Knowledge Centre:
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:

Why there’s more to sustainability than 2015’s big global eventsND


Aron Cramer, The Guardian, 26 December 2014

Close attention will be paid to two major milestones that lie ahead later in the year — the launch of the new sustainable development goals in New York this September, and the COP21 climate talks in Paris, scheduled for December. For business, however, the outcomes of New York and Paris will create only the beginning of a bigger picture. Adherence to binding regulation agreements no longer suffices for companies aiming to fulfil their sustainability obligations. This well timed article outlines how the shrewdest strategies will not take a one dimensional approach, but will realise that change today comes simultaneously from the top down, the middle out and the bottom up. For more information see: www.theguardian.com

A Company’s Good Deeds Can Energize EmployeesND


Christoph Lueneburger, Harvard Business Review, 3 December 2014

Approaches taken by companies suffering tough times can inadvertently lead to decreased employee engagement. Focus turns to cost cutting and big strategy shifts rather than on retaining employee talent. A culture of purpose, it is argued, is the key to invigorate a business while at the same time revitalizing employees. This interesting article provides two very thought-provoking case studies on iconic companies that have responded to tough times with purpose-driven initiatives that both inspire employees and improve results. The first company is American Standard and the other Hewlett-Packard. Both initiatives resulted in remarkable outcomes. For more information see: www.hbr.com

Business leaders must prioritise sustainability to gain society's trustND


Polly Courtice, The Guardian, 3 December 2014

According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, only one person in every five trust business leaders to solve social and societal issues, tell us the truth, or make moral and ethical decisions. The belief that companies fall short on delivering what they profess is widespread. At a time when trust in politicians is at an all-time low it is the private sector that is uniquely placed to foster positive change and fill the void. Business leaders should be playing a greater role by working with policy makers and civil society. Failing to act risks undermining future global prosperity. Treating sustainability as a priority is key for business leaders to build society’s confidence in them. For more information see: www.theguardian.com

Football and Social Media ND


Simon Kuper, Financial Times, 21 November 2014

Social media is transforming the football world. Just a few years ago many football clubs didn’t use Facebook or Twitter. Today they all do, in multiple languages, expanding their numbers of followers daily. Cristiano Ronaldo’s management team was approached by Facebook executives in 2009, urging them to get on Facebook. They were told that he has the potential to get 10 million followers. Today, he has in excess of 100 million. Footballers are famous and big clubs are global brands but football is a relatively feeble business. Now, social media is facilitating engagement with fans across the globe. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, China’s Weibo and other platforms are enabling clubs and players to compile computer databases of their fans. The next step is to turn the fans’ love into money. This is the current pursuit of the football industry. For more information see: www.ft.com

Facebook seeks foothold in your office ND


Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times, 16 November 2014

Facebook is developing a new product called ‘Facebook at Work,’ allowing users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents, according to the Financial Times. The new site will look very much like Facebook – with a newsfeed and groups – but will allow users to keep their personal profile separate from their work identity. Facebook at Work could be to the detriment of LinkedIn, the leading site for online business networking. It could also pose a challenge to Google’s drive, email and chat products and Microsoft’s Outlook email service and Yammer, which it bought for in 2012. Facebook’s share price has since risen slightly. For more information see: www.ft.com

From divestments to protests, social licence is the keyND


Sara Bice, The Conversation, 7 November 2014

Extractive companies are increasingly coming under pressure from diverse segments of society. The Australian National University’s and Stanford University’s recent share divestment is a blunt reminder of this. Simply obtaining a license to extract is no longer sufficient as stakeholder approval is increasingly becoming essential. A social license to operate is assumed to denote “the ongoing acceptance and approval of a [project] by local community members and other stakeholders that can affect its profitability”. Social licenses can be withdrawn or withheld by communities, or a company can be entirely integrated into the fabric of a community. Recent research examining social licence establishes strong connections between a company’s legitimacy and acceptance in a community, and its ability to generate profit and contribute to socio-economic development. For more information see: www.theconversation.com

What makes someone an engaging leaderND


Ken Oehler, Lorraine Stomski, Magdalena Kustra-Olszewska, Harvard Business Review, 7 November 2014

