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Female chiefs remain a rarity
Only one in 20 of Fortune 500 firms are run by women, a study by Fortune magazine reveals. The overall figure may seem small, but at 24 female chief executives (and 51 of the Fortune 1,000), it is the highest ever female representation at the top of the US corporate tree. In 1998, only two of the US’s biggest 500 firms (Mattel and Golden West Financial) had female chief executives. General Motors (no 7 in the 2014 Fortune 500) is the largest company currently governed by a woman. With nine female chief executives, specialist retailers are best represented. The mining and crude oil production industries have no female chief executives, despite having 33 companies in the Fortune 500. More than eight out of 10 female CEOs are hired from outside the company, around four out of 10 have MBAs, and the vast majority (93%) are married.
Plastic bag use increases
Nudges to persuade UK shoppers to use fewer single-use plastic bags appear to be failing, with usage increasing by 420m over the past 12 months. Shoppers at the UK’s largest seven supermarkets walked away with 8.76bn single-use bags over the past year, according to figures from the government-backed Waste and Resources Action Programme. Use of new polymer also increased by 4.8%, indicating that fewer bags are being recycled. The long-term performance is more promising, with total bag numbers and total plastic volumes dropping by 29% and 39% respectively since 2006. The situation is brightest in Northern Ireland, where a 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced in October 2011. Between 2012 and 2013, usage in Northern Ireland dropped by 71% (from 190m to 60m).
UK wage gap grows
Chief executives of the UK’s largest companies now earn 162 times more than the average worker, a report by the non-profit group High Pay Centre finds. In the 1990s, the gap was close to 60 times. The average FTSE 100 head took home £4.7m last year, up from £4.1m in 2012. The best-paid chief executive is Martin Sorrell, head of advertising giant WPP, whose total package amounts to almost £30m. This contrasts with the £26,500 taken home by the average UK worker. Pay for those in new jobs is lower still, with four in five in sectors having annual salaries for a 40-hour week of less than £16,640. Polling suggests that 78% of the public would support a maximum limit on executive pay.
MPs’ views on responsibility
Three in five MPs polled by membership body Business in the Community believe corporate responsibility is a key issue for the national government. Meanwhile, two in five see it as relevant to their constituencies, the survey of 151 MPs finds. Worryingly, however, a quarter of MPs had no knowledge of businesses helping to regenerate deprived areas. Lack of awareness around businesses encouraging entrepreneurship (18%) or engaging in secondment initiatives (20%) is similarly low. This comes despite four in five (81%) believing – in theory – that responsible business has a positive effect on the economy. A major divergence appears between political parties regarding the importance of legislation in driving responsible business, with 40% of Labour MPs believing mandatory legislation is necessary compared with only 3% and 0% of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs respectively.
Shoddy disclosure rates among US companies
Two-fifths of the largest listed companies in the US fail to disclose any information about the financial risks of climate change to the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). Those that do report might as well not bother, a study from Ceres seems to suggest. On a range of 0 to 100 (with 100 being the best), the US environmental advocacy body gives the S&P500 an average score of 4.18 for the climate change content of their annual filings to the SEC (known as 10-K reports). Electric and gas utilities help drag the average up for all sectors, achieving a score of 16.7 out of 100.
Poor energy labelling from online retailers
If you want to buy a domestic appliance and you’re interested in its energy performance, then head to a store, not online. Two-thirds of products sold in Europe by online retailers lack information about energy consumption. In the UK, the figure shoots up to nine in 10. Air conditioners stand out as being particularly poorly labelled, with less than one fifth giving their energy rating. In contrast, more than three-quarters of European bricks-and-mortar retailers provide on-pack labelling. The findings are based on 225 shop visits (114 traditional retailers and 111 online retailers) across Europe as part of MarketWatch, an EU-funded programme managed by the Energy Savings Trust. The study comes ahead of new online Energy Labelling Regulation, which will come into effect in January next year and will require online products to carry an energy label.
Promising future for European renewables
Renewable energy is expected to comprise 60% of European electricity generation capacity by 2030, up from 40% in 2012. The increase will come at the cost of fossil-fuel power sources such as coal and gas, which are set to fall from 48% at present to 27% by the end of the next decade. The optimistic predictions come from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which foresees nearly $1tn being ploughed into Europe’s clean energy sector by 2030. Rooftop photovoltaics and onshore wind promise to be the lead green technologies, accounting for investments of an estimated $339bn and $250bn respectively.
Globally, BNEF expects 66% of the $7.7tn to be invested in new generating capacity by 2030 will be earmarked for renewables. Of this $5.1tn total, Asia-Pacific will account for $2.5tn. Even so, fossil fuels are set to remain very much in contention, retaining the biggest share of the power generation mix, at 44%.
Alarming costs of climate change
Climate change is set to cause an escalation in premature death, a study from the European Commission finds. An estimated 200,000 people could suffer heat-related deaths per year in the EU by 2080, with resulting welfare costs hitting €130bn (£103bn), it is predicted. The study is based on a scenario of a 3.5C increase in global temperatures. Other costs include the impacts on the coasts at £33bn a year and the damage to the agriculture sector at an annual £14bn. Preventing global warming will require an 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990 levels) by 2050, European policy makers state.
Remittances outstrip aid
Remittances sent home by migrants (estimated to number 230 million people) to developing countries total about $196bn a year. The figure is equivalent to more than three times the size of official development assistance, a report from the UN Development Programme claims. At $70bn a year, India is the top destination country for officially recorded remittances. China is second at $60bn.
Global Compact ditches 285 signatories
A total of 567 companies joined the UN Global Compact in the first six months of 2014, bringing the number of signatories to more than 8,000. Over the same period, 285 companies were expelled from the UN’s flagship business-focused group because of their failure to report on progress against the Compact’s 10 principles. The list includes Novozymes (China) Investment and Siemens Chile.
Pharmaceutical firm Novartis provided medicine to more than 100 million patients last year, it reveals in its latest corporate responsibility report. Meanwhile, an estimated 4.5 million people in India, Kenya and Vietnam received health education through its “Healthy Family” Social Ventures programme. Over the past decade, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm has delivered more than 600m antimalarial treatments without profit, including 200m paediatric treatments.
The Co-Operative Group is facing a slew of business challenges at present, but, to its credit, it remains committed to its ethical origins. More than 1.5 million young people have so far benefited through its Inspiring Young People programme, for instance. The UK’s largest mutual also provided local communities with £15.7m in social investment support over the past year. Its environmental record proceeds at a pace too, racking up a 45% reduction in carbon emissions since 2006. Nearly three-quarters of all waste is now recycled or reused.
Global ad and marketing agency WPP generated an impressive £1.26bn from sustainability-related campaigns and other marketing services in the past year, the company reveals in its 12th annual Sustainability Report. It’s getting its own house in order too. Nearly half of its senior managers are women and almost one fifth of senior managers in the UK and the US are from ethnic minorities. The firm invested £64.4m in training its employees, who number 175,000 across 110 countries. In 2013, it donated £19.6m in cash and pro bono work, representing 1.5% of pre-tax profits.CR Cheat Sheet gender equality income inequality plastic bags renewable energy US reporting wage gap