Top Stories

October 21, 2020

Sustainable Investment 

Funds worth $3tn attack South Korea and Japan groups over coal project

European funds with $3.4tn of assets have criticised South Korean and Japanese groups over developing a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, underscoring mounting pressure from investors over climate change. In a letter to be published on Wednesday, a consortium of 18 investors — including Nordea Asset Management, Danish state fund MP Pension and the Church of Finland — warned the Japanese banks and South Korean industrial companies over their involvement in Vung Ang 2, a multibillion-dollar project in northern Vietnam. The investors’ objections come as big institutions increasingly restructure their global portfolios away from fossil fuels and sharpen their focus on environmental, social and governance issues. The development also highlights the growing divestment risk for companies that continue to invest in polluting projects. (Financial Times)* 

Gender / Equality 

UN says pandemic will slow already miniscule progress in women’s rights

The coronavirus pandemic threatens to grind down progress towards gender equality, according to a new report by the United Nations. Gender-based violence and inequities in the workplace and political leadership are nearly as bad as they were 25 years ago when UN members made a landmark commitment to women’s rights. Women’s workforce participation is below 30% in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia. Progress in gender parity in political leadership is also slow with only eight more female heads of state or government today than in 1995, and women in managerial positions are almost at the same level as in 1995. The findings come as the coronavirus pandemic deepens underlying inequalities with women more likely than men to be infected due to taking on the bulk of care work. (Thomson Reuters Foundation) 

Digital Ethics 

US antitrust case accuses Google of strangling competition

The US Department of Justice has accused Google of suppressing competition in internet search in a lawsuit that marks the beginning of a landmark antitrust case against one of the world’s largest technology groups. The justice department called Google “a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet” and alleged that the company, owned by Alphabet, had used a “web of exclusionary” deals to stymie competitors in the search business. The action, filed in federal court in Washington just two weeks before the presidential election, comes as bipartisan scepticism of large technology companies has taken hold in the US capital. It is the most high-profile antitrust action taken by the US government since its battle with Microsoft in the 1990s. Google’s chief legal officer, Kent Walker, called the case “deeply flawed”. (Financial Times)* 


Polluted air killing half a million babies a year across globe

Air pollution last year caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies in their first month of life, with most of the infants being in the developing world, according to data by the Health Effects Institute in its State of Global Air Report. Exposure to airborne pollutants is harmful for babies in the womb, potentially causing premature birth or low birth weight factors associated with higher infant mortality. Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution, arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking. Medical experts have warned of the impacts of dirty air on older people and those with health conditions but are only beginning to understand the deadly toll on babies in the womb. (The Guardian) 


Machines to ‘do half of all work tasks by 2025’

Half of work tasks will be handled by machines by 2025 in a shift likely to worsen inequality, according to the World Economic Forum. The think-tank said a “robot revolution” would create 97 million jobs worldwide but destroy almost as many. Routine or manual jobs in administration and data processing were most at threat of automation. However, new jobs are set to emerge in care, big data and the green economy. More than 50% of the 300 world’s largest companies surveyed said they expected to speed up the automation of some roles in their companies, while 43% felt they were likely to cut jobs due to technology. The pandemic has sped up the adoption of new technologies as firms cut costs and adopted new ways of working. (BBC)