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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:

Nordstrom Rack Apologizes to Black Men in St. Louis Falsely Accused of StealingND

Matthew Haag, The New York Times, Tuesday May 8 2018

The president of Nordstrom Rack flew to St. Louis to apologise on Tuesday to three black teenage friends who were falsely accused last week of trying to steal clothing at one of the company’s stores. The friends had stopped into a store last Thursday to look for last-minute deals before a high school prom on Friday night. After being followed closely by employees, they were reported to police. On leaving with the goods they had purchased, police were waiting for them. Episodes such as this can quickly turn disastrous for companies, who because of bad employees in one store risk blemishing an entire organisation’s reputation. In a statement, the company said that guidelines had not been followed and that it “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind”. The company is investigating the actions of its employees during the episode.

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The carbon footprint of tourism revealed (it’s bigger than we thought)ND

Dr Arunima Malik & Dr Ya-Yen Sun, The Conversation, Tuesday May 8 2018

The carbon footprint of tourism is about four times larger than previously thought, according to a new study published today in Nature Climate Change. Researchers assessed the entire supply chain of tourism, which includes transportation, accommodation, food and beverages, souvenirs, clothing, cosmetics and other goods. All up, global tourism produces around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Tourism is a trillion-dollar industry which is growing faster than international trade, and from 2009 to 2013, tourism related emissions increased by around 15%. This rise mostly came from tourist spending on transport, shopping and food. Change will ultimately come from implementing regulations and incentives together to encourage low-carbon operations, but at a personal level it’s worth looking at the carbon cost of your flights, choosing to offset your emissions where possible and supporting tourism companies that aim to operate sustainably.

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Energy sector must use new tech to ensure the vulnerable aren't left behindND

Dev Tayal, The Guardian Sustainable Business, Friday March 16 2018

According to a Choice survey released last year, more than 80% of Australian are concerned with rising electricity bills, with South Australians and West Australians among the most concerned. But providing everyone with electricity in a fair, affordable and efficient way seems to be problematic for governments, with increasing costs, growing environmental problems and unreliable supply all proving to be stumbling blocks. Australia’s current pricing structures make lower income households spend a higher proportion of their income on electricity. New technologies on the way could provide some relief. These technologies can create clean and renewable energy, provide ways to store it, and automate its use in the most efficient and affordable way. Disruption of the energy sector is only going to get faster, so the energy sector must ensure it works with these new technologies to ensure the vulnerable are advantaged rather than disadvantaged. Many opportunities are beginning to exist for governments, policymakers and investors to innovate. Let’s not waste these opportunities.

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The future of well-being in a tech saturated worldND

Janna Anderson & Lee Rainie, Pew Research Center, Tuesday April 17 2018

When the Pew Research Center polls American internet users on their bottom-line judgment about the role of digital technology in their lives, the vast majority feel it is a good thing. But the past 18 months have brought to the fore a number of concerns about the personal and societal impacts of technology. In light of such concerns, Pew Research Center and Elon University asked technology experts, scholars and health specialists on this question: Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally? 1,150 experts responded to this question. 47% of respondents predict that individual well-being will be more helped than harmed, while 32% say it will be more harmed than helped. The remaining 21% predict there will be not much change compared to now.

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Amid the APRA inquiry fallout, who is to blame for CBA’s woes? ND

Karen Maley, The Financial Review, Wednesday May 2 2018

Two and a half years ago, Commonwealth Bank’s chairman, David Turner, told shareholders that being Australia’s most ethical bank would become its ultimate competitive advantage. Now, former CBA insiders are privately conceding Turner’s comments are ‘laughable’ in view of the damning APRA review, which identifies that a “widespread sense of complacency has run through CBA, from the top down”. So, what all went wrong? Former CEO Ian Narev shares some of the blame, a highly qualified and popular character but who lacked banking experience. Nor did former CBA Chairman David Turner have a wealth of banking experience to draw from. There is hope for the future, with new chairman Catherine Livingstone and new CEO Matt Comyn expected to have firmer hands on the tiller.

