Top Stories

July 07, 2017


AI photo check exposes scale of diversity problem at top firms

Artificially intelligent algorithms have been used to dig down into the data of boardroom diversity, confirming that there is a lack of diversity at the top of the world’s corporate ladder. Researchers from biotech firm Insilico Medicine compiled pictures of the top executives taken from the websites of nearly 500 of the world’s largest companies in 38 countries. Image recognition algorithms automatically detected the age, race and sex of the board members, and compared the results to the age, race and gender profile of each firm’s country to see if they reflected the general population. Overall, the team found that only 21% of the corporate executives in the study were female. Nearly 80% of the corporate executives in the study were white, with 3.6% black and 16% Asian. In the US, many companies reflected the 12% of the population that is black in their boardrooms, although there were also 30 companies without any black board members at all. (New Scientist)

Technology & Innovation

“Chairless chair” is designed to provide support for active factory workers

A flexible exoskeleton, designed by Swiss studio Sapetti, allows its wearer to sit down whenever and wherever they need to. ‘The Chairless Chair’, as it is called, is designed primarily for manufacturing environments, where workers are required to stand for long periods of time and where traditional chairs would be an obstacle. The wearable exoskeleton allows users to walk around freely but have instant support once they get into a bending, squatting or crouching position. This would reduce the number of instances where employees feel physical strain, so could potentially reduce absences and early retirement. Sapetti founder Marc Sapetti said that the Chairless Chair can ensure that workers “not only improve the ergonomic environment for their employees, by improving body posture, but also solve and prevent certain occupational health and safety challenges, and provide age-appropriate working conditions for their ageing employees.” (De Zeen)


How the growth of E-Commerce is shifting retail jobs in America

Online shopping accounts for only 8.4% of all retail sales in the US, but it has had an outsize effect on the retail workforce as online retailers can sell more products with fewer workers than traditional stores. Thus, despite hundreds of thousands of jobs created by new online firms, these new jobs have not absorbed the job losses at traditional retailers. In fact, nearly three-quarters of e-commerce firms have four or fewer employees. Furthermore, new jobs are concentrated in a handful of large cities and tech hubs. Small metro areas and rural counties account for about 23 percent of overall retail employment but just 13 percent of jobs attributed to electronic shopping firms. (New York Times)

Policy & Research

France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040

France will end sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of the country’s plan to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord. The announcement comes a day after Volvo said it would only make fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, a decision hailed as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine’s dominance of motor transport. Nicolas Hulot, the country’s new ecology minister, said: “We are announcing an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.” Hulot added that the move was a “veritable revolution”. Norway, which has the highest penetration of electric cars in the world, has set a target of only allowing sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. Other countries have floated the idea of banning cars powered by an internal combustion engine to meet air quality and climate change goals, but have not yet passed concrete targets. (Guardian)

Responsible Investment

Swiss Re shifts entire$130bn portfolio to ethical indices

Swiss Re, one of Europe’s biggest insurers, is to move its entire $130bn investment portfolio to new, ethically-based benchmark indices. The company has already started the process of moving away from more traditional benchmarks, and expects to complete it later this year. Its move comes amid renewed interest from the insurance industry in ethical investing. Last year, Axa said it would sell its tobacco investments, and this year others including Aviva and Scor have followed. Swiss Re says it is the first insurer to base its whole portfolio on ethical principles. Guido Fürer, the chief investment officer, says that in future both internal and external managers of its money will be told to use MSCI’s ESG indices, rather than more traditional benchmarks. MSCI scores each company based on a series of ethical criteria. Those scores are then combined with market capitalisation weights and used to create the index, so companies with a better ethical performance have a higher weight in the index. (Financial Times*)

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Image Source: Workers by Wonder Woman0731 at FlickrCC 2.0