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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:

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.

For more see: www.washingtonpost.com

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.

For more see: www.telegraph.co.uk

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.

For more see: www.afr.com

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.

For more see: www.nytimes.com

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.

For more information see: www.nytimes.com

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.

For more see: www.theatlantic.com

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.

For more information see: www.theconversation.com

The era of fake video beginsND


Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, May 2018

In dark corners of the internet, ‘deepfake’ videos depict famous women performing sexual acts. The acts are real. The women are not. Instead, their faces have been digitally grafted onto the bodies of adult film stars. Such sordid use of technology is cause for concern, and the ability to manipulate consumers will only grow as VR, AR and AI become more prevalent – by design, these technologies create confusion about what is real and what is made up. Given that big technology companies control the most importance access points to news and information, they have an important role to play in this crisis, and could most easily squash such things as manipulated videos. To play this role, however, would require accepting roles they have so far largely resisted.

For more information see: www.theatlantic.com

Why Mark Zuckerberg is embracing more regulation of political ads on FacebookND


James Hohmann, The Washington Post, Wednesday April 11

It’s long been a benefit for technology companies to be insulated from the sorts of trying government requirements that apply to other industries. So why would Zuckerberg support a new law that could hurt his bottom line? First, desperate times call for desperate measures, and Zuckerberg knows his net worth could be impacted by a few billion either way based on his performance before the Senate and the House. Second, there is value in regulatory certainty, and Facebook is desperate to avoid European style regulation in the US, which could undermine its highly profitable business model. Third, a new law would force Facebook’s competitors too to spend more on compliance. It’s no coincidence that Zuckerberg references all platforms in his prepared testimony. He wants Google and Twitter to be required to spend the same amount as Facebook for the same purpose. Fourth, regulations could make it harder for smaller companies to take on Facebook, as they usually favour big business when applied equally. Fifth, regulations could improve Facebook’s standing with customers – if people judge Facebook to be a ‘bad’ company, they will stop posting personal information to the site. Even if they don’t delete their accounts that would be bad for the business long term. Finally, embracing regulation could rehabilitate Zuckerberg’s personal brand, as he currently risks turning from a hero to a villain in the public imagination. Zuckerberg is reportedly so obsessed with how he’s perceived that he has had a full time personal pollster on staff to track even small shifts in his image.

For more information see: www.washingtonpost.com

Trump’s trade war could wipe billions from Australia’s economyND


Michael Janda, ABC News, Monday April 9, 2018

The first week of April saw much toing and froing between the US and China, after President Trump asked officials to look at the possibility of tariffs on a further $US100 billion worth of Chinese exports to the US. China warned of a “fierce counter strike” to any such measures. But what some conciliatory experts are calling simple negotiating tactics could significantly hit Australia’s economy should talk turn to action. Citi’s economic team estimates that three years after trade barriers went up, the Australian economy would be $21 billion smaller than it would have been otherwise. In turn, this would mean 70 000 more Australians unemployed and the Australian dollar falling six cents, with a combined hit on the average household of $1500 a year. Given already stagnant wage growth, high living costs and the continued struggles of retailers, a trade war between Australia’s biggest two trading partners could be disastrous for its economy.

For more information see: www.abc.net.au

Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook played part in spread of fake newsND


Darren Davidson, The Australian Business Review, 29th September 2017

Facebook played a significant role in the dissemination of “fake news” during the 2016 US presidential election. Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, initially dismissed the idea that Facebook influenced the US election as ‘crazy’. Former president Barack Obama has berated Zuckerberg, forcing him to acknowledge that the (at least) $US100,000 spent on election adverts by Russian accounts which could have reached ‘tens of millions of voters’ to take the issue of fake news seriously. Zuckerberg stated on his Facebook page that ‘the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea’ but, ‘calling that [the capacity of Facebook to influence the election] crazy was dismissive, and I regret it’.

For more information see: www.theaustralian.com.au

Trump's decision to allow plastic bottle sales in national parks slammed ND


Jessica Glenza, The Guardian, 21st August 2017.

The reversal of the ban on plastic water bottles in America’s national parks suggests “the corporate agenda is king and people and the environment are left behind”. The reversal of the six-year-old policy designed to reduce the level of pollution (plastic water bottles comprised of 20 per cent of the Grand Canyon parks waste and 30 per cent of its recyclable waste). The reversal of this policy allows bottled water producers access to the 331 million individuals that visit America’s national parks. For a President with an inability to immediately denounce American-Nazis, allowing plastic bottles in national parks appear to be a minor issue, yet it may provide evidence that the apparent ‘swamp’ of lobbyists and special interests has not been drained, but rather empowered.

For more information see: www.guardian.com

Impact of voluntary disclosures on corporate brand equityND


Soumya Sarkar and Titas Bhattacharjee, Corporate Reputation Review, 2017.

Sarkar and Bhattacharjee studied the effect of voluntary disclosures by Indian B2B firms on corporate brand equity. The corporate brand is said to be worth between 5-7% on average of stock performance. The findings of the study were that having greater numbers of disclosures and subsequent transparency with stakeholders led to improvements in reputation, while it had minimal effect on consumer decision making.

For more information see: Corporate Reputation Review

The 2017 Sustainability Leaders: A GlobeScan/SustainAbility SurveyND


GlobeScan and SustainAbility Survey, 28th June 2017.

