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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:

'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.

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WeWork shelves plan for IPO, tries to rebuild battered imageND


Alexandra Olson & Stan Choe, Associated Press, Tuesday 1st October, 2019

Following several turbulent weeks, co-working giant WeWork has shelved its planned IPO after several turbulent weeks have battered the company’s image. Initially, the company sought to go public with a valuation of nearly $50 billion (USD). The decision comes in the wake of co-founder Adam Neumann stepping aside as CEO. New co-CEOs, Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham, said in a statement the company suspended the IPO to “focus on our core business, the fundamentals of which remain strong.” The shelved IPO now raises an immediate funding challenge for WeWork. The company counted on a successful stock offering to pursue its exponential growth strategy. While commenting on the botched IPO, Dan Morgan, senior manager for Synovus Trust said he was concerned for the company going forward: “It’s a dangerous line they have to walk. You have to keep up the revenue growth, and for that you have to keep adding properties. And to keep adding properties you have to keep getting investment or issue stocks or bonds.”

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Thomas Cook CEO 'told staff to ignore media noise' before its collapseND


Tom Belger, Yahoo Finance UK, Wednesday 27th September, 2019

In a memo sent to employees of Thomas Cook shortly before its collapse, CEO Peter Fankhauser urged staff to ignore the “noise” of media speculation over the fate of the collapsed company. The memo sent by the CEO told the company’s cabin crew the deal to save the company would be a “complete game changer” and it advised them to “stay calm” during the process. The leaked memo comes amid a British Parliamentary inquiry into Thomas Cook and its former leadership with Labour MP Rachael Reeves claiming its decline “uncovered what appears to be a sorry tale of corporate greed.” The travel company was forced into insolvency last week.

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Disney’s CEO Gets Why Employees Want Their Bosses to Be More PoliticalND


Rachel Gutman, The Atlantic, Wednesday 25th September, 2019

Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO, Bob Iger says the most influential companies in the United States have a duty to effect social change and fill in public policy gaps on behalf of employees. Iger, who considered running in the 2020 Presidential Election said his employees’ trust in the government has dwindled and that they are turning to companies like Disney to act on socio-political issues. “Because they feel that they’ve been failed by other entities, they’re expecting their company to step up,” he said. Disney is one of many companies feeling more pressure from employees. Microsoft, Salesforce, Google and Amazon have all been pressured by their employees in the past year alone to step up their corporate responsibility efforts. Onstage at The Atlantic Festival, Iger declared that “the brand promise of Disney is that we are going to be a good citizen of the world”.

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How to Demonstrate Your Strategic Thinking SkillsND


Nina A. Bowman, Harvard Business Review, Monday 23rd September, 2019

Strategic thinking plays a critical role in your career advancement as it tells management that you’re able to think for yourself and can make diligent decisions for the future of the organisation. Developing and demonstrating these skills however, are very different challenges. Development of the skill involves exposure and experiences while demonstrating strategic thinking requires you to communicate your strategic efforts and to challenge others to drive your ideas. And it is by being able to put new ideas into action that you can signal to management that you are a strategic thinker. Thinking strategically will show your level of understanding extends beyond just what is required.

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Australian tech company Atlassian commits to net zero emissions by 2050ND


Max Tillman, ABC 7.30, Monday 23rd September, 2019

Australian software giant Atlassian has committed to a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, as co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes continues to push the Australian government to do more on climate change. Mr Cannon-Brookes has also called on the Federal Government to make it easier for businesses to implement net zero carbon targets. While attending the UN Climate Action Summit this week in New York, Mr Cannon-Brookes told 7.30: “We don't have a credible climate or energy policy in Australia at the moment… Climate change is a huge problem affecting the global economy and businesses. Anything that makes our business more sustainable economically is going to be good for our shareholders in the long term.”

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Boeing to pay bereaved 737 families $144,500 eachND


BBC News, Monday 23rd September, 2019

The families of victims from the fatal Boeing 737 Max disasters in Indonesia and Ethiopia that claimed the lives of more than 340 people will receive about $144,500 (USD) each from the company. In July of this year Boeing pledged $100m to families and communities affected by the crashes but later decided to direct half of the money in direct payments to the families through a $50 million assistance fund. Many of the victims’ families have called the fund a publicity stunt as they continue to pursue the company in court. "$144,000 doesn't come close to compensating any of our families or any of the families,” said Texas-based attorney Nomaan Husain who is representing 15 of the families. "This is not something that is going to satisfy the families. The families really want answers." Participation in the fund is voluntary, and families who submit claims will not have to waive their right to pursue Boeing in court.

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Facebook’s Suspension of ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Reveals Wider Privacy IssuesND


Kate Conger, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Mike Isaac, The New York Times, Friday 20th September, 2019

Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly gathering users’ personal information. The suspension highlights the privacy concerns that have troubled the social media company for several years remain an issue. Unsealed court filings revealed Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps and 10,000 apps were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data. Facebook’s privacy concerns trace back to an investigation that began in 2018 after revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy company had used Facebook users’ personal information without their permission. Jules Polonetsky from the Future of Privacy forum called for the US Federal Trade Commission to act quickly against developers who break rules around customer data. “Every company, and especially the app developers involved, needs to understand that there are consequences for abusing consumer data.”

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California’s Contractor Law Stirs Confusion Beyond the Gig EconomyND


Kate Conger & Noam Schieber, The New York Times, Wednesday 11th September, 2019

A landmark bill passed by legislators in California could force companies like Uber and Lyft to reclassify hundreds of thousands of independent contractors as employees, paying overtime and giving access to other benefits. The new law has not gone down well with the companies in question. Companies like Uber and Lyft are concerned as their drivers who are currently classified as contractors are not covered by minimum-wage, overtime laws, and they do not receive any insurance schemes. Uber also declared the law would not apply to its drivers. Uber’s Chief Legal Officer, Tony West, stated: “Several previous rulings have found that drivers’ work is outside the usual course of Uber’s business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces”. He added that the company was “no stranger to legal battles”.

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