Mike Tuffrey looks back at some of the better news stories of 2016.
The year usually ends with a concerted effort to be jolly, even if most readers of this blog will feel glad tidings have been in rather short supply recently. News that Italy is now staring into the unknown – with a possible banking crisis threatening the wider Euro zone following its referendum upset – will do little to lighten the mood.
So this month in seasonal mood I’ll try to find some positive news, even if I end up reinforcing my long-running theme that it’s all ‘bout the money (with apologies to Meya). My sense that it isn’t all bad was fuelled by a recent round trip to the southern hemisphere including Australia, which involved nearly 50 hours sitting in planes and plenty of time to reflect.
The first piece of cheer is that the framework of global agreements on climate and sustainable development, made in 2015, is set to endure. Action is gathering momentum and tipping points being reached. With renewables now exceeding coal, the International Energy Agency has raised its five-year renewable growth forecast, driven by “strong policy support in key countries and sharp cost reductions” (also known as government action to reinforce market trends). Never mind Trump, China will continue to act because its cities will choke unless it cleans up.
Second, we forget just how much progress was made under the Millennium Development Goals. Over a billion people taken out of extreme poverty; the number of children not in primary education halved; child mortality also halved. That creates a momentum in itself from a better educated workforce and more market demand.
Third, technological change remains a powerful force for productivity and wealth creation, even if the transition to the so-called fourth industrial revolution will be painful for many. The World Economic Forum’s study of this earlier in the year is worth another look. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/fourth-industrial-revolution/ Don’t forget, it’s only a decade since the first iPhone was launched – tenth anniversary coming up on January 9th; today there are as many mobile/cell phone subscriptions as people on the planet.
Fourth, individual companies are really stepping up the action. The latest to make a big move is Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue and the biggest private employer too, with 2.2 million employees. In November, CEO Doug McMillon announced a new set of goals up to 2025 along with a nifty infographic summarising the targets. What I especially like is the strong economic pillar – selling more products, being an employer of choice, buying more from women-owned businesses; this is all about becoming a trusted retailer, and helping save the planet along the way.
My fifth and final bit of seasonal cheer is from a central banker. Buried in a technical explanation of current monetary policy given in Liverpool on December 5th, Mark Carney of the Bank of England issued a clarion call for fairness in economics, including a lovely dig at the Brexiteers’ slogan:
“To address the deeper causes of weak growth, higher inequality and rising insecurity requires a globalisation that works for all. For the societies of free-trading, networked countries to prosper, they must first re-distribute some of the gains from trade and technology, and then re-skill and reconnect all of their citizens. By doing so, they can put individuals back in control.”
And as an early Christmas present for erstwhile economists like me, the published speech ‘The Spectre of Monetarism’ also includes 16 charts of data trends and 21 footnotes of references.
So we end the year back to the question of ‘who gets the money’ and with some hope for the new year in prospect, which surely can’t be as grim as 2106, can it?
Mike Tuffrey is Co-founding Director of Corporate Citizenship.