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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:

Top CEOs, directors call for clearer COVID-19 PlanND

Emma Koehn and Elizabeth Knight, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 6, 2020

Senior executives of some of Australia’s largest companies have called for governments to provide a clearer long-term blueprint for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. “I would say that all business leaders a looking for a plan, and a plan that takes us through multiple sets of circumstances,” said Virgin Australia CEO, Paul Scurrah. Similarly, Chief Executive of nib Group, Mark Fitzgibbon, said “we need to learn to live with the threat” and government must “err on the side of caution,” when making decisions about restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus. Mr Fitzgibbon also said that he was increasingly concerned about the situation in the United States as “America is a major source of investment and trade, and I think potentially difficulties in America have much as an impact as domestic decisions.” To solve economic problems in our domestic market, “the thing we have to do differently is to promote investment.” Mr Murray also recommended that the government should increase sponsorship of serious national projects to lift employment and add value to the economy for the long-term.

To read more go to The Sydney Morning Herald

Corporate Social Responsibility: Consumers Will Remember Companies That Led in 2020ND

Karen B. Moore, Forbes, July 31, 2020

The impact of coronavirus, along with economic, social and political upheaval across the United Sates, is ushering in a new era for corporate social responsibility (CSR). Consumers have long demanded that companies contribute to the greater good of society through their business practices and by leveraging their influence. The recent calls for racial justice have solidified the idea that CSR must be ingrained into every level of business, writes Karen Moore, a council member from Forbes. She explains that CSR can power profitability, and if done right, people will appreciate and remember companies that stepped up to lead in 2020 and beyond. She recommends that to achieve this: businesses act as problem solvers, be authentic and transparent, encourage employee-led engagement, and evolve their solutions to socio-political issues. She explains: “As CSR continues to evolve, we are seeing consumers demand more action, transparency and measurable impact.”

To read more go to Forbes

How to Build a Company That (Actually) Values IntegrityND

Robert Chesnut, July 30, 2020

An ethical revolution is taking place within the corporate sector. For decades, business leaders were expected to focus merely on financial results. However, leaders are today obliged to adopt multi-stakeholder approaches that serve both social purposes as well as investor demands. To inspire their workforces and stay proactive, business author, Robert Chesnut, recommends that businesses must: lead by example; develop their own codes and ethics plan; talk about what they are doing; create a culture where employees know how to report violations; investigate ethical violations; be creative and create an environment that is open; and create messaging that is authentic and resonates with consumers.

To read more go to Harvard Business Review

Australia Post sets new, ambitious environmental targetsND

Australia Post, Australia Post Newsroom, July 30, 2020

Australia Post has announced that its 2020 environmental targets have been a success, reducing carbon emissions by 25 per cent and diverting 100,000 tonnes of material from landfill. The organization also pledged to increase its recycling rate by 2025. “Since 2000 we have reduced our carbon emissions by 25 per cent. But there is always more to do, so we’ve set ambitious new targets that help us continue to drive a sustainable future for all Australians,” Australia Post’s Executive General Manager (Community and Consumers), Nicole Sheffield, said. Australia Post also announced that under its new environmental targets, the organization will see a 15 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025.

To read more go to Australia Post Newsroom

Barclays: We want our people back in the officeND

BBC News, July 29, 2020

Barclays wants employees working from home as a result of the pandemic, and to return to the office over a period of time, according to the company’s Chief Executive, Jes Staley. 60,000 Barclays staff were working from home, with another 20,000 working in offices, branches and call centres. However, not all banks are taking the same approach, with NatWest telling more than 50,000 of its staff that they could continue to work from home until next year. "We want our people back together, to make sure we ensure the evolution of our culture and our controls, and I think that will happen over time," says Mr Staley. Staley's comments reflect government plans to encourage more people to return to their workplaces from next month, as part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes will be a "significant return to normality" by Christmas.