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Business Council is not a de-facto mouthpiece for the Liberal PartyND

Geoff Allen, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday May 2 2018

The Business Council of Australia is facing criticism for its decision to run advertisements promoting is policy recommendations to the public in pursuit of tax reform. In the last elections, it was criticised by Liberal Party leaders and the business media for not being active enough on the same issue. For some time, members of the Liberal Party have voiced the view that the BCA should be a tribal cheer squad for the Liberal Party as a direct reciprocal of the ACTU and unions for the ALP. But this never was, nor could it ever be, the purpose of Australian public companies and foreign owned companies, nor them collectively through the BCA. The Council’s official aspirations were established at its creation 35 years ago and remain largely unchanged. It would attempt to be objective, long term and proactive in its focus, research-based and rigorous in argument, and it would be CEO-driven. It is not surprising that the BCA policy stances have more often been closer to the Coalition than the ALP but historically both sides have been influenced by its advocacy. To criticise the BCA for trying to reach the public with its message is simply nonsense. It is entitled to do what it can to broadcast what it believes in.

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Facebook to launch dating service as Zuckerberg takes aim at TinderND

Matthew Field, The Telegraph, Wednesday May 2 2018

Facebook has announced it will launch a dedicated dating service in a challenge to the popularity of dating apps like Tinder. Facebook will launch features within its current app which connect uers to people who are not their friends to help them meet new people and start relationships. Facebook’s announcement sent shares in Match, the owner of and Tinder, spiralling, with shares dropping more than 22 percent by close. Facebook’s shares rose 1.1% at close following the news.

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Bill McKibben: There’s clearly money to be made from sun and wind ND

Ben Smee, The Guardian, Tuesday May 1 2018

Founder of Bill McKibben is at the start of an Australian tour, speaking with councils, unions, banks and superannuation funds about backing an aggressive shift to renewable power sources. McKibben reckons there is money to be made from backing renewables, and he wants as many people with capital to invest knowing it as soon as possible. “When we started the divestment stuff six years ago, I was operating entirely on moral grounds,” McKibben said. “But it quickly became apparent that it was a much more financially savvy idea than we’d given ourselves credit for. Anyone who five years ago did it made out like bandits.” On Tuesday, McKibben will launch a report by, the University of Technology Sydney, and Future Super, which will show that 7.7% of Australia’s superannuation savings could fund a full transition to renewables by 2030.

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How managers can be fair about flexibility for parents and non-parents alikeND

Joan C. Williams & Marina Multhaup, Harvard Business Review, Friday April 27 2018

Bias against parents – especially mothers – has been well documented. The idea of the ‘maternal wall’ has been studied for years. We now know however that the bias which questions womens’ competence when they ask for maternity leave or a flexible work schedule can affect fathers too. And while the data is clear that parents are more likely to face bias at work, sometimes another problem comes into the fray: that people without children find that their managers are more understanding of working parent’s need for flexibility, while expecting childless or unmarried staff to pick up the slack. Research has even shown that women without children work the longest hours of any group. Here are some guidelines for managers to set flexibility policies which are fair to everyone. First, in general more flexible schedules work better for everyone, and if you have a work from home policy it should be reason neutral. Next, ensure that your employees can actually use your flexible work policy. Thirdly, clear boundaries and procedures for keeping in touch are important for both sides. Fourth, establish trust with your employees and then trust them.

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Yellow Fever Restaurant at California Wholefoods sparks debateND

Matt Stevens, The New York Times, Monday April 30 2018

‘Yellow Fever’, an Asian restaurant in Southern California, has been at the centre of a heated debate after opening a location as part of a Whole Foods 365 store in Long Beach, California last week. Jenny Yang, a comedian and writer in Los Angeles, said that restaurateurs should think wisely before putting Asian Americans under the spotlight with such names. “… When a restaurateur chooses to use a joke at the expense of Asian-Americans, I would hope they would consider the consequences on how they represent us — especially if they’re going to have a larger platform partnering with Whole Foods,” she said. A media kit for the restaurant said the name was attention getting, but part of embracing the formerly derogatory term ‘yellow fever’ and reinterpreting it positively for themselves.

