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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:

Gillette faces backlash and boycott over ‘#MeToo advert’ND

Michael Baggs, BBC News, Tuesday 15th January 2019

A Gillette advertisement which references bullying, the #MeToo movement and toxic masculinity has split opnion online. The company’s short film plays on their famous slogan ‘the best a man can get’, replacing it with ‘the best men can be’. And while some have praised the message of the advert, others have declared they will boycott the razor brand. The ad has garnered more than nine million views on YouTube, with more than 500,000 ‘dislikes’ compared to 125,000 ‘likes’. Comments on the video are largely negative, with one angry viewer writing that ‘in less than two minutes you managed to alienate your biggest sales group for your products.’ But the brand believes the new advertisement aligns with its slogan and says it believes in ‘the best of men’. "By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come," says its president, Gary Coombe. Rob Saunders, an account manager for UK advertising company the Media Agency Group, told the BBC that there was no need for widespread panic at Gillette just yet. "Their ad is getting them good publicity and good numbers and causing a debate - which they must have known when they put out this ad… This ad would have been approved by many people high up at Gillette,” he said.

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Tech workers unite to fight forced arbitrationND

Nitasha Tiku, Wired, Monday 14th January 2019

In November 2018, a walkout of 20,000 Google employees made headlines. But the changes it led to fell short of the organisers’ demands, and now some activists inside Google have broadened the fight. On Tuesday January 15 (US time), the group called Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration will launch a social media campaign about mandatory arbitration agreements, arguing that employers use them to suppress workers’ rights. “Ending forced arbitration is the gateway change needed to transparently address inequity in the workplace,” the group wrote in a blog post on Medium. The social media campaign represents big change for tech’s labour movement, as it involves several companies. Although most of the action has come from Google, in December, the group started soliciting copies of employment contracts from colleagues at Facebook, Uber, and other tech companies and third party contractors, to understand how employers convince both workers and contractors to sign arbitration agreements that inhibit their right to bring sexual harassment or discrimination claims in front of a jury. Google declined to comment to Wired.

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Patagonia’s billionaire founder to give away the millions his company saved from Trump’s tax cuts to save the planetND

Angel Au-Yeung, Forbes, Thursday November 29 2018

Patagonia has announced it has an extra $10 million in profits due to to President Trump’s tax cuts last year, which lowered corporate tax in the US to 21% from 35%. Instead of investing the additional dollars back into its business, Patagonia said it would give $10 million to grassroot groups fighting climate change, including organizations that work in regenerative organic agriculture to help reverse global warming. “Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouniard said in a statement. “It’s pure evil.” This isn’t the first time the company has taken a stand against President Trump’s policies, and it hasn’t hurt their business. “Any time that we do something good for the environment, we make more money,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario told students at UC Berkeley in April 2017.

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Why the Google walkout was a watershed moment in techND

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times, Wednesday November 7 2018

At 11 a.m. local time last Thursday, more than 20,000 employees walked out to protest the company’s history of protecting executives accused of sexual harassment. For two years, regulators, lawmakers, academics and the media have pushed Silicon Valley to alter its ways. But outsiders have few points of leverage in tech. Protests by workers are an important new avenue for pressure; the very people who make these companies work can change what they do in the world. In Google’s case, the organisers used Google’s own collaborative tools, and leveraged its open company culture to create a wide-ranging movement. ”We have an incredibly engaged group of people, and we aren’t going to stop escalating this,” said Claire Stapleton, a marketing manager at Google-owned YouTube who created the internal discussion forum that organisers used to plan the walkout. “The group isn’t really going to back down from this or a host of other things. The walkout was not like a blowing-off-steam exercise.”

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Phillip Morris accused of hypocrisy over anti-smoking adND

BBC News, Monday October 22 2018

Phillip Morris, one of the world’s largest tobacco firms, has been accused of hypocrisy over its new ad campaign that urges smokers to quit. The firm, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, said the move was “an important next step” in its aim to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes. But Cancer Research accused the firm of “staggering hypocrisy”, pointing out that it still promotes smoking outside the United Kingdom. “The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes,” George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager said. Philip Morris’s managing director Peter Nixon said its new advertising campaign was “about supporting smokers in finding alternatives”. Asked why the firm does not simply stop making cigarettes if it truly wants smokers to quit, Mr Nixon said it was because smokers would then switch to a rival product. “Cigarettes still generate 87% of our business. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time,” he said.