The connection between financial performance and employee engagement is not always clear. Researchers at AON Hewitt have set out to determine what it is that differentiates organisations achieving above average business results coupled with top quartile employee engagement levels. Their research has shown that it is the prevalence of a certain type of leader, not just at the top, but throughout all levels of the organisation that sets them apart. These leaders are distinguished by a specific set of characteristics and tend to exhibit behaviours that help engage those around them. This article outlines the hallmarks of engaging leaders, their traits and characteristics. For more information see: www.hbr.org

Five habits for executives to become more digitalND


Kate Smaje and Chris Wigley, McKinsey and Company, November 2014

For certain segments of society being digital is a matter of course. Using a smartphone to compare product offerings, or checking Facebook for recommendations has become usual practice. This is not the case for many of today’s C-suite executives, many of whom feel left behind by the digital revolution. This article offers some very useful and practical advice to help senior executives make the transition from analog to digital. For more information see: www.mckinsey.com

The Key to Change Is Middle ManagementND


Behnam Tabrizi, Harvard Business Review, 27 October 2014

A study of large-scale change and innovation efforts in 56 randomly selected companies have found that most efforts at enacting change ultimately fail. A commonality shared by the minority of success stories was the involvement of mid-level managers two or more levels below the CEO. Many change efforts fail because people reduce themselves to checking boxes in safe, secure systems such as Six Sigma. It was determined however, that successful change leaders are open, audacious, and have a clear sense of what their primary motivations are. For more information see: www.blogs.hbr.org

Six reasons CEOs feel powerless to drive sustainability into their companiesND


John Confino, Guardian Professional, 23 October 2014

The implementation of sustainable investments and policies continues to pose challenges for today’s chief executives. CEO’s eager to generate change, who seek long-term sustainability, often feel stymied in their attempts to enable this transition. Challenges facing chief executives include peer pressure and the fear of failure, a lack of board support creating a lack of incentive to innovate, a lack of investor interest and a lack of political and regulatory support. The combined result of these challenges, as well as continuing global economic weakness and a lack of consumer demand for ethical products, leads some CEO’s to reluctantly maintain the status quo. For more information see: www.theguardian.com

How Uber and the Sharing Economy Can Win Over RegulatorsND


Sarah Cannon and Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard Business Review, 13 October 2014

Sharing economy firms are altering the existing state of affairs globally. The value of Airbnb is currently greater than that of the Hyatt hotel chain, while Uber, valued at $18.2 billion is worth more than Hertz and Avis combined. The major barrier to future growth for these firms is regulation. The sharing economy is a new concept and regulators are unfamiliar with the business model. As a result they are often wary and assume such firms are trying to make a profit by dodging protocols. These issues are considered in this article with judicious advice for those grappling with government regulations. For more information see: www.blogs.hbr.org

Ending Gender Discrimination Requires More than a Training Program ND


Francesca Gino, Harvard Business Review, 10 October 2014

Women remain underrepresented in the majority of high level positions, making up 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s and less than 15 percent of executive officers. Approximately 9,000 current and former female employees of KPMG are receiving notices this week about the opportunity to join a class-action lawsuit against the firm, claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts. In the workplace, biases can deeply affect how welcoming an organisation is to different people and ideas. Some organisations are attempting to raise awareness of potentially harmful gender biases through training programs and policies. But do these programs actually work? For more information see: www.blogs.hbr.org

Research: More Than Half of Top Female Executives Were College AthletesND


Nanette Fondas, Harvard Business Review, 9 October 2014

Playing sport at school and university influences corporate success. According to a newly released study by EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW, players of sport have a much higher success rate than those who hadn’t participated. Three quarters of executives surveyed said that candidates involved in sport were more attractive as potential employees. It’s argued that former athletes have intangible assets not attainable in the classroom. Discipline, determination and work ethic were cited as common characteristics attributable to those who have experienced competition through sport. For more information see: www.blogs.hbr.org

Inspiration, not just grim reality, needed to engage millennials on sustainability ND