The Sustainability Leaders survey has been running since 1997 with more than on thousand experts from 79 countries responding to the survey. Unilever has been ranked the global corporate leader in sustainability for the seventh year in a row, with the margin between it and the second and third placed companies growing ever wider. However, the private sector still preforms relatively poorly compared to NGOs (59 per cent of respondents rated the contribution to the sustainable development agenda as excellent), Social entrepreneurs (48 per cent of respondents rated them as excellent), while only 23 per cent of respondents rated the private sector ‘excellent’ in its contribution to the sustainable development agenda.

Most interestingly was the 3rd place company Interface which is the ‘worldwide leader in design, production and sale of environmentally-responsible modular carpet’, and is arguably not a household name. Its presence among companies like Unilever, and its higher ranking than Tesla, Nestle and GE arguably shows that it’s positioning as an environmentally responsible company has elevated its corporate positioning.

For more information see: http://www.globescan.com

Delivering meaning in a turbulent workplace Disrupting the function of Internal Communication. A global perspective. ND


Marc Do Amaral, 2017.

The clear message throughout this chapter on how to approach uncertainty, and ‘turbulence’ is for communication professionals to embrace the chaos and accept it as a part of the function and to approach it through honest, tranquil and certain communication. Amaral argues creating a culture of authentic dialogue and feedback is key to create a communication strategy which will generate both trust, and support. Traditional top down corporate communication is becoming antiquated, at the same time the communication professionals role is moving away from imposing corporate truth and towards dialogue between stakeholders, this is partially the responsibility of the communications specialist to encourage, and also to assist.

For more information see: https://www.ickollectif.com/

How Should You Tweet?: The Effect of Crisis Response Voices, Strategy, and Prior Brand Attitude in Social Media Crisis Communication ND


Mi Rosie Jahng and Seoyeon Hong, Corporate Reputation Review, 4th June 2017

Jahng and Hong study the value of a human voice over a corporate voice in responding to crises and how this can be utilised to moderate the company’s presence on Twitter following a crises. The study found that a C-suite executives Twitter presence played very little roll on the overall success of the crisis communication, but prior brand attitudes played a large role in moderating public outrage. The study accepts that tweeting, and a good public face presented by C-suite before a crises will assist in its management.

For more information see: Corporate Reputation Review hosted on Springer.

Use of YouTube for Business Communication. Analysis of the Content Management and Level of Participation of Spanish Best Reputed Companies Youtube ChannelsND


Carmen Costa-Sanchez, Corporate Reputation Review, 31st May 2017.

Companies are increasingly integrating social media into their relationships with stakeholders. The article analysed the content of 454 videos from 20 YouTube channels. It found that YouTube is used as a promotional platform, rather than a way to inform stakeholders. The videos analysed had low levels of public interaction and a general lack of interest in the contents of the videos. The platform offers companies a way of publicising corporate social responsibility undertakings which received higher levels of interaction than standard promotional material.

For more information see: Corporate Reputation Review: https://link.springer.com/journal/41299

Uber has fired 20 employees after investigating hundreds of misconduct allegationsND


Oliver Stanley and Alison Griswold, Quartz, 7th June 2017

Uber is firing 20 employees after an internal investigation into the reportedly toxic culture. The #deleteUber movement and ‘exodus’ of top level executives has been furthered by an investigation conducted by the legal firm Perkins Coie which found its integrity hotline for employees receiving 215 claims of misconduct.

The firm has approached Francis Frei to work for the Uber as senior vice president for leadership and strategy, and ultimately bring the PR nightmare CEO Travis Kalanick into line. Ubers corporate testosterone-fuelled culture is apparently similar to the now infamous video of Kalanick berating an Uber driver who dared to complain to the CEO about wages, and then as anyone else would, leaked the video of the exchange.

While hiring Frei and funding a report to be made by former US attorney general Eric Holder on paper appears to be the appropriate move, the way the results are utilised and acted upon will be the key to Ubers future.

For more information see: www.quartz.com

Funeral pricing comparison website targeted with legal threatsND


Elle Hunt, The Guardian, 30th May 2017.

Colin Wong created a website to compare the prices from more than 600 funeral homes and get user ratings to try and limit the benefits that the funeral industry gain from the lack of transparency. Wong spurned by a terrible experience set up the website to protect customers from purchasing coffins which are already marked up by 400% which could be inflated to 1,000% if the client is perceived to be willing. The website is hoping to break the ‘opportunistic pricing’ utilised by funeral agencies which is poised to become a growing industry with the price of a basic funeral increasing approximately 21 per cent between 2009 and 2016 while Australia’s ageing population creates more demand for the services. Wong aims to create transparency in the industry, while also having plans to charge companies $29 per month to get preferential treatment on the site to create revenue.

For more information see: www.theguardian.com

Why Harvard Business School is under fireND


The Economist explains, 18th of May 2017

Duff McDonalds recent book ‘The Golden Passport’ argues that Harvard Business School has lost its place as the premier business school in America, and simultaneously become a toxic environment filled with conflicts of interest. While the influence of the school is undeniable with its MBA graduates filling Wall Street and having a founding place in 10 per cent of all Silicon Valley unicorns (private start-ups worth over $1bn). However, the prices of the MBA course has consistently grown (by around 30 per cent in five years) while companies have been given the ability to promote positive case studies in the MBA course, and veto negative ones.

Harvard Business School has two options, firstly focus upon its position as an academic institution or treat itself as a business and pursue its own self-interest.

For more information see: www.economist.com

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