To read more go to BBC

Dubai Chamber: Prioritizing CSR Initiatives Made Businesses Respond Better To The COVID-19 CrisisND

Entrepreneur Middle East Staff, Entrepreneur, July 29, 2020

Businesses in Dubai that prioritized corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have been able to better respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as per a recent study carried out by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Centre for Responsible Business. The survey, conducted in May and June 2020, showed that giving importance and adhering to institutional guidelines on employee health, safety and wellbeing, has helped the business community in responding maturely to the crisis and ensuring business continuity. Over 70 per cent of surveyed organizations reported that their board of directors are involved with CSR initiatives. Improving the community was the top motivating factor behind CSR initiatives.

To read more go to Entrepreneur

A Company Backs a Cause. It Funds a Politician Who Doesn’t. What Gives?ND

Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times, July 21, 2020

An examination of political spending over the past decade shows how some of America’s biggest public companies, and other Fortune 500 corporations, quietly funded political efforts that are antithetical to their public stances. For example, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) found that Microsoft, which says it supports sustainability, provided money to the Republican Governors Association, which funnelled money to help elect a candidate who reduced emissions standards for the oil and gas industry. The analysis, conducted by the CPA also found that public companies are the biggest benefactors of key political committees supporting the campaigns, donating more than individuals or other lobby groups. Companies aren’t paying attention, they give to these groups and that’s essentially where their due diligence stops,” says CPA President, Bruce Freed. Of the $1.3 billion raised over the past decade by the Democratic and Republican associations, state legislative campaign committees and attorneys general associations, the CPA has found that nearly $600 million came from public companies.

To read more go to The New York Times

Apple, Ford, McDonald’s, Microsoft Among This Summer’s Climate LeadersND

Tom Murray, Forbes, July 21, 2020

The challenges facing the world over the past few months have redefined corporate leadership, calling on businesses to help rebuild a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future. The main call for change comes as a growing number of voices demand a goal of achieving net zero emissions. In response, nine leading companies have announced a new initiative to accelerate progress towards a net zero future. Companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Unilever, Microsoft and Starbucks are all joining together in an effort to propel corporate climate commitments into action. In collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, the group of nine companies plans to develop a publicly available roadmap to help businesses deliver on their net zero commitments.

To read more go to Forbes

Apple's 2030 carbon-neutral pledge covers itself and suppliers ND

Leo Kelion, BBC, July 21, 2020

Apple has announced that it pledges to become carbon neutral across its entire business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030. It looks to become 100 per cent renewable within ten years, reducing its current carbon footprint by a further 75 per cent before the 2030 deadline. This comes as the company also announced the creation of a consortium involving Nike, Starbucks and Mercedes-Benz to share information on carbon-reducing technologies. “Some of the investment we’re making is to work with suppliers to convince their own governments to put more clean energy on the grid,” said Apple’s environment chief, Lisa Jackson. To do this, the company will increase the use of recycled raw materials in its products and develop a new carbon-free aluminium-smelting process. It will also invest in environmental projects and work on eco-friendly energy initiatives to benefit local communities. “I am happy to see that Apple has worked with suppliers to source actual renewable energy and that it has not relied on low-impact solutions like offsetting, or renewable energy credits,” says Greenpeace USA’s senior corporate campaigner, Elizabeth Jardim, in response to Apple’s pledge.

To read more go to BBC

With coronavirus and bushfires, Australia is in the perfect conditions for fake news to flourish. Here's how you tackle itND

Elly Duncan and Ruby Cornish, The Drum, July 19, 2020

Since the start of the year, Australia’s demand for news has surged. Nearly half of a group of participants surveyed by the News and Media Research Centre, get their news online. However, the first six months of 2020 have been defined by immense change, and a rise in ‘fake news,’ according to Anne Kruger, Australia-Pacific lead for global fact-checker First Draft News. Kruger explains, in respect to a spike in fake news surrounding COVID-19, that: “Coronavirus is easy, because there’s so much fear that can be tapped into.” Likewise, as technology develops, fake news is getting more sophisticated. However, to stamp out misinformation, Kruger recommends looking at the language being used, going beyond our tendency to share content that evokes an emotional reaction, and looking at ‘who’ is the person sharing and ‘what’ have they posted or shared in the past.

