Top Stories

May 26, 2021


US companies appoint more Black directors after social justice protests

The number of African-American directors on corporate boards has risen significantly since the murder of George Floyd last year, according to a report by ISS Corporate Solutions. From July 1 2020 to May 19 2021, a third of newly appointed directors in S&P 500 companies were Black, up from 11% in the same period a year earlier. Overall, Black directors made up 10.6% of S&P 500 board members as of May 2021, compared with 8.3% a year earlier and 7.8% in 2019.  The pressure on companies to diversify boardrooms is likely to increase in future months. Beginning in 2022, the large index fund manager State Street will vote against the chair of the nominating and governance committees of companies that do not have at least one minority board member. (Reuters; Financial Times*)


Dutch court to rule on world-first case targeting Shell's climate strategy

A Dutch court will rule on a case in which climate activists seek to force Royal Dutch Shell to speed its cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. Filed by seven activist groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, the lawsuit marks a first in which environmental groups have turned to the courts to force a major energy firm to change strategy. It was filed in April 2019 on behalf of more than 17,000 Dutch citizens who say Shell is threatening human rights as it continues to invest billions in the production of fossil fuels. They are demanding that Shell cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, a much steeper reduction than the company's current goal of a 20% reduction of the carbon intensity of its products by 2030. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Amazon Flex, Bolt & Ola fail to ensure minimum wage for gig workers

Gig workers using popular labour platforms, including Amazon Flex and Uber Eats, often earn less than the minimum wage, according to a study by the University of Oxford. All three of Amazon's services, including courier and cab services Bolt and Ola, scored zero points in the study, which judged how fairly 11 of Britain’s best-known platforms treat workers. The study contends that the lack of stable income due to the variable nature of the demand for gig services and the lack of formal employment protection means gig companies wield an exceptional amount of power over gig workers. Labour platforms' classification of workers as "self-employed" leaves many covering steep costs out of their wages. No company demonstrated that workers were assured the Living Wage Foundation's higher living wage after costs. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Biden doubles FEMA programme budget to prepare for natural disasters

The Biden administration has pledged to spend $1 billion to help communities prepare for worsening disasters, the latest sign of the toll that climate change is already taking across the US. The change will double the current size of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that gives money to state and local governments to reduce their vulnerability before a disaster happens — for example, building sea walls, elevating or relocating flood-prone homes. The funding is less than what some experts say is needed, especially because climate change is increasing the frequency and destructiveness of storms, flooding, wildfires and other disasters. However, others praise it as a “good start” recognising the increased frequency of natural disasters. The US experienced 22 disasters that exceeded $1 billion each in damages last year, a record. (The New York Times)


Indonesia paper giant APRIL's expansion plan raises deforestation fears

Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies, is slated to boost capacity by significantly expanding its mill operations in the heartland of Indonesia’s pulpwood industry. Subject to approval by the local authorities, the company would increase pulp capacity to 5.8 million tonnes per year, and production of paperboard to 2.9 million tonnes per year, starting in 2025. APRIL says that it will increase production by improving the productivity and efficiency of its operations and will not expand its plantations. However, environmental groups question where the wood will come from to meet such a large increase in capacity, citing fears that APRIL’s capacity increase could put thousands of hectares of natural forests at risk every year. (Eco-Business)

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