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Google stays above the fray in Corporate Responsibility RepTrakND

Vicky Valet, Forbes, Friday October 11 2018

Much of the global business community – including big tech companies – has been in damage control this past year. And while Apple and Facebook have seen their brands tarnished, Google appears to have stayed above the fray. “Google is still viewed as an employer of choice. It’s an aspirational, ‘do no evil’ kind of company,” says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute, a reputation measurement and management services firm. This is the first year the RepTrak study has omitted the term ‘social’, opting just to use the term ‘corporate responsibility’. “Corporate responsibility is quadrilateral between social, fiscal, employer and environmental responsibility. That is the new rubric for success,” says Hahn-Griffiths. Although the name of the game has changed, the key to lifting corporate responsibility is the same as it always has been, according to Hahn-Griffiths. ““Creating a company that is viewed as having high corporate responsibility begins from the inside out… When you have internal alignment, the external story becomes much more powerful.”

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Google+ shutting down after users' data is exposedND

Dave Lee, BBC News, Tuesday October 9 2018

Google+ will shut down much of its social network Google + following a data breach. It said a bug in its software meant that information users believed to be private had been accessible by third parties. Google said up to 500,000 users had been affected, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the company knew about the issue in March but did not disclose it. The WSJ report quoted an internal Google memo that said disclosing the information would draw “immediate regulatory interest”. In a statement, Google responded that the issue was not serious enough to warrant informing the public. "Our Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met here."

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Corporate sponsorship may be diverting research and distorts public policy, claims reportND

Christopher Knaus, The Guardian, Wednesday September 26 2018

A new study published by University of Sydney researchers in the American Journal of Public Health on Wednesday suggests that corporate support of academic studies could be diverting researchers away from important public health questions. The paper, which seeks to understand how corporate support of research shapes the agendas of researchers, cites examination of 36 articles from 1986 to 2017 – four papers on tobacco, three on the food industry, three on plant or animal biotechnology and others relating to the alcohol, chemical or mining industries. “They use the same strategies,” the lead author, Alice Fabbri, told Guardian Australia. “They (corporations) fund research that can be used to promote their products or distract from the harms of their products, or to drive the research away from policies that will tend to harm them.” The article comes at a time when rising community distrust of some corporations and in some industry sectors is fuelling calls for universities to reduce their connections with business, at the same time that many governments, universities, and industry groups are calling for more companies to partner with higher education on applied innovation and research.

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Nike ‘proud’ of Kaepernick campaignND

BBC News, Wednesday September 26 2018

Nike CEO Mark Parker has called the advertising campaign featuring NFL star Colin Kaepernick a success following early reports that the campaign had driven growth in Nike sales. “It's resonated... quite strongly with consumers, obviously here in North America, but also around the world," Mr Parker told analysts. "Like many campaigns, it's driving a real uptick in traffic and engagement, both socially as well as commercially." Mr Kaepernick is known for his refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism. Nike said revenues in the period increased 10% year-on-year to US $9.9bn.

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To grow your business abroad, partner with local influencersND

Joel Backaler, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday September 25 2018

The rise of social media has created a new type of local business partner: local digital influencers. These people spend their days developing content and engaging followers and have become local thought leaders on social media. They build active communities both online and offline around a multitude of topics, and their audience turns to them to provide insights on these topics. So, rather than starting your brand from scratch, why not weave them into your story? This practice is called influencer marketing, and is much more than just paying models and celebrities to promote a product on Instagram. These influencers aren’t simply ‘Instafamous’ – they are diverse individuals with established expertise, expansive platforms, and refined strategies of engaging target audiences and shaping their behaviour. At the end of the day, digital influence is an extension of the age-old practice of word of mouth – now via new virtual platforms to reach mass audiences all around the world. It’s time for marketing departments to recognise the potential of these voices and engage them to accelerate global expansion.

