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ESG Issues Are Getting More Attention From Directors

Source: Global Network of Director Institutes (GNDI), 2020-2021

Over 60% of global business directors surveyed said that COVID-19 accelerated their focus on ESG, sustainability and stakeholder value issues. Out of 2,000 respondents, the majority agreed that risk-scenario planning and decision-making needs to involve outside experts, according to the latest GNDI survey.

This increased interest in ESG values correlated with other highly ranked trends throughout the survey. For instance, 63% of directors expect COVID-19 to increase the competition for talent. Past surveys showed how companies with better ESG performance are likely to have both better employee engagement and greater attractiveness to prospective talent. Over half of respondents also believe there will be a growing emphasis on corporate purpose and board diversity. 

Just 17% of directors surveyed were satisfied with their response and ability to provide oversight during the pandemic. Although directors can learn from their response, they can also work with their management teams to prepare for future workforce changes — social and economic. By doing this, companies will be more equipped to absorb the shocks from these risks.

Many Americans Still Lack Household Internet Access

Source: Pew Research Center

Forty-three percent of people with a household income of $30,000 or less do not have internet access at home, whereas ninety-three percent of households earning $100,000 or more have internet access, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

This digital divide is persistent in the United States, creating a barrier to digital information, education and products and services for lower-income Americans. Early this year, 27% of lower-income adults had access to a smartphone but did not have broadband internet at home — a 12% increase in eight years. Meanwhile, only 6% of households earning $100,000 or more were categorized in this group.

COVID-19 exposed disparities in online access in the U.S. as daily activities, like work and school, were abruptly moved online. Families with lower incomes faced a greater challenge to make the transition since they rely more heavily on mobile devices and often lack reliable high-speed internet. As remote work and education become more permanent, new technologies, like 5G, will need to be accessible to everyone “through early investments and targeted deployments” to prevent future economic and academic gaps.

Metal Prices Soar As Economies Recover

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Global industrial metal prices reached a nine-year high in May, with a 72% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels. Of the metals reviewed, the price of copper is up 89% year-over-year, iron ore is up 116% and nickel is up by 41%, according to the IMF.

Four factors contributed to metals’ soaring prices: manufacturing activity, supply chain disruptions, storability and a push for a greener economic recovery. Many mining operations temporarily paused due to COVID restrictions, and freight rates for transportation of bulk materials reached a 10-year high — both attributing to the cost of metals. 

Market predictions indicate that industrial metal prices will rise a further 50% YoY; however, prices are then expected to decrease by 4% in 2022. As the U.S. and EU introduce high-scale infrastructure projects, demand for copper, iron ore and other industrial metals could spike to accommodate a quicker energy transition. 

Pandemic Policies Leave Societies Divided

Source: Pew Research Center

Over sixty percent of the publics surveyed feel their countries are more divided now than prior to the pandemic. Among 17 advanced economies, more people in the U.S. (88%) felt increased division compared to any other country, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Only 34% of countries surveyed feel more united this year, according to Pew Research Center.

Those with negative views of the economy are more likely to report societal division. Attitudes about COVID-related restrictions also affect the public’s sense of division: Those who believe there should have been fewer restrictions are more likely to agree that society has grown more divided. 

As economies recover this summer and vaccine distributions continue, 75% of respondents have confidence that their health care system can handle future global health emergencies, but a median of 65% continue to feel the day-to-day impact of COVID-19 a great deal.

Which Countries Have Mandatory Childhood Vaccine Policies?

Source: Our World in Data

Various vaccinations for children are mandatory in 89 countries, recommended in 32 countries and required for school entry in 20 countries. Vaccines have helped reduce the likelihood of child mortality, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, hepatitis B and tuberculosis, to name a few. 

Our World in Data found that disease outbreaks are a major driver of enforcing mandatory vaccination, followed by a lack of other policy alternatives. About half of the countries in Europe do not have mandatory vaccinations, whereas 29 out of 35 in the Americas do. Many low- and lower-middle-income countries have mandatory policies but miss their target vaccination rates due to vaccine supply, delivery and access limitations — similar to what they are encountering with the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Although no country has made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for its population, some are considering the idea. Many countries are also offering the vaccine for children aged 12 and above, with the U.S. vaccinating more than 600,000 children in less than a week.

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