To read more about how to tackle this issue go to ABC’s The Drum

Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to SustainabilityND

Marc Lepere and Giana Eckhardt, Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 16, 2020

To build sustainability, business leaders must partner with government and society to re-focus their companies on new forms of market exchange, explain Marc Lepere and Giana Eckhardt. New sustainability plans have meant that business leaders can refocus government policy and social needs to create sustainable products and outputs. However, change always is met with some resistance, namely, employees accustomed to working practices and managers vested in operational procedures. To ‘de-risk’ the political process, Lepere and Eckhardt recommend: attracting ESG capital to your firm, creating an industry tipping point through collective leverage, and building a consensus around the need for organisational change to better engage with competitors, regulators and peers. Likewise, a good recovery for companies post-COVID-19 will recognise consumer and societal expectations of the need to tackle much larger, dynamic crises of climate change and socio-economic inequality. To become sustainable, business leaders must adapt and re-focus expectations that improve environmental and social impacts in-line with long-term ESG investing and government collaboration.

To read more go to Stanford Social Innovation Review

Businesses ‘more concerned’ now about Hong Kong security lawND

Eric Cheung and Laura He, CNN Business, July 13, 2020

Businesses are fearing the implications that will potentially be brought about by Hong Kong’s controversial national security law. The law was passed at the end of last month, and according to a new survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce, more than 68 per cent of businesses in Hong Kong said they were “more concerned” than a month ago. About half of the companies that responded were American, and 35 per cent have headquarters in Hong Kong. The survey reveals that companies are most worried about the ambiguity of the new legislation. Particularly, the independence of the judicial system, Hong Kong’s status as an international business hub, concerns over data security, the removal of the country’s autonomy, and the potential for other governments to retaliate with tariffs and export controls. Some respondents said that the potential for arbitrary application of the new law is “frightening” as the uncertainty could hinder investment and talent flows to the city. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they will wait and see before making any significant move in their business strategy. “I believe international firms will slowly leave the city for other headquarter cities in Asia. Maybe it takes 20 years, but Hong Kong will become another Chinese city,” one respondent said.

To read more go to CNN Business

Research: How Corporate Boards in Asia Can Improve GovernanceND

Sunil Puri, Harvard Business Review, July 13, 2020

Boards in Asia are still lacking adequate leadership, supervision and oversight, a recent study has revealed. The study, based on 109 interviews and 350 surveys of board directors of mid-to-large size organisations, found Asian corporate boards are underprepared to deal with cultural pressure and concentrated ownership structures. To succeed, companies will have to focus on strengthening and empowering their corporate boards, explains Sunil Puri, Head of Research (Asia-Pacific) at the Center for Creative Leadership. Sunil Puri also explains that to overcome governance issues: boards in Asia will need to understand how external and internal governance maturity will impact their firm; engage board members to learn; build a collaborative culture; curate a diverse team; and measure performance and evaluate role expectations. Board leaders must also regularly engage in capability development, particularly refining their self and strategic leadership skills.

To read more go to Harvard Business Review

Microsoft and Zoom join Hong Kong data ‘pause’ND

Leo Kelion, BBC, July 7, 2020

Microsoft and Zoom have stated they will not process data requests made by the Hong Kong authorities following a national security law passed on the 30th June. They follow Facebook, Google and Twitter in ‘pausing’ data processing requests. Under these new rules, local authorities can jail employees of internet companies for up to six months if they fail to comply with requests for user data. Microsoft directly offers its Office 365 work app and LinkedIn platforms to Hong Kong residents. Zoom also has ties to China, with most of its product development workers based in mainland China. Both companies have opted to conduct a review. A spokesperson from Zoom criticised the new laws, stating: “Zoom supports the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas.” Similarly, a spokesperson from Microsoft explained: “We a reviewing the new law to understand its implications.”