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4 ways busy people sabotage themselvesND

Alice Boyes, Harvard Business Review, Thursday September 20 2018

You haven’t replied to an email, even though it would only take 10 minutes. Maybe you have left another important task undone for weeks – you just don’t have the time, right? These self sabotaging patterns maintain a cycle of always having too much to do (or at least feeling like it). Here are four ways you might do this, and some possible solutions. First, you keep ploughing away without stepping back and prioritising. Stress causes our focus to narrow, but it’s important to use the ‘pay yourself first’ principle and accomplish the items on your priority list first. Second, you completely overlook easy solutions for getting things done. To get out of the trap of avoiding easy solutions, take a step back and question your assumptions. Next, you ‘kick the can down the road’ instead of making easy solutions to conundrums. Remedies for recurring problems are often simple if you can step back enough to get perspective. And by gradually accumulating winning strategies over time, you can significantly erode your problem, bit by bit. Finally, you use avoid or escape methods for coping with anxiety. If you want to deal constructively with situations that trigger anxiety for you, you’ll need to engineer some flexibility and space into your life so that you can work through your emotions and thoughts when your anxiety is set off. With practice, you’ll start to notice when you’re just doing something to avoid doing something else.

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A 4-step plan to make your Q&A more audience-friendlyND

Lauren Weinstein & Matt Abrahams, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday September 18 2018

Here is a four step plan – remembered by the acronym FIRE – derived from the teaching and coaching experience at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business which aim to improve the Q&A sessions at conferences and town-halls. First, Framing. In preparing for interviews, most guests ask ‘What do I want to say?’ But the most effective guests ask ‘What does my audience need to hear?’ You will also benefit from having a clear speaking goal: what do you want your audience to know, how do you want them to feel, and what do you want your audience to do? Second, Inclusion. A good Q&A invites the audience into the experience. This can be done by using inclusive language (e.g. using ‘you’ and ‘we’ whenever possible) and by polling the audience. Next, Rails. Like a train needs rails, your content needs structure. Our favourite structure is the What?>So what?> Now what? structure. Finally, Examples. As you prepare for your next interview, we suggest the following: make a list of all the key points, themes, best practices, etc. you’d like to be prepared to share with your audience. Then provide examples and case studies for every one of them – these can be real or imagined.

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Facebook accused of allowing bias against women in job adsND

Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Tuesday September 18 2018

A group of job-seekers is accusing Facebook of helping employers to exclude female candidates from recruiting campaigns. The employers appear to have used Facebook’s targeting technology to exclude women from the users who received their advertisements, which highlighted openings for jobs like truck driver or window installer. Washington-based employment lawyer Debra Katz, who is not involved with the case, said the campaigns appeared to violate Federal US law, which forbids employers and employment agencies like recruiting firms from discriminating on the basis of gender. “There is no place for discrimination on Facebook; it’s strictly prohibited in our policies,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. “We are reviewing the complaint and look forward to defending our practices.”

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Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint presentations at Amazon meetings. Here’s what replaced themND

Robert Glazer, Forbes, Wednesday August 22 2018

Instead of reading bullet points on a projector screen, Amazon employees have recently started reading memos setting the tone of the meeting before anyone actually starts talking. Sounds crazy right? I decided to try it out in my organisation, and here are the top five benefits we have seen so far. First, efficiency. The memos give people a chance to get up to speed on a topic in advance, meaning we can hit the ground running. Next, better questions and discussions. Since everyone now starts with the same information and has time to process it, questions are a lot deeper and more thought-provoking, which makes the discussion more robust. Third, a more level playing field. Using memos gives all participants a chance to be heard and to share their thinking clearly, which makes it more likely that the best ideas and thinking will surface. Fourth, strategic thinking. While a PowerPoint slide can list facts and figures, a memo requires deep thinking and a narrative, and writers have to really make their case. And finally, memos provide a historical record of ideas and decisions. If anyone misses a meeting, the memo is available to provide background and context. These memos also serve as a record of the reasoning behind decisions over time.

