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274 Global Catastrophic Events Made 2020 the 5th-Costliest Year

Source: Swiss Re Institute

Last year became the fifth-costliest year on record for global natural catastrophes, reaching $81 billion in insured losses. Insured losses from secondary perils — frequent natural disasters with low-to-medium magnitude losses — are growing steadily, representing 71% of all losses and costing over $57 billion last year. 

There were over two hundred catastrophic events in 2020 — the U.S. was hit the hardest by economic losses, followed by Australia and Asia. The agricultural sector is most at risk for financial losses, as about 75% of production is not insured — alongside the construction, tourism and renewable energy sectors. If not addressed, these sectors face volatile revenue, higher costs, low earnings or bankruptcy. 

“With economic losses from catastrophes growing faster than insured losses,” states the World Economic Forum, “adapting economies to climate-related impacts has become a major societal priority.” Parametric insurance — the fastest-growing type of insurance — can help companies, in both developed and developing countries, manage this business risk with its rapid payout speed.

ESG Stocks Contribute to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Popular ESG stocks often contribute toward greenhouse emissions, according to an analysis by Jordan Waldrep, chief investment officer of Illinois-based TrueMark Investments. Although ESG stocks exclude most oil and gas companies, emissions data from companies paint a different picture.

According to Waldrep, many exchange traded funds include companies that emit more greenhouse gases than a hypothetical fund that excludes the five dirtiest companies per sector. The problem, according to Waldrep, is that the funds weigh other ESG priorities higher than environmental impact.

Further complicating the scenario is the lack of visibility in supply chain emissions. An analysis of popular ESG stock Amazon, for instance, showed that its ocean shipments and third-party sellers cannot be tracked.

Ethereum Emissions Are Equal to 2-3 Coal Power Plants

As more attention is paid to decentralized finance, the emissions made by some of its networks are reaching an all-time high. Analysis of the energy consumption and emissions of Ethereum, for instance, estimates that processes behind the digital currency amount to 7.28 megatons of carbon dioxide emitted per year. This is comparable to the same yearly emissions of two to three coal power plants, according to Kyle McDonald, a digital media artist.

The currency, unlike its more popular cousin Bitcoin, relies mostly on a distributed network to validate its transactions. This network is largely composed of individuals running computations on everyday computer hardware called GPUs, which McDonald accounts for in his calculations. This inefficiency is significant when making comparisons to similar tech platforms. Facebook, for instance, handles approximately two billion daily active users on just a third of the electricity (Ethereum uses an estimated 24.7 terawatt hours of electricity per year compared to Facebook’s 7.17 terawatt hours).

In the coming year, Ethereum will begin to phase out its current way of transaction validation and replace it with a more energy-efficient method that’s less reliant on a distributed, inefficient network.

Investors Poured a Record Amount of Money Into Health Care This Year

$93 billion dollars were invested in health care in 2021 as of Q3

Funding in health care companies reached a record $97.1 billion dollars as of Q3 2021 — more than any other industry and 22% of total dollars raised, according to CBInsight’s State of Venture report. One-in-5 dollars funded went into health care companies as public health continues to be a point of focus societally.

Among the top companies to receive funding in 2021 were drug development companies like Abogen. Located in China, the company has invested in its mRNA vaccine production to bolster China’s COVID-19 response. Its vaccine, unlike others from Moderna and Pfizer, purportedly does not require cold storage for seven days. Companies have also been investigating using the mRNA vaccine to treat other diseases such as shingles and, potentially, cancer.

Other health care companies are looking to artificial intelligence. Olive, a Texas-based company, raised $400 million in 2021 and aims to automate tedious tasks as health care workers deal with a second year of burnout. The cross-section of AI and health care has positive potential, such as detecting anomalies in X-rays or MRI/CAT scans, but also worrying aspects such as reinforcing gender bias.

Number of Women in CEO Roles at Large Companies Reached Record High

This past year, the amount of women in chief executive officer roles at the world’s largest companies reached its highest level since Fortune began tracking its eponymous list 67 years ago. 

Forty-one of this year’s Fortune 500 have women in their highest executive positions, more than tripling the amount from just a decade ago. Meanwhile, a total of 23 women are in CEO roles of Global 500 businesses. In addition to the record number of total executives, this year’s lists also featured the highest-ranking American business ever run by a female CEO and, for the first time, multiple companies with Black women CEOs. (Black women representation on the boards of S&P 500 companies also increased by over 25% this year.)

While these milestones are key markers in measuring the broad progress of gender equity in corporate leadership, the record number of women CEOs still represents only 8.1% of the American list and 4.6% of the global total. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply exacerbated gender inequality across the workforce, all companies — but especially the most prominent in the world’s largest markets — will need to continue to focus on prioritizing gender parity at all levels of operations.

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