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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:

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

BHP looks to women and science in leadership shuffleND


Luke Housego, Australian Financial Review, Thursday 28th February 2019

BHP has reshuffled its executive leadership team to include three more women and added roles focused on science and technology, a move the miner says will help position the business for the future. Geraldine Slattery, Laura Tyler, Vandita Pant and Jonathan Price were named on Thursday as incoming executives, taking female representation on the executive close to 50 per cent. The new roles are chief transformation officer and chief geoscientist. In a statement, BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said science and technology would become a greater focus for management. "These management changes are an important step as we plan for the future of BHP. The elevation of geoscience and transformation to the executive leadership team demonstrates the determination we have to advance the best science, technology and people to make our operations safer and more productive," he said. The addition of three women to the executive leadership team pushes the company towards a 2016 target to have women make up half its workforce within nine years.

Click here for the full story

ASX governance council dumps ‘social licence to operate’ from guidanceND


Joanna Mather, Australian Financial Review, Thursday 28th February 2019

Following a furore over political correctness, the phrase ‘social licence to operate’ has been dumped from updated guidance by the ASX Corporate Governance Council. All references to the term have been replaced with ‘reputation’ and ‘standing in the community’ in the fourth edition of the council’s principles and recommendations on best practice for corporate governance. The council said it was concerned the phrase, which was included in an earlier consultation draft, would create problems for companies in the gaming, alcohol, tobacco, fast food and mining sectors. Australian Council of Superannuation Investors chief executive Louise Davidson said the updated guidance reflected the key concepts involved in having a social licence to operate but the phrase itself became a distraction. "It's a little bit of a puzzle to me to be honest as to why it was such a controversial and inflammatory issue," she said. "From an investor perspective we think it actually makes sense. But it became too much of a galvanising issue and started to take away from the key things that we were actually trying to achieve." The Business Council of Australia welcomed the final version, labelling it “measured” and “workable into the future”.

Click here for the full story

Japan antitrust probe to target Amazon, Rakuten and beyondND


Kosuke Takeuchi and Junichi Sugihara, Nikkei Asian Review, Wednesday 27th February 2019

Japanese antitrust authorities are set to launch a probe into Amazon Japan, Rakuten and Yahoo Japan, who are suspected of forcing online vendors into shouldering an unfair burden in rewarding customers through loyalty programs, Nikkei Asian Review has reported. The Japanese Fair Trade Commission is investigating changes in Amazon Japan’s reward program taking effect in late May that would require vendors to shoulder the costs. Such arrangements, similarly found at Rakuten and Yahoo Japan, essentially cut into vendors’ revenue, adding to the fees they already pay to hosting platforms. The probe is part of a braod investigation into big tech companies launched by the regulator at the start of this year. With the influence gained by Amazon recently, the government is scrambling to find the right balance between encouraging growth and protecting smaller businesses. Tokyo is starting to consider concrete measures to regulate platform operators, including steps to prevent excessive concentration of data. A plan to tackle the issue will be incorporated into the government's growth strategy due out this summer.

To read the full story click here

Glencore moves to cap global coal output after investor pressure on climate changeND


Nassim Khadem, ABC News, Thursday 21st February 2019

Australia’s largest coalminer Glencore has announced it will cap its global coal output at 2019 levels, succumbing to shareholder pressure to take action to address climate change. “To deliver a strong investment case to our shareholders, we must invest in assets that will be resilient to regulatory, physical and operational risks related to climate change,” the company said in a statement. The Swiss-based resourcing giant also said it would examine its membership of trade associations to ensure those groups aligned with the Paris climate agreement and Paris goals. These associations include the Minerals Council of Australia. Director of climate and environment at the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), Dan Gocher, said the move by Glencore debunked mining industry lobby groups' claims about the future of coal. "This announcement should bring to an end to the MCA's single-minded coal growth advocacy," he told the ABC.

To read the full story click here

The road to digital unfreedom: three painful truths about social mediaND


Ronald J. Deibert, Journal of Democracy, January 2019

In this article, Ronald J. Deibert from the University of Toronto examines the state of big tech companies today. Describing Google as a ‘massive commercial surveillance system’, Deibert explains what he calls ‘three painful truths’ about social media. First, that the social-media business model is based on relentless surveillance of personal data to tailor advertisements. Second, that we permit this surveillance willingly if not wittingly. Third, that social media is not incompatible with authoritarianism, and in fact enables it in many cases. Deibert highlights the issues of social media in great detail, but ends on a hopeful note. “The tasks are enormous, yet we must avoid fatalistic resignation to the toxic world of personal-data surveillance,” he writes. “We need to imagine a better world and start making it happen, before it is too late.”

To read the article click here

You’ve committed to increasing gender diversity on your Board. Here’s how to make it happen.ND


Paula Loop & Paul DeNicola, Harvard Business Review, Monday 18th February 2019

There’s good news for diversity on boardrooms. The vast majority of corporate directors see value in including more women and minorities, with nearly 95 per cent of directors agreeing that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom and 84 per cent believing it enhances board performance. What’s more, the number of directors who rate having female board members as ‘very important’ has nearly doubled since the last time the question was asked, rising from 25 per cent in 2012 to 46 per cent today. However, there are also signs of ‘diversity fatigue’, with just over half of directors saying they think diversity efforts are motivated by political correctness, and 48 per cent believing shareholders are too preoccupied with diversity. So where to from here? Five recommendations: review the benefits, understand that one isn’t enough, rethink director criteria, require a 50-50 slate, and expand the size of the board.

For the full details of this list click here

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