note hits the street? As Bloomberg’s chief equity strategist Gina Martin-Adams puts it, the future is likely to be “less about the narrative and more about the data”.

To read the full analysis go to Bluenotes

Culture matters. Now we can measure it.ND

MIT Sloan Management Review, July 2019

The Culture 500, together with MIT, has used more than one million reviews from Glassdoor to rank corporations along nine dimensions of company culture: agility, collaboration, customer, diversity, execution, innovation, integrity, performance and respect.

Follow this link to see the list, and compare the biggest corporations in the US.

Gender stereotypes banned in British advertisingND

Valeriya Safronova, The New York Times, Friday 14th June 2019

Scenes which play on gender stereotypes have now been banned in the UK, as a December announcement from Britain’s advertising regulator comes into effect. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority said in a statement that it will also ban ads that connect physical features with success in the romantic or social spheres; assign stereotypical traits to boys and girls, such as bravery for boys and tenderness for girls; suggest that new mothers should prioritize their looks or home cleanliness over their emotional health; and mock men for being bad at stereotypically “feminine” tasks, such as vacuuming, washing clothes or parenting. With the new guidelines, Britain will join countries like Belgium, France, Finland, Greece, Norway, South Africa and India, which have laws or codes of varying degrees and age that prevent gender discrimination in ads. Norway has had a law prohibiting sexism in ads since 1978. Companies are also reckoning with the problem of sexism in advertising by themselves too. In 2017, Unilever partnered with UN Women and a host of major corporations including Google, Johnson & Johnson and Mars, to create the Unstereotype Alliance, which seeks to educate people on how advertising perpetuates biases.

To read the full story click here

Social media are ruining political discourseND

Jay David Bolter, The Atlantic, May 2019

YouTube’s design to catch you and not let go, where it suggest related content endlessly, seems harmless enough when you’re simply watching movie trailers for half an hour instead of the five minutes you’d planned for. But what if you followed a link to a conspiracy video, which led you to one conspiracy video after another? False conspiracy theories often featured on YouTube can delude the public, but social media’s negative impact on the political process isn’t just down to their content – it’s also built on the structure of the applications they’re housed in. Propaganda has existed in some form or another since the invention of the printing press. It’s not new. But social media seem particularly susceptible to spreading disinformation. In large part this is due to the idea of ‘flow’ – a psychological idea adopted as a digital-design strategy by video games. Flow focuses on keeping the user moving from one element to the next, repetitively, in search of gratification from the act of consuming media rather than from engaging with its content. When programs such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are used for political messaging, they bring flow along into the political process, even if the messages they carry are truthful and non-conspiratorial. That makes these media a threat to coherent political discourse from the age of print. This has clear implications for corporations and their corporate public affairs teams.

To read the full story click here

The Investor RevolutionND

Robert G. Eccles & Svetlana Klimenko, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019 Edition

Most corporate leaders understand that businesses have a key role to play in tackling urgent issues like climate change. But in practice, investors, portfolio managers, and analysts rarely engage corporate executives on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. But the perception that ESG just hasn’t gone mainstream in the investment community is outdated. The authors of this article recently interviewed 70 senior executives at 43 global institutional investing firms and found that ESG was almost universally top of mind. Of course, it’s no secret that investors have been voicing concern about sustainability for decades. But not until recently has this translated into action. Most of the investment leaders in this study described meaningful steps their companies were taking to integrate sustainability issues into their investing criteria. From this, it’s clear that corporate leaders will soon be held accountable by shareholders for ESG performance – if they aren’t already.

To read the full results of the research click here

Europe sets strict conditions for return of 737 MaxND

Sylvia Pfeifer, Stefania Palma, Kiran Stacey & Patti Waldmeir, Financial Times, Thursday 23rd May 2019

The European Aviation Safety Agency has set out strict conditions before it will allow the troubled Boeing 737 Max aircraft back into the skies, according to a Financial Times report. EASA has told the US regulator, the Federal Aviation Authority, and Boeing it has three ‘pre-requisite conditions’, including demands that design changes for the plane are pre-approved by the European agency before it ends the plane’s grounding. The conditions set out by the EASA are a strong sign of growing tensions between global regulators following the Boeing 737 Max’s two high-profile and deadly crashes.

