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Amid Positive Energy Trends, Challenges Remain Around Security

A recent ranking of countries’ performance in the global transition to renewable energy shows that a growing number of countries are pursuing and implementing policies that will deliver on the promise of the low-carbon transition. However, despite the overall positive trend, the data shows considerable variation in performance on the three dimensions the ranking tracks: energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.

In particular, the authors of the 2019 World Energy Trilemma Index found that while an increasing number of countries have achieved continuous improvement in equity and sustainability, fewer countries have managed to achieve continuous improvement in security — the ability to meet demand and withstand system shocks — in that same period. “The global energy transition has historically necessitated various trade-offs, where countries could manage one or two dimensions of energy performance, at the expense of the third dimension,” write the index’s authors. “The classic ‘trilemma’ challenge still remains relevant.”

The Euro Dominates Global Sustainable Finance

Source: European Central Bank

The euro accounts for nearly half of sustainable capital market finances across the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The United States dollar accounts for 25% of sustainable finances, while a collection of other currencies make up the remaining 29%.

The European Commission states that its Green Deal can make the EU’s economy sustainable by “turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities and making the transition just and inclusive for all.” The COVID-19 pandemic presented such a challenge, and according to WEF, pandemic-related investments will also work in service of creating a “climate-neutral economy,” a goal it set to achieve by 2050. 

Investors are taking note, as the European Green Deal Investment Plan, introduced in January 2020, expects sustainable investment worth a minimum of a trillion euros from public and private sources to fund the region’s transition to a climate-neutral status.

Americans Are Less Willing to Get COVID Vaccine Now Compared to in May

Source: Pew Research Center

The percentage of Americans who say they are likely to immediately get a vaccine for COVID-19 has dropped from 72% to 51% since May — a 21 percentage point drop. Despite the continued increase in cases, only 21% of Americans surveyed said they would definitely get a vaccine, according to Pew Research Center.

Concern about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is the main reason for the drastic change — 78% said the development will move too quickly. Typically, vaccine development takes over a decade. Seventy-six percent of respondents are concerned about the possible side effects of the vaccine, and some cite concern about cost. However, the majority would be more willing to get vaccinated if they knew more about the development process.

The first vaccine trials started in March, and now, researchers are analyzing 42 vaccines in clinical trials on humans. Although the timeline for the vaccine still remains uncertain, the CDC says it will not be available to the public until summer of 2021. 

89% of Executives Reject the Idea That Companies Exist Solely To Make a Profit

Source: GlobeScan Incorporated

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s influential statement that: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”  

A recent survey, A Test of Corporate Purpose, shows that 89% of corporate executives and 76% of investors now disagree with Friedman’s notion that “the social responsibility of a business is to increase profits.” Last year, the Business Roundtable defined the purpose of a corporation as needing to promote an economy that serves all people, not just shareholders. 

The global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement this year have also pushed companies to seek engagement with a wider group of stakeholders. Employees and consumers have been demanding a more socially aware agenda from companies rather than a singular focus on profits.

US Boards Are Not Diversifying Fast Enough

Source: New York Times; Institutional Shareholder Services’ ESG division

Despite a lot of activist pressure, representation of minority ethnic and racial groups on U.S. boards has increased by only 2.5% over the last five years. None of the industries surveyed fill even 20% of their board seats with members of minority groups, according to the Institutional Shareholder Services. 

IT company boards reflect the most diversity — at just 17% — up 3.9 percentage points from 2015, followed by utility companies at 16.5%. Both the energy and real estate industries suffer the lowest levels of diversity, at 9% and 10%, respectively. Many big companies are taking the The Board Challenge — a pledge to add at least one Black director to their boards. But ISS found that Black women represent only 1.5% of more than 20,000 directors analyzed. 

The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in workplace diversity, despite the majority of the American public wanting to see change. “A diverse and inclusive workforce ensures that the innovations created are reflective of the organization’s diverse customer base,” according to Marsh and McLennan Insights. 

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