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Fake accounts, tweets and 'morons': Could a bot take down your company?ND

Ariel Bogle, ABC News, Wednesday September 12 2018

In June, the CEO of Harley-Davidson Matt Levatich stared down a problem facing many modern CEOs: how can you ensure nobody thinks you called the US President a moron? “It’s shameful we live in a time when people create fake quotes,” he wrote, following a tweet which falsely claimed he had called Donald Trump a moron. The repudiation worked, but for a little while there it looked like a viral tweet could take control of the 100-year-old company’s corporate narrative. The spread of misinformation on social media is now considered a severe socio-political threat, but corporations too are getting hit. In the US, former political strategist Josh Ginsberg has co-founded analytics firm Zignal Labs, which tries to identify networks of fake accounts on social media and alert their clients before a bad story crashes into mainstream media or hits their stock price. Misinformation is a big issue for corporations that is only growing, as a recent study found that fake news spreads quicker and more deeply than real news.

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Nike sales defy Kaepernick ad campaign backlashND

BBC News, Tuesday September 11 2018

Nike’s online sales grew by 31% in the bank holiday following the launch of its controversial ad campaign, using Colin Kaepernick as the face of the brand. The sales come despite critics encouraging people to destroy Nike goods in protest at the use of Mr Kaepernick. In 2016, the American football player refused to stand for the US national anthem in protest at police brutality. Soon, other players followed suit, in a protest which divided the country and sparked the anger of President Donald Trump. "The research confirms that, at least for now, the company is suffering no negative repercussions in sales,” said the firm Edison Trends, who analysed the data. In announcing the deal, Nike said Kaepernick was "one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation".

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US-made iPhones would cost $150 more, supplier says as tariffs loomND

Lauly Li & Cheng Ting-Fang, Nikkei Asian Review, Tuesday September 11 2018

The time has come for many crucial suppliers to the most valuable technology companies on the planet to make emergency plans to move some production out of China as US President Donald Trump escalates a trade war that risks hitting electronics manufacturers hard. On Friday, Trump said tariffs covering an additional $267 billion of Chinese imports would be “ready to go on short notice”. That’s in addition to an already planned $200 billion round. On Saturday, Trump tweeted an “easy solution” to the tariff problem: “Make your products in the United States instead of China.” Most of Apple’s products are made in China, as are smart speakers by Amazon and Google, Fitbit products and notebooks by HP and Dell. Market watchers say any shift of the supply chain could cause major disruptions.

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Don’t try to be the ‘fun boss’ – and other lessons in ethical leadershipND

Kimberly Nei & Darin Nei, The Harvard Business Review, Monday September 10 2018

We collected personality data and supervisor ratings of ethical behaviour like integrity and accountability on 3,500 leaders across 30 organisations. The organisations included several industries, varied in size from medium to large and were largely multinational. We combined data across these 30 independent studies to ecamine the relationship between personality and ethical leadership across a range of different settings and situations, finding that characteristics relating to certain traits have stronger relationships with unethical behaviour. Here are a few tips based on the findings. First, be humble, not charismatic. Second, be steady and dependable: it will get you further. Next, Remember that modesty is the best policy. Fourth, balance analysis with action. And finally, be vigilant: vulnerability increases over time.

For the full breakdown of the list see:

Alibaba close to signing joint venture with Russian partnersND

Nikkei Asian Review, Monday September 3 2018

China’s version of a “digital silk road” across Eurasia is beginning to take shape, with Alibaba now in “advanced stage negotiations” to form a joint venture ecommerce company with Russian partners. According to sources involved in the deal, Alibaba is close to agreeing a partnership with Russian internet company, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund. The involvement of the RDIF indicates the level of official backing for the plans. Last December, the head of the RDIF Kirill Dmitriev told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the fund planned to soon announce “investment in a number of our internet platforms with the aim of expanding their operations abroad as well as investement with Alibaba in internet logistics infrastructure in Russia”. Last Autumn, while sharing a stage with Mr Putin, Alibaba executive chairman Jack ma said that he thinks “Alibaba should join forces in developing Russia”.

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Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar over secrets actND

BBC News, Monday September 3 2018

A court in Myanmar has sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison for violating a state secrets act while investigating violence against Rohingyas. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested while carrying official documents which had just been given to them by police officers. The two journalists have maintained their innocence, saying they were set up by police. “I have no fear,” Wa Lone said after the verdict. “I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice, democracy and freedom.” Reuters editor in chief Stephen Adler said that it was a “sad day for Myanmar”.

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