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:

Asian focus turns to social responsibilityND

Mark Konyn, Financial Times, 15 May, 2011

Socially responsible investment in Asia is expected to rise following the announcement of China’s 12th five-year economic plan, which features numerous explicit references to environmental and social factors, and in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami tragedy. Although socially responsible investment funds in the region currently account for a small percentage of total investment, in light of recent events, the region’s institutional investors are paying greater attention to environmental, social and governance issues. This anticipated shift towards responsible investing would emulate similar moves in Europe and North America. For more information, see

Vietnam stays the nuclear courseND

M Goonan, Asia Times, 13 May 2011

Despite the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, Vietnam remains committed to its plans to construct 14 nuclear plants over the next two decades. The plants are to be constructed with Russian, American and Japanese assistance, and are considered essential to providing the additional generating capacity to sustain the country’s fast economic growth. The contrast between the planned modern nuclear plants and Japan’s older reactors has been emphasised to offset fears of potential future accidents. For more information see

Swap the management-speak for plain EnglishND

Simon Caulkin, Financial Times, 9 May 2011

Plain English is the most effective way of communication but it is scarcely used in business. Language reveals the insecurities and uncertainties within it. Haque suggests that vast marketing could act as a concealer, for instance the real cost of a hamburger may be nearer $30 than the $3 and ‘profit’ comes from subsidies, suppliers and Earth’s resources. The truth is rare in business. If company management is in a contradictory mess, their language reflects it. Plain messages only exist when company goals, values and behaviour are corresponding and such companies are comfortable with themselves, their customers and role in society — with nothing to hide. For more information see

Embracing trends in social networksND

Emma Boyde, Financial Times, 8 May 2011

Before financial service companies made any intentional entry into the online social network, they already had a presence via staff with profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. However recently, financial service companies have strategically befriended the online social arena. Corporate Insight, an independent financial services research group found that none of the companies they tracked were on Twitter in 2008, but over half embraced it in 2010. Although investment isn’t cheap, requiring online teams and bloggers and regulatory and compliance barriers still exist — the social network is seen to have worthwhile value in the public relations space. For more information see

The big idea: the wise leaderND

Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, Harvard Business Review, May 2011

CEOs are facing a number of challenges, including managing in times of uncertainty and change and ensuring that employees adhere to their values and ethics. The key to dealing with numerous pressures faced by CEOs is to improve their knowledge; in terms of explicit knowledge, tacit knowledge and practical wisdom. While managers may be able to gain access to this knowledge, they must understand the purpose of their company so as to ensure that they make the right decisions. There are six abilities that leaders must have, which include the ability to make value-driven judgements and the ability to communicate effectively. For more information see

Effective research must be for the long haulND

Fred Hilmer and Les Field, Australian Financial Review, 4 May 2011

Australia’s future job prospects and prosperity is dependant on its ability to establish itself as a competitive, innovative nation, which in turn requires strong universities. While Australian universities rank well in certain aspects, they are significantly lacking in terms of innovation. One of the primary reasons for this lack of innovation is the structure of the research programs, with these programs being too short and ill-funded. To address this, Australia should begin supporting longer-term, significant research programs. For more information see

Japan confronts liabilities for crisisND

Yuka Hayashi, Wall Street Journal, 4 May 2011

There is an ongoing debate in Japan regarding who will pay the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s growing liabilities following the nuclear disaster. Given the company’s role as a regional monopoly supplying power to a large percentage of Japan’s economic activities, the government cannot allow the company to go under. Although the government is set to release a plan for compensating victims of the disaster, some have called for more drastic government involvement, asking for the government to nationalise the company. There are also concerns over the extent to which taxpayers will be expected to support the company. For more information see

Under the influence: how the group changes what we thinkND

Shirley Wang, Wall Street Journal, 3 May 2011

Researchers are studying the way in which human behavioural norms are established in groups with the hopes of applying this learning to realms such as health campaigning, marketing and reducing prejudice. The research has revealed a number of key findings; for example the recognition that innovators tend to be isolated from the group, but that ideas only take hold once a considerable number in the group have adopted the idea. Group pressure was found to be significant in influencing norms, as is the publicity given to the norm. The sharing of norms can however also lead to misperceptions, which can have the affect of altering the original norm. For more information see

How to build risk into your business modelND

Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine, Harvard Business Review, April 2011

Business model innovation has typically focused on three aspects of the value chain; revenue, cost structure and resource velocity. However it is important for leaders to understand the role of risk in their business models, and to devise methods of mitigating their risks. Some means of reducing risk include delaying production commitments, transferring risks to other parties and improving the quality of information relied upon. Additionally, leaders should recognise that there are significant opportunities to be gained by adding risk into a business model, in that it can drive innovation. For more information see

Vietnam experience leaves sour tasteND

Stephen Wyatt, Australian Financial Review, 27 April 2011

Vietnam is currently witnessing a rapidly rising inflation rate, which is raising concerns for potential future political instability. While the political situation in Vietnam is currently stable, officials are wary of the instability that can be caused by rising food prices, recognising the situation in the Middle East as an example. While China’s inflation rate is likely to remain high, most economists believe that China will be able to control inflation while managing to maintain its projected growth levels. For more information see

