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Ethical behaviour ‘not important CSR skillset’
“Results driven” characteristics rank as the most valuable trait in sustainability professionals, according to a report commissioned by professional services firm EY. Of the 22 management behaviours tested, three of the top four fall into this bracket. These include developing expertise (ranked first), impressing people (second) and articulating information (fourth). Also high on the list is establishing rapport (third), an acknowledgement of how important working with others and building trust-based relationships has become in sustainability management. Curiously, towards the bottom of the list were ethical credentials, such as upholding standards (14th) and empowering others (equal 20th). Visionary thinking, be it related to developing strategies (12th) or providing insights (equal 20th), are comparatively poorly rated too.
Sustainability leaders who have 10-20 years’ experience have the strongest scores across the majority of behavioural competencies, while the most effective managers in this space tend to have postgraduate degrees. Gender is shown to have only a minimal impact on perceived effectiveness. The study was based on an extensive literary review, coupled with a survey of 97 senior corporate sustainability professionals.
Co-ops best for ambitious businesswomen
If you’re a woman and ambitious to reach the top of the management pile, then forget about working for one of the UK’s largest companies. Join a co-operative retailer instead. More than half of co-operative retailers’ boards have 50% or more female directors, according to research by Co-operatives UK, which represents member-owned business worth more than £37bn to the UK economy. In contrast, not one of the UK’s FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies has a female majority in the boardroom. On average, two-fifths of board members of co-operative retail businesses are women. For the FTSE 250, the figure is less than half that, at 19.8%.
The gender balance at the top of FTSE 100 firms is slightly better, with female representation at just over one quarter. Examples of co-operative retailers with diverse boards include Central England Co-operative (which boasts more than 400 trading outlets and nearly 9,000 staff) and the East of England Co-operative (with 200 outlets and around 4,700 staff).
EVs in line for a boost
An upbeat study from Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that battery-powered cars will constitute more than one third of all new vehicle sales by 2040. The projection marks a 90% increase on current figures. If true, then the growth of electric vehicles (EVs) between now and 2040 would help displace 13m barrels of crude oil each day. On the flipside, the projected sale of more than 40m EVs per year would require around 2,700TWh of electricity – equivalent to 11% of global electricity demand in 2015.
FTSE tax bill falls
The average effective tax rate paid by FTSE 100 companies has fallen to its lowest level since 2008, dropping to just 22.6% last year – down a quarter from 30.1% five years ago. The decline is less to do with tax avoidance and more to do with changes to tax rates and reliefs, says UK accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young. According to figures obtained from HM Revenue and Customs, the pharmaceutical sector had the lowest effective tax rate (i.e. the average percentage at which overall company profits are taxed) of 13.1% on average. The highest, in contrast, is paid by the oil and gas (37.4%) and resources (37.1%) sectors. Banks rank next highest at 33.7%.
In a separate analysis of HMRC data by UHY, taxes on so-called “sin stocks” increased by 6% in 2015 to £1.54bn. The list of highly taxed, harmful products is topped by cigarettes and alcohol. As a consequence, both are subject to large-scale smuggling. HMRC estimates that as many as 6bn cigarettes consumed in 2014-15 were bought on the black market, equivalent to 14% of the total market. In the case of contraband alcohol, meanwhile, HMRC seized 5.28m litres of beer, 189,669 litres of spirits and 1,49m litres of wine in 2014-15.
US companies increase sustainability reporting
Eight out 10 of S&P 500 companies published sustainability or corporate responsibility reports last year, figures from the Governance & Accountability Institute reveal. In 2011, only one fifth of the large US companies covered by the S&P 500 issued non-financial reports. Consumer brands and financial firms are the least transparent. In both sectors, 24 companies listed in the S&P 500 fail to report.
Global warming’s deadly toll
By the middle of this century, an estimated 529,000 people could die each year as a direct consequence of global warming, according to research published in peer-reviewed journal the Lancet. The startling calculation is based on an estimated reduction of 4% in the amount of fruit and vegetables available globally. Meanwhile, available calories and meat (both red and processed) are expected to fall by 3% and 0.7%, respectively. Even assuming very ambitious climate action, the researchers still predict 154,000 extra deaths in 2050. The research was funded by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food based at Oxford University.
