Top Stories

August 18, 2020



PwC and Schroders will allow staff to work from home after Covid crisis 

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Schroders are to allow the majority of staff to continue to work from home after the Covid-19 pandemic as the health emergency prompts a major shift in the office-based culture that has been a hallmark of City firms for generations. The accounting company PwC, which employs 22,000 staff in the UK, is predicting that the majority of employees will move to a more even split of home and office working on a permanent basis. Schroders, the FTSE-100 listed fund manager, has told staff that they will not be required to return to the office full time even after the heath emergency has passed. While companies are rethinking the rulebook on flexibility and instituting permanent changes to working life, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said empty offices in the capital are already causing a major problem for the struggling economy, with homeworkers not needing to spend on travel, food or going out in London. (The Guardian) 

Responsible Business 

Amazon investigated by German watchdog for abusing dominance during pandemic 

Amazon is being investigated by German authorities for allegedly abusing its market position during the coronavirus pandemic. The investigation, being led by the German Federal Cartel Office, is looking at Amazon’s relationship with third-party sellers on its platform. It began around April and comes after the Cartel Office received a number of complaints related to Amazon blocking some retailers for allegedly inflating their prices early on in the pandemic. For example, there were numerous cases of third-party Amazon sellers ramping up prices on items like hand sanitizer and masks. A spokesperson for the regulator told CNBC that it is “not up to a private platform to be a price regulator or the price police.” German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was the first to report the investigation. The regulator told CNBC that Amazon had provided it with a statement after it asked the e-commerce giant a number of questions. The responses in the statement are now being considered. (CNBC) 


Oil and gas giants take $87bn hit on assets in nine months 

Fossil fuel majors BP, Shell and Total have all written down value of their assets by billions in the second quarter of 2020, but Exxon, Equinor and ConocoPhillips failed to report any significant material impairments. The oil and gas giants have slashed the value of their oil and gas assets by $87 billion in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated demand for oil and accelerated the pace of the clean energy transition, data compiled by Carbon Tracker suggests. This comes as BP announces its plans to slash its oil and gas production by 40 per cent by 2030 in order to pivot towards low-carbon energy solutions. Carbon Tracker welcomed oil majors’ moves to revise the valuation of their assets in line with projections of lower longer-term oil prices, which it said would help reduce investors’ exposure to stranded asset risk. “Companies who continue in a business-as-usual manner, risk continuing to expose investors to significant stranded asset risk, potentially destroying significant shareholder value,” Carbon Tracker oil and gas analyst Mike Coffin said. (Business Green) 

Renewable Energy

Europe recorded record solar output amid Covid-19 lockdowns 

Solar output in Europe hit a record high of 47.6TWh in the second quarter of 2020, new analysis from energy insight company EnAppSys has shown. The firm’s latest analysis of the European solar market concluded that solar output between April and June 2020 was 19 percent higher than output during the corresponding period in 2018, when the last peak was recorded. This spike in output is largely attributable to increased capacity installation after what has been described as “slowed” uptake. According the firm, 2020 has marked the beginning of a “resurgence” for Europe’s solar market, following a string of cuts to subsidies, with many nations moving to ease planning restrictions in a bid to kick-start domestic economies in the wake of COVID-19. Ultimately, however, the cost of energy storage will need to fall as rapidly as the cost of generation for a “new dawn of solar expansion” to be realised in Europe, senior analyst Rob Lalor said. (edie)

Climate Action 

National Lottery funnels £14m into community-led climate action projects 

A range of green projects geared at galvanising community climate action around the UK have been awarded a share of £14 million announced by the National Lottery. The 14 sustainability projects to have secured funding, which marks the first portion awarded through National Lottery’s £100 million Climate Action Fund, include local food, farming, transport, domestic energy use, waste reduction, the natural environment and behaviour change initiatives. Organisations securing support for initiatives include Wildlife Trusts of Wales, Cumbria Action for Sustainability, Middlesbrough Environment Trust, and the Women’s Environmental Network Trust. The aim of the Climate Action Fund, which was launched in July 2019 by National Lottery’s Community Fund, is to support local projects and help “communities be the catalysts for broader transformative change”. Over the next ten years, National Lottery expects to provide £100 million for community-led climate action projects across the UK. That comes in addition to more than £340 million National Lottery claims to have handed to environmental projects across 4,800 grants since April 2013 through its Community Fund. (Business Green)