To read the full story click here

Future-proof your climate strategyND

Joseph E. Aldy & Gianfranco Gianfrate, Harvard Business Review Magazine, May-June 2019 Edition

The threat that climate change poses for companies is no longer theoretical. Businesses are working to protect their assets from extreme weather events, and more companies are figuring such ‘climate risk’ into their calculations. Investors are paying close attention. But there is a related threat that many haven’t fully taken in: carbon risk – the impact of climate-change policies on a company’s strategy and returns. As global warming worsens, companies can expect tougher government measures that will extract a growing price for their carbon emissions. These mechanisms could sideline the unprepared. This article describes the approach used by an increasing number of companies to brace for the future: internal carbon pricing. At its core, this involves setting a monetary value on the company’s emissions that reflects carbon prices outside the organisation. In 2017, nearly 1400 companies were actively using internal carbon pricing or planning to do so. The authors of the research note that by putting your own price on carbon, your company can better evaluate investments, manage risk, and forge strategy.

To read the full research and analysis click here

Virgin Australia cuts 737 Max 8 orderND

Jessica Gardner, The Australian Financial Review, Tuesday 30th April 2019

Virgin Australia, the country’s second largest airline, said Tuesday that it had restructured its order of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes with the embattled airplane manufacturer. Virgin has decided to convert 15 of the 737 Max 8s it had planned to take into the larger Max 10 model. This change will psh out the time at which Virgin receives the new planes from November 2019 to July 2021. New CEO Paul Scurrah made it a priority to address the status of the Boeing order after joining Virgin in March. "Safety is always the No. 1 priority for Virgin Australia. As we have previously stated, we will not introduce any new aircraft to the fleet unless we are completely satisfied with its safety," he said in a statement. "We are confident in Boeing’s commitment to returning the 737 Max to service safely and, as a long-term partner of Boeing, we will be working with them through this process. The new order will see 25 of the Max 10s delivered in two years, and a further 23 of the Max 8s are scheduled for delivery in February 2025.

For the full story click here

Regulators around the world are circling FacebookND

Cecilia Kang & Adam Satariano, The New York Times, Thursday 24th April 2019

After years of seeming disinterest and half-steps, regulators on four continents are preparing for a long-awaited showdown with Facebook. Mostly, they have the same goal: to change the social media company’s behaviour. Figuring out how is the hard part. Members of the Federal Trade Commission in the US are weighing what sorts of constraints they could put on Facebook’s business practices, but there is currently a lack of agreement on those terms within the F.T.C., according to two people familiar with the talks. This week, Facebook said it expected the agency would impose a fine of $3 billion to $5 billion (USD) for violations of a privacy settlement in 2011. That would be the highest penalty in the United States against a tech company. In Europe, officials in Britain, France, Germany and Ireland are scrutinising the social media company’s practices. Governments in Australia, India, New Zealand and Singapore have passed or are considering new restrictions on social media.

To read the full story click here

Google 'retaliating against harassment protest organisers'ND

BBC News, Wednesday 24th April 2019

Organisers of a series of walkouts in protest at Google’s treatment of women have said the company has since retaliated against them. In November, 20,000 employees walked out of their offices demanding several key changes in how sexual misconduct allegations were dealt with at Google. Now, in an internal email published by Wired, two of the employee activists who organised the protest have accused Google of retaliating against the organisers. Employee activist Claire Stapleton said she had faced demotion from her position as marketing manager since the protests, saying that her work was given to other people and she was told to take medical leave, despite not being sick. “Only after I hired a lawyer and had her contact Google did management conduct an investigation and walked back my demotion, at least on paper,” she said. “While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.” A Google representative said: “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganised to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.”