The findings play into a new study by the World Health Organisation, which calculates that environmental risks contribute to 12.6m deaths around the world every year. WHO defines environmental risks as those relating to “all the physical, chemical and biological factors external to a person, and all related behaviours”. Children under five and adults between 50 and 75 are most affected by the environment.
More cheerfully, a study by the University of Leeds calculates that 80,000 premature deaths are prevented every year in Europe as a result of EU air quality policies. Moves to clean Europe’s air have produced a perceived financial benefit to society of $232bn annually (equivalent to 1.4% of 2010 EU GDP). European emissions of sulphur dioxide and black carbon particulates in 2010 were 53% and 59% lower, respectively, than the emissions that would have occurred without legislative and technology measures, the research concludes.
Water demand ‘could outstrip supply by 2030’
Global water demand for manufacturing is set to increase by 400% between now and 2050, according to statistics from the United Nations. UN Water predicts that water demand will outstrip supply by 2030 if a “business as usual” approach is maintained. Greenpeace puts the issue of water shortages in sharp relief when considering future power supply. More than two-fifths of current and planned coal power plants are located in areas of existing water stress, the environmental group says. Coal power plants use enough water to meet the water needs of around 1 billion people. That figure is set to double if all the world’s planned power plants come online.
Renewables’ jump keeps emissions stable
Around 90% of all new electricity generation capacity in 2015 came from renewable energy sources, with wind responsible for more than half of this total, according to the International Energy Agency. Another welcome finding from the IEA’s latest raft of data-crunching is that global emissions have remained stable for the second year on the trot. Despite gradual global economic growth of 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015, total worldwide emissions have continued to hover around the 32.1bn tonnes mark. This bucks a longstanding link with economic fortunes. The three occasions over the past four decades that emissions have failed to increase – namely, in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – have coincided with contractions in the global economy. The main cause for the latest reduction is the relative performance of the world’s two largest emitters: China and the US. Thanks to declining use of coal and major investments in renewables (now responsible for 28% of energy production), China’s carbon footprint reduced by 1.5% in 2015. The shale gas boom in the US, meanwhile, had also led to a reduction in coal-fired power stations. Emissions in the world’s largest economy dropped by 2% as a result.
Gender inequality widens digital divide
Information technology is heralded as a great leveller, but that all depends on everyone gaining equal access to it. With respect to gender, that’s still far from happening. In low- to middle-income countries, women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, according to data cited by UN Women, the United Nations’ entity for gender equality. A similar gender-based divide exists for internet access. As well as the short-term inequalities this disparity provokes, women’s long-term prospects are also hindered. Estimates suggest that the value of the digital economy in the G20 alone is $4.2tn. The current “opportunity gap” with respect to digitally skilled workers, meanwhile, amounts to an estimated 200 million workers. At present, women make up less than 10% of those in business innovation hubs and those receiving funding by venture capitalists. Female membership of national academies in science and technology disciplines, meanwhile, comes in at a mere 5%.
GSK provides 3.6m immunisations
Over the past two years, UK pharmaceutical company GSK has provided immunisation treatments and other health interventions to more than 3.6 million people worldwide. Of these, 1.3 million are children. The interventions emerged out of a partnership between GSK and UK charity Save the Children. The company also makes immunisations, cancer screenings and other healthcare services freely available to more than 38,000 employees and family members in 52 countries.
UPS expands alternative fuel fleet
US logistics firm UPS is expanding its low-carbon fleet with the addition of 380 heavy duty trucks that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). The $100m investment will also include the construction of 12 CNG fuelling stations. The move follows the purchase of 1,400 vehicles and installation of 15 CNG fuelling stations in 2015. Alternative fuel vehicles now make up more than 6% of its 100,000-vehicle global fleet.
Costco increases minimum wage
Costco Wholesale, the second-largest US retailer, is to lift its minimum wage to at least $13 an hour, a $1.50 increase. It is the first rise in the company’s minimum wage for nine years. The company has 117,000 employees. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart, Costco’s main competitor in the US, raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour.cheat sheet ethical CSR sustainability finance FTSE 100 corporate responsibility global warming water Greenpeace renewable energy gender inequality IT