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Amazon’s Alexa will soon be teaching your child mannersND

Hayley Tsukuyama, The Washington Post, Wednesday April 25

Following feedback from some concerned parents, has updated its voice assistant Alexa to reward children who ask for things nicely. Children are some of the most prolific users of voice assistants, with some learning to talk to Alexa or Siri before they can form full sentences. The company has recently been expanding its efforts to woo children as part of its smart home push. It also announced Wednesday that it has made an $80 US child-focused version of its Echo Dot Speaker, and that it is adding parental controls to help limit when a child can interact with the technology. Children have become a key demographic for voice assistant technology, but this has raised some concerns among privacy advocates about new avenues for data collection. Children are one of the only groups of people in the United States protected by privacy law, and Amazon said it is compliant and doesn’t have any plans to slow down the development of the software.

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'It’s time to transform recycling': Nine in 10 Australians want governments to act on crisisND

Fergus Hunter & Andrew Taylor, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday April 25

A garbage crisis is looming as the industry is hit hard by a new Chinese embargo on waste products, with a new survey revealing that 89 percent of people support governments “taking more action to create a sustainable recycling industry”. The poll was conducted for the Australian Council of Recycling by Crosby Textor, and shows the emphatic support for recycling is spread across political affiliation, states and age groups, with strong support also expressed for specific proposals to make Australia a “circular economy” that has a better capacity to deal with its own waste as opposed to exporting it. Historically, a large portion of Australia’s recyclable material has been sent to China for processing, but the country’s decision to ban imports of low quality and contaminated waste has thrown Australia’s processes into chaos. The NSW and Victorian governments have responded with emergency funding to help local councils deal with the waste, but an urgently needed long-term plan has not yet surfaced.

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Why mining – yes mining – cares about sustainabilityND

Andrew Winston, Harvard Business Review, Tuesday April 24

How do we use the sustainability lens to think in better ways about metals and how to build a circular economy? Rethink where we get metals from. Why do we need to dig up new, or virgin, metals when we can reuse what we’ve already dug up? First, ERG, a central Asian mining company, has a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo which is reprocessing the tailings in one of the world’s largest pools to reclaim some copper and cobalt. This is a win-win, as usually these tailing ponds are one of the biggest environmental liabilities of the sector. Second, an obvious innovation opportunity exicsts in recycling old electronics. A UN study estimated that e-waste has 40 to 800 times as much gold as gold ore. These solutions require innovation and work, but they are worth looking into for an industry with so much at stake.

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The staggering environmental footprint of all the food that we just throw in the trashND

Chris Mooney, The Washington Post, Wednesday April 18

The massive amounts of food Americans throw out every year has staggering environmental consequences, according to a study published Wednesday. The study suggests that the average person in the US wastes about a pound of food per day. That adds up to about 25 percent of all food by weight available for consumption in the US. The environmental costs? 30 million acres of cropland, 4.2 trillian gallons of water and nearly 2 billion pounds of fertilizer, which contains compounds that can run off farm fields and compromise water quality. The amount of total food wasted is undoubtedly larger than the researchers calculated, as the study focused only on waste by consumers at home or when eating out rather than at earlier stages in the supply chain. The study makes clear that, given the numbers, more people will not be able to be fed on Earth with less of an environmental impact if food waste cannot first be brought under control.

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Hit climate target or we will ditch your shares: LGIM’s threat to dirty companies ND

Tim Wallace, The Telegraph, Monday April 23

Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), one of Europe’s biggest investment managers, is preparing to name and shame companies which behave unsustainably, and to get rid of billions of pounds of investment in their shares. Helena Morrissey, LGIM’s head of personal investing, said that the reason why the company will be shaming the worst performing companies is because they had been given a number of years to improve their act but had not taken any notice. “There comes a time when we should vote with our feet,” she said. LGIM’s move comes amid a Deutsche Bank report released last week which showed that investors who use Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) targets outperform those who invest in companies which fail to meet those non-financial goals.

