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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:

Why Chief Human Resources Officers Make Great CEOs ND

Harvard Business Review, December 2014

The days when the corporate HR function was viewed as a back-office function, a cost centre focused on routine administrative tasks, is diminishing. Increasingly, Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) are having more influence in the C-Suite. There has been a marked increase in CHROs reporting directly to CEOs and consequently exerting greater influence. Research conducted by Korn Ferry, an executive recruitment firm, confirmed that the evolving importance of CHROs has become widespread. After CEOs and COOs, the CHROs are the highest paid executives, with an average base bay of $574,000 — 33 percent more than CMOs, the lowest earners on the list. The study’s author added, “Great CHROs are very highly paid because they’re very hard to find”. For more information see:

Understanding “New Power” ND

Harvard Business Review, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, December 2014

Undoubtedly the world is witnessing increasing transitions of power. New power sources emanating from distinct parts of the globe have facilitated the overthrow of dictators, facilitated the election of presidents and seen people power challenging the status quo. Old power, held by a few and fiercely guarded, is closed, inaccessible and leader-driven. New power, created by many, is participatory, open and peer-driven with its goal not to store power but to channel it. The advances made by new power are often misunderstood, with traditional sources of power, while challenged, most often preserve their supremacy. The overthrow of Mubarak resulted in another dictator filling the void, the occupy movement gained immense traction and raised awareness to their cause however achieved little structural change. This fascinating and timely article provides an in-depth analysis of power models, values and structures. For more information see:

Guangdong province pioneers a new approach to keeping workers happy ND

The Economist, January 31 – 6 February 2015

As China’s economy slows and companies continue to move elsewhere in search of cheaper labour, China’s once burgeoning labour-intensive manufacturing industry has stagnated, while discontent among workers continues to increase. The number of strikes and labour protests doubled in 2014, the figure rising threefold in the last quarter. Independent unions are banned in China and response to unrest is typically with force. In an attempt to placate workers, Guangdong authorities have begun to permit a form of collective bargaining, where nominated representatives are tasked with negotiating terms of employment through representatives of behalf of employees. This approach has been opposed by businesses in Hong Kong, whom control many of the factories, fearing increased conciliation would lead to even higher labour costs. For more information see:

How companies can become more socially responsible in 2015ND

Paul Klein, Forbes Leadership Forum, 5 January 2015

How best to approach corporate responsibility in 2015 is a challenge facing many executives today. This article, written by Paul Klein, founder of Toronto based consultancy Impakt, aims to help executives aiming to best allocate their CSR budgets. Klein’s advice stems from discussions with corporate leaders and helps decipher how things will be heading over the coming years. He observed how most of the contributions made by corporations thus far have been ineffective and have not achieved satisfactory results. He predicts corporations will begin to drop tokenistic corporate social responsibility and start to dedicate themselves to bold social goals and begin to integrate social change in all aspects of their operations. He offers seven specific ideas to help executives drive their organisation towards more convincing long-term goals. For more information see:

Eight CSR trends to watch out for in 2015ND

Susan McPherson, Forbes, 31 December 2014

Approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in 2014 were varied and at times exceedingly imaginative. Overall, the CSR industry continued to steam ahead, with an ever increasing involvement coming from the C-Suite, now that transparency is considered the norm. With 2015 already underway, this article set out to determine what lies ahead in the CSR world for the coming year. By engaging industry experts, the authors share trends from 2014 and offer their predictions for what lies ahead for 2015. For more information see:

Is sustainability reporting a waste of time?ND

The Guardian, Jeff Leinaweaver, 7 January 2015

The efficacy of corporate sustainability reporting is increasingly questionable. A recent report by think tank and consultancy SustainAbility, warns that companies are wasting time and money creating sustainability reports that fail to achieve their objectives. The firm assessed 500 surveys and conducted over 50 interviews with sustainability experts and thought leaders. It determined that sustainability reporting has plateaued and large amounts of time are increasingly wasted on reports that fail to engage audiences. The increasing prevalence of social media as a source of information is also contributing to the ineffectiveness of sustainability reports. The authors argue that less focus should be placed on transparency and more about what the business is actually doing. For more information see:

The Companies with the Best CSR ReputationsND

Kathryn Dill, Forbes, 8 December 2014

The Reputation Institute, a private global consulting firm based in New York, has released its annual findings of its 2014 CSR RepTrak® 100 Study. The firm assessed data obtained from consumers across 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, UK and the U.S. Companies were judged based on their performance in a number of areas, including environmental, social, workplace and government. Each company earns a score which represents an average measure of people’s feelings for it. Three of the seven dimensions that drive reputation (governance, citizenship and workplace) fall into the CSR category — data indicates that 41 per cent of how people feel about a company is based on their perceptions of the firm’s corporate social responsibility practices. Google heads the list for the fourth year in a row, obtaining notable attention for citizenship practices, including the commitment of $1 billion to renewable energy projects. Microsoft, The Walt Disney Company and BMW also maintained their position at the top. For more information see:

Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability ND

MIT Sloan Management Review Research Report (produced in collaboration with BCG and UNGC), January 2015

A key finding from the sixth global survey of executives from 113 countries illustrates a gap between those who agree that businesses need to collaborate to address sustainability challenges (90% of participants) and those that actually collaborate on sustainability (47 per cent). The report points out companies such as BASF and Intel that have had successful sustainability-related partnerships tackling global education issues and nutrition challenges. Reasons companies are engaging in sustainability partnerships include: to improve reputation/brand building, product innovation, foster transformation towards sustainability, risk management, expand into new markets and due to stakeholder demand. Findings over the past four years continue to show increases in the number of companies that are: publicly reporting on their sustainability efforts, developing sustainability KPIs and governance structures, ensuring sustainability is a key focus for management, and developing a business case for sustainability efforts. Another key finding is around board engagement: while most respondents (86%) believe boards need to play a strong role in terms of driving sustainability, only 42% of boards are perceived to be engaged or moderately engaged around sustainability issues. The authors identify barriers to board engagement and suggest that there needs to be a shift in thinking about the board oversight role and that the myth of shareholder supremacy and the short-term focus on maximising shareholder value needs to be debunked. For more information, see

Public sector digitization: the trillion dollar challengeND

Business Technology Office, Cem Dilmegani, Benji Korkmaz and Martin Lundqvist, December 2014

The benefits available to society and governments from digitization are enormous. Public-sector digitization does however pose challenges for those governments aiming to reap the benefits. Shared services, enhanced collaboration and integration, improved fraud management, and efficiency improvements enhance system-wide capacities. Online services offer greater connectivity for rural populations, enhance quality of life for the disabled, and offer ease of access like never before. Despite all the progress made, most governments are falling short. Analysis, conducted by McKinsey & Company, estimates that capturing the full potential of government digitization could release up to $1 trillion annually in economic value globally, through improved cost and operational performance. Today, in excess of 130 countries provide online services. This article provides an interesting insight into the public-sector digital revolution, paying particular attention to the systems implemented in the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States. For more information see:

Sustainability is now a factor — deal with itND

The Australian, Damon Kitney, 6 January 2015

Michael Jantzi, chief executive of Sustainalytics — a provider of ESG research and analysis to some of the world’s major pension funds, has expressed shock at the Australian government’s criticism of the Australian National University’s (ANU) decision to drop resource companies Santos and Sandfire Resources from their investment portfolio. The ANU decision was labelled as “stupid” by the PM, while the Treasurer ¬accused the ANU of being “removed from the reality of what is helping to drive the Australian economy and create more employment”. Mr Jantzi has stated that this approach is unprecedented and exhibits a shortsighted view. He outlined how a number of chief executives at major corporations are putting sustainability at the forefront of their strategic agendas. For more information see:

AirAsia’s Chief Responds to Crisis with Quick Compassion ND

New York Times, Alexandra Stevenson and Neil Gough, 31 December 2014.

The tragedy of AirAsia flight QZ8501, crashing en route to Singapore from Surabaya, has refocused attention on the region’s aviation industry. The disaster resulted in the third aviation tragedy involving a Malaysian airline in 2014. The response of Mr Fernandes, the company’s chief executive, has sharply contrasted with that of Malaysia Airlines — Malaysia’s struggling national carrier, which operated the two other planes involved in fatal accidents. The response of Mr Fernandes — his immediate, hands-on and measured approach, has impressed analysts. Within hours of the plane’s disappearance, Mr Fernandes was in Surabaya, speaking with the families of passengers and crew. He actively maintained engagement through social media and sustained a proactive and applied approach. This article provides a background briefing on Mr Fernandes, AirAsia, and his response to this tragedy. For more information see:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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