Top Stories

November 07, 2018


Facebook and Google sign up to Tim Berners-Lee ‘contract’

Facebook and Google have signed up to new internet standards designed by world wide web founder Tim Berners-Lee. The “contract for the web” will require internet companies to respect data privacy and “support the best in humanity”, after a year in which they have faced criticism for data privacy scandals and the spread of fake news, hate speech and online abuse. The contract frames principles for a “free and open web”, aiming to improve internet access and privacy. Nearly 60 companies, governments and business leaders have signed up to the contract, however, Amazon, one of the “huge companies” named in a report published alongside the contract, has not. “Those of us who are online are seeing our rights and freedoms threatened,” Sir Tim said. “We need a new contract for the web, with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better.” (Financial Times)*

Sustainable Investment

SASB codifies sustainability accounting standards

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board published its long-awaited set of industry-specific sustainability accounting standards on Wednesday at the London Stock Exchange. SASB has been working to develop the standards for years with the help of industry experts and experienced standard-setters and regulators, including engagement with many prominent investors and businesses. Publishing the standards provides the opportunity for businesses, within the 77 industries covered, to identify and communicate how they are addressing sustainability issues. Several prominent companies, including GM, Nike, Diageo, and NRG Energy, have already begun using the SASB standards. “This is an important milestone for global capital markets. Companies and investors around the world now have codified, market-based standards for measuring, managing, and reporting on sustainability factors that drive value and affect financial performance,” said SASB Chair Jeffrey Hales in a statement. (Accounting Today)

Corporate Reputation

Softbank chief stands by Saudi ties after Khashoggi murder

Masayoshi Son, the chief of Japanese tech group Softbank, has condemned the murder of a journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi security forces, but has said his company will continue to work with Riyadh. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, initially covered up by Saudi officials, caused a global outcry which threw Softbank’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia into focus. Saudi Arabia is the major investor in Softbank’s £71bn Vision Fund, an investment vehicle focused on emerging technology; which helped the Japanese firm post a jump in quarterly profits. Mr Son was among other executives in withdraw from an investment forum in Riyadh last month in the wake of the journalist’s disappearance. However, in his first public comments since the murder, Mr Son said: “we have a responsibility towards the Saudi people, and we must carry out our responsibility rather than turn our backs on them. These funds are important to the Saudi people in ensuring their economy diversifies and is no longer dependent on oil.” (BBC News)

Employees/ Policy

Amazon plans to split HQ2 between two locations

After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees split between two locations, according to people familiar with the decision-making process. The company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, in New York. Amazon is also close to a deal to move to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, one of the sources said. Amazon executives met two weeks ago with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the governor’s Manhattan office, said one of the people briefed on the process, adding that the state had offered potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. (The New York Times)


BHP Billiton facing £5 billion lawsuit from Brazilian victims of dam disaster

The Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton is being sued for around £5 billion by Brazilian victims of the Samarco dam collapse in Mariana in 2015, which killed 19 people. The class action case was filed in the Liverpool high court on Monday by SPG Law, on behalf of 240,000 individuals, 24 municipal governments, 11,000 businesses and the Krenak indigenous community. On 5th November 2015, toxic waters from the failed tailings dam destroyed hundreds of homes in Bento Rodrigues, contaminated forests and left hundreds of thousands without drinking water. Prosecutors charged senior executives of the dam operator Samarco Mineração with homicide and accused its parent companies – Vale and BHP Billiton – of environment damage. A civil lawsuit has now been filed in the UK due to the plaintiffs’ belief they will have better access to fair and speedy compensation in Britain than in Brazil. Samarco, Vale and BHP Billiton have previously said they reject the charges, that safety had been a priority and that the dam complied with Brazilian legislation. (Guardian)


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Image source: The Shard by Martin Pettitt on FlickrCC BY 2.0.