Top Stories

December 04, 2020

Climate Change 

UK sets new 2030 emissions target while research shows slow progress on environmental performance

The UK Government has officially unveiled a target to reduce emissions by 68 percent by 2030, as part of a domestic action plan that will deliver the nation’s contribution towards the Paris Agreement and build towards net-zero by 2050. As hosts of the next climate summit – COP26 – it is hoped that the UK’s ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ will signal a flurry of similar commitments from other nations. However, the update comes as a report from campaign group Unchecked UK calls out the UK’s slow progress towards environmental goals as a result of environmental deregulation. The report noted that water quality, air quality, nature protection, and the decarbonisation of the housing sector have all been damaged by deregulation and the erosion of enforcement capacity. (edie; Business Green) 


Asset management industry ‘not doing a good job’ on diversity, says SEC chief

Outgoing chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, has admitted the asset management industry is “not doing a good job” at making improvements in diversity and inclusion. Investment companies owned by women and minorities oversaw just 1.3 percent of the $69 trillion US asset management industry, according to a 2019 study led by the Harvard Business School professor Josh Lerner for the Knight Foundation. Ruby Dang, from investment firm Garcia Hamilton & Associates, called for the SEC to pass rules requiring investment consultants to include asset management companies owned by women, minorities and people with disabilities in any competition for new mandates from public pension plans. This comes as Nasdaq proposed that listed companies should disclose “consistent, transparent diversity statistics” for boards of directors. (Financial Times*) 

Digital Ethics 

Google embroiled in row over AI bias research

A well-respected Google researcher said she was fired by the company after criticising its approach to minority hiring and the biases built into today’s artificial intelligence systems. Timnit Gebru, who had been co-head of AI ethics at Google, said on Twitter that she had been fired after the paper was rejected. Researchers worry that the people who are building artificial intelligence systems may be building their own biases into the technology. Over the past several years, several public experiments have shown that the systems often interact differently with people of colour. The dispute has threatened to shine a harsh light on Google’s handling of internal AI research that could hurt its business, as well as the company’s long-running difficulties in trying to diversify to its workforce. (The New York Times*; Financial Times) 


Unilever is testing a four-day work week in New Zealand

Unilever has become the latest major company to introduce a four-day work week policy. It announced that it would test shorter working hours for all its employees in New Zealand, letting them decide which four days they’d prefer to work each week. The trial starts this month and runs for a year, with researchers at the University of Technology Sydney helping to track their progress. Unilever said that if all goes well, the company will consider whether to shake up its workflow on a wider scale. This follows from New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who had previously raised the idea as one that might help the economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. (CNN) 

Corporate Reputation 

UK gambling laws review to consider ban on sports sponsorship

A wide-ranging review of gambling laws to be launched next week will consider banning sports sponsorship and limiting online casino stakes among much more. The long-awaited review could roll back vast swathes of the Gambling Act 2005. Terms of reference will be published, offering the first insight into what is in store for the gambling industry as well as campaigners calling for tougher regulation. The broad scope is likely to be welcomed by advocates of tighter regulation, including people recovering from problem gambling and more than 50 MPs and peers who have backed stricter controls. The UK gambling industry’s lobby group, the Betting & Gaming Council, has repeatedly said tightening the regulations too far could fuel parallel market betting operations that have a scant regard for customer safety. (The Guardian) 


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