China seeks bigger role in Australia economyND

Dinny McMahon, Wall Street Journal, 26 April 2011

China is seeking to expand its role in the Australian economy, particularly by moving beyond simply purchasing and cooperation towards a more collaborative approach to research, development and investment. Construction is one of the key areas to be targeted by Chinese companies, looking at the national broadband network, post-disaster reconstruction and transport infrastructure. However the political climate in Australia may not be amenable, with a 2009 Lowy Institute poll demonstrating that 57 per cent of respondents felt that there has been too much Chinese investment in Australia. For more information see

Comparing Japanese and Chinese post-earthquake CSRND

Zheng Wei, CSR Asia, 26 April 2011

China and Japan have both experienced large-scale natural disasters in the past few years, however the response to CSR issues has been quite different. In Japan, business has been very creative in lending assistance to the disaster relief effort; providing products such as cars and mobile phones. However the Japanese government has come under criticism for its disaster response, resulting in decreased public faith in the government but increased public faith in business. In China, the government came under initial criticism for its disaster response, but later gained more support; and began facilitating methods for businesses to contribute to the disaster relief. For more information see

In-store sales begin at homeND

Ellen Byron, Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2011

In-store marketing consists of influencing consumer buying decisions while they shop. However there is an increasing trend of consumers using online means to research grocery prices before going to the store, which necessitates a change in the way that marketers attract consumers. While this trend has been well established with expensive products, the shift towards grocery products has been recent, leading to marketers using blogs and social-media sites to advertise in addition to in-store marketing. For more information see

Navigating Asia’s new urban landscapeND

Richard Dobbs and Jaana Remes, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2011

When engaging with emerging markets, businesses tend to focus on megacities like Mumbai and Shanghai. However they should be expanding their reach to the ‘second-tier middleweights’ such as Bangalore and Wuchan, which are developing rapidly and will soon constitute a significant portion of their nations’ GDP. There are however various challenges in entering these markets, meaning that companies will need to tailor their approach in each city. One of the more successful ways of breaking into these markets has been the ‘cluster approach’, which involves targeting a number of geographically proximate middleweight cities. For more information see

Strategies for learning from failureND

Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business Review, April 2011

Organisations rarely take the opportunity to learn from their past failures, instead framing failure in a negative way and associating failure with fault. Mistakes are, however, much more complex, and can potentially have a positive effect on an organisation. There are three classifications of mistakes, those that are preventable, those that are complexity-related and hence unavoidable, and those that are intelligent and have the potential to generate new knowledge. In order to learn from past failures, organisations need to create an environment that moves away from associating failure with blame, instead facilitating openness to allow people to own up to their mistakes and have the opportunity to learn from them. In addition to increasing an organisation’s capacity to detect mistakes, facilitating an open culture will promote experimentation and hence bolster innovation. For more information see

Tapping into social-media smarts ND

Terri Griffith, Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2011

Companies should consider tapping into the benefits of social networking in the workplace. Skills learnt from using social networking tools facilitate collaboration, brainstorming and allow for large-scale coordination, which companies can use to maximise the work done by employees. When introducing social networking into the workplace, employers need to set clear guidelines and ensure that everyone understands the goals of the tools. Leaders should be prepared for expectations of greater democracy following the introduction of social networking, and should be open to change. For more information see

Why Barbie flopped in ShanghaiND

Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang, Bloomberg Businessweek, 21 April 2011

When operating in dynamic markets such as that of China or India, managers need to be able to quickly localise their product so as to suit the domestic population. The failure to localise products can be catastrophic to a company, seen in the example of Mattel establishing a giant Barbie store in China that was forced into closure only two years after its establishment. Pursuing an experimental approach can be beneficial for companies operating in these markets. There are a number of tips that can help companies operating in these dynamic markets; including the need to engage in trial-and-error learning and the need to avoid generalisations. For more information see

China, other developing BRICS nations seek change in global economic orderND

Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, 15 April 2011

As the US and Europe are recovering from the 2008 recession, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), are uniting in voice to demand global economic restructuring. Demands include an end to the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, change in authorities and rules within the WTO, IMF and UN Security Council. Their first action is their joint agreement on having their development banks provide credit to one another, in form of local currencies, not in U.S. dollars. For more information see

Sparking creativity in teams: an executive’s guideND

Maria Capozzi, Renee Dye and Amy Howe, McKinsey Quarterly, April 2011

The key to generating creativity is to focus on changing peoples’ perceptions, which involves constantly exposing ourselves to new things. In a corporate environment, this can involve strategies such as looking at products from a consumer perspective and considering competitors’ strategies. Executives also need to challenge their established assumptions regarding their customers, industry norms and existing business models. For more information see

The rise of SRI and what it means in MalaysiaND

Sharmel Ali, CSR-Asia, 13 April 2011

SRI — socially responsible investing — is a rising trend in investment practices that aims to maximise financial return and social good. While investors choose a broad range of issues to invest in, there are various criteria that investors look for; including transparency and strong governance. The demand for SRI in Malaysian business is growing. Bursa Malaysia is planning to launch an environmental, social and corporate governance index by 2012. Eventually, it is hoped that increased SRI will have a positive impact on national economic growth, and will drive long-term sustainability practices in companies. For more information see

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