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Woolworths to take wraps off automated warehouseND

Sue Mitchell, The Australian Financial Review, Monday April 23

Woolworths is ready to unveil a new $215 million fully automated distribution centre in Melbourne later this year or early 2019. The distribution centre, owned by Charter Hall, is leased to Woolworths for 20 years and features Australia’s largest solar installation and more than 14 kilometres of conveyors. The move is predicted to save Woolworths at least $45 million in annual operating costs, and will increase pressure on its rivals. Most of the costs saved by Woolworths will come from labour costs, which will be greatly diminished in the automated warehouse. One analyst said they could save up to four people store, as the automation extends to sorting goods before they arrive to the back of stores. “That’s a major saving and it’s something competitors will have to think about,” the analyst said.

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Facebook’s Current Status With Advertisers? It’s ComplicatedND

Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times, Wednesday April 18

Facebook and its massive amount of reach have always been a marketer’s dream. Now however, following the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, ad agencies are facing concerns on numerous fronts. Facebook users are becoming increasingly sceptical about the use of their personal data as they learn just how much Facebook knows about them. Some companies are receiving angry tweets following users downloading their data and closely scrutinising sections like “advertisers with your contact info.” In some cases, users’ anger comes simply from the fact that companies often buy data from outside firms for campaigns so that it can direct ads to certain groups of people. These companies do not store that material and can’t see personal information like email addresses, but such a climate around Facebook and what it does with its users’ data is likely to remain a sensitive topic for some time.

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Starbucks to close 8,000 U.S. stores for racial bias training after arrestsND

Rachel Abrams, The New York Times, Tuesday April 17

Starbucks will close all of its more than 8000 stores in the U.S. for one day to conduct anti-bias training, following the arrest of two African-American men in one of its stores last week. The arrests took place after the two men asked to use the restroom in a Starbucks in Philadelphia but were refused because they hadn’t bought anything. The men then sat down and were asked to leave, with an employee then calling the police. A video was posted online of the two men being arrested, which prompted a hashtag #BoycottStarbucks and protests at the store. Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson said in a statement that he had “spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it.” The training will address implicit bias, with input from groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League.

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Disneyflix is coming. And Netflix should be scared.ND

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, May 2018

In 1937, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney invented the modern blockbuster. In contemporary times, it has been able to succeed thanks largely to its cable bundle, which levies a large annual fee on the vast majority of U.S. households. But the cable business is in trouble, as is the film industry, where Disney is also a significant investor. Enter Disney’s new streaming service, poised to hit the market in 2019. It will include exclusive series and every film in the Star Wars, Marvel Entertainment, Pixar Animation Studios, and Disney Animation universes. In other words, Disney is busy building a serious rival to Netflix. In the 1950s, when Walt Disney launched Disneyland on TV and opened his theme park in California, he envisioned his business an endless loop of merchandising. Filmed entertainment would sell toys, toys would sell filmed entertainment, and both would sell park tickets. It’s not hard to imagine a Disney streaming product work the same way. Disney wouldn’t carry advertisements for other brands, but it could function as a nonstop advertisement for Disney itself.

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Not so fast: why the electric vehicle revolution will bring problems of its own ND

Martin Brueckner, The Conversation, Tuesday April 17

Interest in electric cars has risen sharply in recent years as governments around the world make moves to ban petrol and diesel cars, and prices are predicted to be on par with conventional cars by 2025. Despite often being touted as the answer to questions of green, clean mobility, on closer examination our entire transport paradigm might need to be rethought. First, electric vehicles have a troubling supply chain. Key parts of its batteries have been linked to child labour, and the nickel used in the same batteries is toxic to extract from the ground. In addition, the elements used in battery production are finite and limited in supply. Second, individual electric cars will not fix congestion, which is only increasing as urban populations grow. Finally, the vision for most car makers delving in to the world of electronic vehicles is still one of personal vehicles. The sustainability endgame should be to eliminate many of our daily travel needs altogether through intelligent design and removing the dependence on cars so many of our population feels.

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