To read more go to BBC

TikTok to exit Hong Kong ‘within days’ND

Karishma Vaswani, BBC, July 7, 2020

Video sharing platform, TikTok, has said it will quit Hong Kong after China imposed a new national security law giving local authorities sweeping online censorship and surveillance powers. In a bid to change its global image, the Beijing-based company has consistently refused to hand over data to Chinese authorities arguing intervention raises concerns about data privacy. Critics of the new law, also say it erodes Hong Kong’s freedoms as a semi-autonomous region, including freedom of speech. TikTok has released a statement denouncing the new laws, stating: “We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked.”

To read more go to BBC

Investors pivot to conscious investing in 2020: How markets are adaptingND

Steve Chiavarone and Martin Jarzebowski, CNBC, July 3, 2020

Investors are becoming more socially conscious in choosing where to put their money. How the public and private sectors react to the issues surrounding racial disparity and a collective response to COVID-19 will have an impact on redefining our social contract, according to Steve Chiavarone and Martin Jarzebowski, from asset management firm, Federated Hermes. For investors, the success or failure of certain companies is being determined by their ability to have sound continuity plans and purposeful leadership. New Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) factors, and long-term trade tension with China have also created macro risk considerations that should be considered when seeking long-term value in an investment.

To read more go to CNBC

Lego pulls ads on Facebook over 'hate speech’ND

Jane Wakefield, BBC, July 1, 2020.

Lego has joined Target, Ford, Adidas, Coca Cola, Starbucks and Unilever in pulling its advertising from Facebook. The company will pause paid advertising for at least 30 days as part of the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign. This comes after a pledge to join the fast-growing advertising boycott to end hate speech across social media, following the Black Lives Matter protests. Lego’s Chief Marketing Officer, Julia Goldin, said that the company is committed to: “contributing to a positive, inclusive digital environment free from hate speech, discrimination and misinformation." Facebook has responded to the boycott stating its artificial intelligence already roots out 90% of hate speech. The company also explained it will be teaming up with experts and civil rights groups to find new ways to mitigate divisive posts on its platforms.

To read the full story go to BBC

15 Key Considerations For Businesses When Commenting On Political Or Social MattersND

Expert Panel, Forbes, June 30, 2020

Traditionally, the rule of thumb for businesses when it came to political or social issues was to ignore them. However, as the world becomes more politically aware of situations that influence everyday life, socio-political issues have now become a major aspect of a company’s public relations effort. An expert panel from the Forbes Agency Council have set out a 15-point plan of what businesses should take into consideration when commenting on social or political issues. Amongst their list, the panel advises that businesses should not force messaging that does not align with their brand; encourages businesses to embrace controversial content; understand consumer perception; be mindful and fair; and support causes that will resonate with customers.

To read the full list go to Forbes

Employee Engagement Is Demanding Corporate Social Responsibility - How To Read ItND

Joan Michelson, Forbes, June 28, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic, social justice protests, climate change, and economic shutdown have forced a shift in the way big corporations do business. These have also demanded that when it comes to employees, retention relies on aligning values, transparency and measurable social responsibility. Joan Michelson explains that employers must adapt to treat their employees well during these current crises and beyond.

To read the full story go to Forbes

Corporations Need To Step Up To Real Social ResponsibilityND

Dr. Augustine Fou, Forbes, June 25, 2020

With consumers being more ‘connected’ than ever before, social responsibility should be a cornerstone of any company’s corporate program. As the bar of good social responsibility is being raised higher, corporations will need to do more than just act in ‘socially responsible’ ways. Corporations will need to review their media spending, particularly in digital, and create sustainable plans for the future that ensure those media dollars don’t support hate and disinformation and do support real news and good publishers, according to Dr Augustine Fou. Dr Fou argues: “No longer is it good enough to make TV ads telling everyone you are supporting the environment or other causes, when your digital ad budgets continue to fund hate. It’s no longer possible to claim ignorance that this is happening.”

To read more go to Forbes

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