Jonathon Porritt, The Guardian, 7 October 2014

The inability to enact measures that adequately address the global sustainability crisis are vexing for environmental activists. The objective of activists to garner support and interest in the plight of the world often goes unnoticed. A demographic often found hardest to gain the attention of is young people. A platform being launched today by ‘Forum for the Future’ in partnership with leading companies including Coca-Cola and Google, aims to address this shortfall. Collectively.org aims to highlight influential, inspiring examples of sustainable innovation, showcasing technologies, campaigns and entrepreneurs for young people to participate in and help bring about change to this disconcerting issue. For more information see: www.theguardian.com

Sea Change: How Sustainability Drives PerformanceND


A GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey, September 2014

The value that corporate transparency brings to companies can be underestimated. This insightful survey, composed by ‘SustainAbility’ and involving the input of 491 sustainability experts from around the world, provides the reader with an insight into the value that corporate transparency brings to an organisation. An overwhelming majority off participants of the survey indicated that corporate transparency has a positive impact on a company’s sustainability performance. The study acknowledges barriers to transparency within organisations and makes for very interesting reading. For more information see: www.sustainability.com

Are Companies Ready to Finally Kill Email? ND


Terri L. Griffith, MIT Sloan Management Review, 8 September 2014

A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that comprehensive implementation of internal social media tools such as Yammer, Jive and Chatter can raise productivity by as much as 25 percent. Yammer claims that it’s “loved by 85% of the Fortune 500,” yet the question that should be asked is how many of these companies have successfully implemented the tool. Companies should not assume that because people use social media in their personal lives they will know how to get the most out of internal social media tools. A common problem is the failure to fully implement the tools into the fabric of their communication and collaboration. For more information see: www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Why Social Media Will Fundamentally Change Business ND


Gerald C. Kane, MIT Sloan Management Review, 8 September 2014

The role of information technology in transforming business and society is evident and has been for decades. The introduction of ATMs in the 1960s and 1970s, and the introduction of high-speed trading algorithms in the 1980s are two examples of technology revolutionizing business and society. The magnitude of the impact social media will have on business is still largely unknown. The growth of the collaboration economy is one example where social media has contributed to the transformation of an industry. Companies like Uber and Airbnb bypass traditional means to provide their services. Distinct trends are also occurring in traditional companies. This article provides an interesting overview of social media in business and offers advice for executives grappling with the challenges it has created. For more information see: www.sloanreview.mit.edu

Who’s Being Left Out on Your Team? ND


Carolyn O'Hara, Harvard Business Review, 27 August 2014

When one feels ostracised in the work place wellbeing can be severely impacted. The creation of a workplace that fosters inclusion and acceptance is directly linked to worker retention, growth and employee satisfaction. People feel included when they concurrently feel that they both belong and that they are unique. This article offers advice on how to counter negativity within the workplace and how best to foster an inclusive environment. For more information see: www.blogs.hbr.org

Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’ ND


Keith Hampton, Lee Rainie, Weixu Lu, Maria Dwyer, Inyoung Shin, Kristin Purcell, Pew Research, 26 August 2014

The tendency of individuals to withhold opinions regarding policy issues when their own point of view is not widely shared is termed the ‘spiral of silence’. This inclination was addressed by human behaviour studies prior to the transformational effects thrust upon society by the social media revolution. The societal transformation inflicted by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, it was hoped by many, would transform this behaviour by facilitating unconstrained dialogue. A recent study conducted by Pew Research set out to determine the actual effects social media has had on the ‘spiral of silence’. For more information see: www.pewinternet.org

Business, society, and the future of capitalismND


Paul Polman, McKinsey & Company, May 2014

In this article the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, discusses the relationship between business, society, and the future of capitalism. He deliberates the pitfalls of the current capitalist model and questions the viability of the system into the future. The massive discrepancies in wealth and opportunity and the dire state of the world’s poorest are highlighted as issues destructive enough to render the current system obsolete. Polman highlights the critical role business must take in redirecting the current system and reflects on his journey as CEO of Unilever. He endorses the adoption of a long-term strategy, the embrace of the new Millennium Development Goals and adherence to the responsible-investment principles that the UN Global Compact is advocating. He shows support for philanthropy and CSR yet indicates that if corporations wish to exist in the future they must achieve more. For more information see: www.mckinsey.com

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