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Few women on EU boards

Women occupy less than one quarter (23.2%) of board seats in the UK, fractionally lower than the European average (25%), according to research by the European Women on Boards network.

Other below-average countries include Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. More than one fifth of companies in Switzerland don’t have a single woman on their boards, with the Netherlands and Germany particularly poor performers.

The best place to be a female business executive in Europe is Norway, where an average of 38.7% of board members are women (just shy of its statutory target of 40%). Sweden (34.6%), Finland (31.6%) and France (34.4%) represent the only other countries where women make up more than 30% of board members.

By sector, telecommunications (27.1%) and consumer goods (26%) lead the pack, with materials (23.3%) and energy (22.4%) lagging at the bottom. While still well short of parity, women’s presence in corporate boardrooms is slowly increasing. The current average of 25% for Europe marks a rise on the 2011 figure of 13.9%. The results are based on the STOXX 600, which comprises leading companies based in 17 European countries.

European Women on Boards

Big bill for natural disasters

The two world wars were the most destructive events in the 20th century, but natural disasters weren’t far behind, new statistics suggest. Storms, earthquakes and similar phenomena caused around £5 trillion in damage and resulted in more than 8 million deaths, according to a study by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

The most significant cause of economic loss was flooding (40% of the total), followed by earthquakes (26%), storms (19%) and droughts (12%). Wildfires and volcanos account for 2% and 1% of the bill for natural disasters, respectively. Normalised losses have reduced over recent years, with disasters calculated to have cost around $200bn over the past 16 years – equivalent to 0.25% of global gross domestic product. The findings are based on a database of around 35,000 disaster events between 1900 and 2015.

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Millennials rejecting capitalism

Millennials in the US are falling out of love with capitalism, it would seem. A poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 found that 51% were not in favour of the dominant economic model of our age.

In the US, capitalism is more likely to be supported by people who have graduated from college (56%), whites (43%), men (49%), people who live in the south (46%) and the west (45%), and Republican party supporters (54%), the research finds. One third of those polled said they would prefer a system based on socialist principles. At the same time, only one quarter think government spending is an effective way to increase economic growth.

The poll’s organisers are wary about attributing specific categorisations to the terms, suggesting that anti-capitalist and pro-socialist sentiments could be read as indicative of a broader frustration with the status quo and a desire for an alternative. The findings are based on interviews with 3,183 young adults.

Harvard Institute of Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government

Food waste: a carbon issue

Agriculture accounts for more than one fifth of overall global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, between 30% and 40% of all food produced is wasted – either perishing before it gets to market or discarded by retailers or consumers.

According to new report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research some basic improvements in food distribution and use could reduce 14% of emissions from agriculture by 2050. If successful this would buck the trend of the past 50 years, during which time greenhouse gas emissions associated with food surplus (ie food produced but not consumed) has increased by 400% (from 130m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to a present day figure of 530m tonnes CO2e per year). In 2010, food availability was 20% higher than was required on a global scale.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

‘Decoupling’ proves possible

The notion of “decoupled growth” – that companies and/or countries can pursue economic growth without a concomitant growth in environmental impacts – seems too good to be true. Yet an analysis by the US-based World Resources Institute of 67 countries indicates that nearly one third have achieved just that.

A comparison of national emissions data from oil company BP and gross domestic product statistics from the World Bank finds that 21 countries successfully delinked economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2014. The list includes a number of leading economies, notably France, Germany, the UK and the US. In the case of the UK, emissions dropped from 591m tonnes to 470m tonnes of energy-related carbon dioxide over the 14-year period, while GDP grew from $2.1tn to $2.7tn. That said, absolute decoupling, where real GDP grew while CO2 declined, only occurred in six individual years. The overall findings are important as they weaken the argument put forward by some developing nations that action against climate change will restrict their ability to grow economically.

World Resources Institute

Institutional Insights

World Bank funds target climate change

The World Bank is to spend at least 28% of its future investments on climate change projects, building on its current annual climate financing budget of $10.3bn a year (equivalent to 21% of its total investment portfolio). Updated figures from the US-headquartered multilateral lender put its projected financing of climate change projects at $29bn by 2020.

Since 2011, the World Bank has committed $52bn to more than 900 climate-related projects. Last year, it made 188 climate-related investments in 59 countries. The Global Environmental Facility and the Climate Investment Funds are two of the institution’s principal climate-related funding mechanisms. Many of the World Bank’s projects are co-financed with other development banks. Collectively, multilateral development banks mobilised financing worth more than $100bn for climate mitigation and adaptation between 2011 and 2014.

The International Finance Corporation, an adjunct of the World Bank, provides lending directly to the private sector. Over the past decade, the IFC has provided climate financing totally about $13bn. This has been used principally to promote renewable power, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, green buildings and adaptation measures by companies. IFC’s climate-related investment and advisory projects realised last year are expected to reduce GHG emissions by 9.6m tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking more than 2m passenger vehicles off the road. According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs $1tn a year to 2050 to finance a low-emissions transition.

World Bank, International Energy Agency

Women lead rise in EU graduates

The share of people aged 30 to 34 in the EU who have completed tertiary education now stands at 38.7%, up from 23.6% in 2002, data from the official statistics agency Eurostat reveals. The increase is especially significant for women, with the proportion of female graduates in this age bracket up from 24.5% in 2002 to 43.4% now. The figure for men has risen too, but more slowly: from 22.6% to 34.0% over the same period. The European Commission’s target for 2020 is that at least two-fifths of 30- to 34-year-olds should have completed tertiary education. Lithuania already exceeds this target, with a 57.6% share of graduates. Cyprus (54.6%), Ireland and Luxembourg (both 52.3%) and Sweden (50.2%) also beat the 40% goal.

Eurostat report

Company snapshots

Newmont generates $6bn in economic value

US mining company Newmont has generated $6.05bn in economic value from its operations in the US, Australia, Peru, Ghana, Indonesia and Suriname, according to its latest annual sustainability report. The majority relates to the value of minerals (primarily gold) extracted from the mines that it operates. However, almost one quarter ($1.35bn) comprises employee wages and benefits. The tax and royalty bill for the mining giant amounted to $433m, while its total community investment spend is calculated at about $28m. The company tops the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for its sector.

Newmont annual sustainability report

ABInBev beats water targets

Global brewing giant ABInBev reports that it now uses 3.14 hectolitres of water per hectolitre of soft drinks, beer and other alcohol products that it manufactures, according to the company’s new corporate citizenship report. This exceeds its 2017 target of 3.2hl per hl of product, and marks a decrease of 0.4hl per hl of product compared to 2012. In addition, the company runs watershed protection measures in 86% of its facilities located in water-stressed regions in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Peru and the US. ABInBev’s total annual water consumption now amounts to 1.382bn hl, a reduction of 11.75% on 2012 levels. The majority of its water comes from either ground water (43.5%) or municipal (42.6%) sources.

ABInBev corporate citizenship report

Adidas extends workers’ text service

German sports clothing company Adidas has expanded an innovative SMS-based worker hotline over recent years. Introduced four years ago, the system is now available in 58 factories in three countries: Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Workers can use the text service to ask questions, make suggestions or express ethical concerns. It is available to 263,000 workers in total, equivalent to around one quarter of all the employees in its global supply chain. Adidas ranks the compliance of its main suppliers with its core health and safety, workers’ rights and other social standards. The audited suppliers are judged on a scale of one to five, with three being good. More than two-thirds (69%) now rate as good or above, the company’s latest sustainability report reveals.

Adidas sustainability report

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