For the full story click here

Burger King pulls 'racist' chopsticks ad after outcry in ChinaND

Pei Li and Brenda Goh, The Australian Financial Review, Wednesday 10th April 2019

Burger King has pulled a promotional video in New Zealand showing customers trying to eat burgers with chopsticks following outcry from China, and demands for the US fast food to chain to apologise. The video posted on a New Zealand franchisee’s Instagram account showed Westerners with an oversized chopstick in each hand struggling to eat the company’s new ‘Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp Burger’. Burger King said it asked the franchisee to remove the video immediately. The video was deleted from the Instagram account by Tuesday afternoon. Social media users in China demanded an apology, saying the advertisement mocked Asian customs and dining etiquette. The hashtag ‘Burger King apology’ was viewed more than 50 million times on Sina Weibo by Tuesday afternoon.

For the full story click here

Britain proposes broad new powers to regulate internet contentND

Adam Satariano, The New York Times, Monday 8th April 2019

Britain has proposed sweeping new government powers to regulate the internet to combat the spread of violent and extremist content, false information and harmful material aimed at children. The recommendations take aim at Facebook, Google and other large internet platforms that policymakers believe have prioritised growth and profits over limiting harmful material. “The internet can be brilliant at connecting people across the world, but for too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement. “That is not good enough, and it is time to do things differently.” In response to the growing political backlash worldwide, internet companies have toughened their policies and hired tens of thousands of moderators to screen problematic material. But with billions of pieces of content being shared each day on services like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, deciphering what is harmful isn’t always an easy task, and governments have criticized the companies for not being aggressive enough.

To read the full story click here

As Boeing confronted a swelling crisis, it had little to sayND

David Gelles, The New York Times, Wednesday 27th March 2019

Boeing would appear to be well prepared to deal with a crisis, with its deep ties in Washington, its large spending on lobbying, and its Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg, who sits on the board of the Business Roundtable, an influential group that seeks to shape public policy. Yet in recent weeks, with increasing scrutiny, the company initially didn’t appear to have much to say. It issued brief statements, communicated quietly with the news media and government officials, and Mr Muilenburg stayed out of sight – his first substantial public comments coming in the form of a statement released more than a week after the crash in Ethiopia. “Their comments have been very engineering-esque,” said Richard Levick, founder of Levick, a Washington crisis communications firm. “There has been no human face to this.” “Boeing responded as a business-to-business company, but this has become a business-to-consumer issue,” Mr. Levick said. “Consumers now care about what plane they are on.” On March 18, Mr. Muilenburg released a statement and video expressing regret for the crashes and emphasizing Boeing’s commitment to safety. Days later, Boeing took out full-page advertisements in newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

To read the full story click here

EU decides against bloc-wide ban of Huawei in defiance of USND

Manabu Morimoto, Nikkei Asian Review, Wednesday 27th March 2019

The European Union has chosen to let each member nation decide whether to use equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies despite American demands to keep the company away from high-speed 5G networks. “EU member states have the right to exclude companies from their markets for national security reasons, if they don't comply with the country's standards and legal framework," the European Commission said in a nonbinding recommendation issued on Tuesday. The EU’s decision not to issue a bloc-wide ban could become another flashpoint in bilateral ties between the bloc and the US, after the US threatened to end intelligence sharing with any country using the company in fifth-generation wireless. The recommendation Tuesday did stress the need for greater security in 5G networks -- which could connect factories, self-driving cars and more. "Its cybersecurity is crucial for ensuring the strategic autonomy of the Union," said the recommendation.

For the full story click here

In search of the Holy Grail of trustND

Wayne Burns, Centre for Corporate Public Affairs Newsletter, Vol. 27 no. 1

Trust is a commodity in high demand, but not only is it too often conflated with reputation, it's also commonly taken for granted. The Centre's Executive Director Wayne Burns explores the art of gaining and maintaining trust in the feature article of the Centre's latest newsletter.
“If an organisation is perceived by stakeholders to have a high reputation across its reputation dimensions, trust and even respect may follow.”

