Top Stories

February 26, 2019


Large shareholders vote against excessive CEO pay

Large shareholders – including asset managers and pension funds – are voting against CEO pay packages, according to US non-profit As You Sow.Although shareholders have become more successful in voting down excessive pay proposals, overall CEO remuneration has continued to rise, the organisation said. Its fifth annual report included a survey of CEO remuneration at companies listed on the S&P 500, which revealed that average pay for an S&P 500 CEO rose from $11.5 million in 2013 to $13.6 million in 2017. The highest paid chief executives were at infrastructure company CSX Corporation ($151 million) and software firm Broadcom ($103 million). At CSX, this equated to 1,539 times the average pay of an employee. As You Sow reported that, if the votes of the world’s three largest asset managers – BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street Global Advisors, which tend to approve almost every CEO pay proposal – were excluded, the approval rate would drop dramatically. The organisation said that the three asset managers together controlled 15-20% of the shares of every public company in the US. (IPE)

Technology & Innovation

Start-up gets ready for factory robots working alongside humans

Veo Robotics Inc., a start-up developing sensor technology that lets industrial robots work safely side-by-side with humans, secured a $15 million funding round late last month, bringing total financing to around $28 million as it prepares to roll out the product in May. Veo’s proprietary technology uses lidar sensors to create real-time maps of factory work spaces, so that robots can slow or stop completely when human workers get too close. There are more than 2 million industrial robots in operation worldwide, mostly toiling inside metal safety cages. While repetitive tasks such as arc welding can be done entirely by machines, the majority of work even in the most automated factories requires involvement of people. Embedding force sensors into industrial limbs is one way to prevent them from plowing through obstacles, but the same technology that makes the arms safe also makes them weak. Most so-called cobots cannot handle weights heavier than 10 kilograms making computer vision a suitable way to get robots into more complex environments, without compromising their strength. (Bloomberg)

SEAT and IBM develop phone app to encourage greener city travel

Car manufacturer SEAT has teamed up with IT giant IBM to develop a new mobile phone app to help people make greener urban travelling choices, with a view to shifting people out of their private cars towards public transport, car-sharing, bike-sharing, and electric scooters. The ‘Mobility Advisor’ uses IBM Watson AI software to help “revolutionise urban mobility” by informing peoples’ decisions about daily transportations options. Currently under development and designed to run on 4G and 5G networks, the Mobility Advisor is able to learn a user’s travel preferences and make personalised recommendations for how best to complete a city journey, the firm explained. It adapts to changing conditions by taking into account weather forecasts, traffic reports, and events in a city each day, while incorporating a user’s personal appointments and historical data about previous travel choices in order to suggest the best mode of transportation “even if that means leaving the car behind, walking, or using one of SEAT’S e-Kick scooters for the part of the journey,” it said. (Business Green)*

Supply Chain

Accenture and Mastercard launch blockchain-enabled supplier ‘tip’ scheme

Professional services firm Accenture has teamed up with Mastercard and Amazon Web Services to launch a new supply chain initiative that uses blockchain technology to encourage customers to “tip” small-scale growers and producers that are showcasing sustainable practices. The new initiative, which also involves technology firm Everledger and humanitarian aid organisation Mercy Corps, aims to directly reward sustainable practices at the base of a supply chain. Blockchain and digital identity technologies are used so that when a consumer scans a product label, they can access details of how that product was made and can make a direct payment to individuals further down the supply chain. The initiative also enables producers, manufacturers and retailers to better manage inventories and reduce waste while boosting transparency across the supply chain. As for small-scale suppliers, it is hoped that financial incentives will encourage more responsible and sustainable production processes. (Edie)


World’s food supply under ‘severe threat’ from loss of biodiversity, UN warns

The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study on the biological systems that support food cultivation. The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals. Over the last two decades, approximately 20% of the earth’s vegetated surface has become less productive, said the report, launched last week. It noted a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested. Many species that are indirectly involved in food production, such as birds that eat crop pests and mangrove trees that help to purify water, are less abundant than in the past, noted the study, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries. (Edie)

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Image source: Industrial Shelves Project (Robots Display) – Dana Mattocks by Dana Mattocks on FlickrCC BY 2.0.