To read the full article click here

Millions of Facebook passwords exposed internallyND

BBC News, Thursday 21st March 2019

Millions of Facebook users’ passwords were accessible by up to 20,000 employees of the site, it’s been reported. Security researcher Brian Kebs broke the news about the data protection failures, which saw up to 600 million passwords stored in plain text. In a statement, Facebook said it had now resolved a “glitch” that had stored passwords on its internal network. In a detailed expose, Mr Krebs said a Facebook source had told him about "security failures" that had let developers create applications that logged and stored the passwords without encrypting them. Commenting on Mr Krebs's story Facebook engineer, Scott Renfro said an internal investigation started after Facebook had uncovered the logs had not revealed any "signs of misuse". Facebook said it had discovered the issue in January as part of a routine security review, and that the investigation showed most people affected were users of Facebook Lite, which tends to be used in countries where the internet is slow. "We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users," the company told Reuters. The news caps a long period of trouble for Facebook over the way it handles and protects user data.

For the full story click here

British Panel Calls for Stricter Antitrust Rules on Tech GiantsND

Adam Satariano, The New York Times, Tuesday 12th March 2019

Britain has this week added its voice to the global backlash against the growing power of technology companies, as a British government report released on Wednesday affirmed that Big Tech is reducing consumer choice and harming innovation. The 150 page report said the country needed stricter rules on acquisitions in the technology industry and stronger oversight to make sure that new rivals cannot be squashed. Jason Furman, a professor of economic policy at Harvard and former economic advisor to President Barack Obama led the group behind the report, and he said that addressing insufficient competition in the tech industry “is one of the most important economic policy questions” in the world today. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren last week called for breaking up the largest tech companies, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Democrat making a White House bid, has proposed taxes and antitrust laws against the industry. Other countries in Europe have taken stands as well. France has proposed taxes on technology companies, while Germany passed a law against online hate speech.

For the full story click here

Businesses urged to ‘do more’ to win public contractsND

BBC News, Monday 11th March 2019

The UK government is set to announce that businesses looking to secure public sector contracts will need to do more to help improve society, with issues like modern slavery and climate change top of the list to tackle. The UK spends £49bn with outside organisations every year, and will also try to award more contracts to small firms. When drawing up public contracts, the government will now be looking at firms that employ people from diverse backgrounds, how companies reduce modern slavery and cyber security risks in their supply chains, businesses focused on environmental sustainability and companies that boost employees’ employability potential through staff training. "By making sure that these social values are reflected not just across the government, but through all the companies we work with, we will take a major step towards our goal of creating an economy that works for everyone," Cabinet Office minister David Lidington will say. Charity Anti-Slavery International has welcomed the UK's efforts to stamp out modern slavery, but it wants to see the government do even more. "At the moment big businesses are made to report slavery in the supply chain, but there are no penalties for either failing to submit the statement, or whether you report that it exists," Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for Anti-Slavery International told the BBC.

To read the full story click here

Goldman Sachs tells its bankers to loosen their necktiesND

Michael J. de la Merced, The New York Times, Wednesday 6th March 2019

Goldman Sachs told its employees on Tuesday that it planned to relax its dress code. In an internal memo, executives said they would adopt a ‘flexible’ dress code in keeping with the times. It’s the latest attempt by a Wall Street firm to cater to the young workers it tries to recruit. JP Morgan, a top competitor, made the leap to business casual nearly three years ago. “We want all of our clients to feel comfortable with and confident in our team, so please dress in a manner that is consistent with your clients’ expectations,” Goldman executives said in the memo. But efforts to embrace casual dress have been met with caution, as bankers fear being viewed as slackers for how they dress. Indeed, the memo itself urged some restraint. “Of course, casual dress is not appropriate every day and for every interaction,” they wrote in the memo. “We trust you will consistently exercise good judgment in this regard.”

To read the full story click here

Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America. The report of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and DemocracyND

The Aspen Institute, February 2019

The Knight Commission report focuses on the intersection of distrust in American democratic institutions and in the journalistic media. Worthwhile for any professional interested in the current climate of distrust, this report finishes with ten recommendations for journalism, technology and citizens, on how democratic governance can best be preserved throughout difficult times.

Read the report

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