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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.

UK Prime Minister Caps Energy Bills As Costs Skyrocket

Source: The Economist

The United Kingdom’s new prime minister Liz Truss is under pressure to help Britons with energy costs, as natural gas prices skyrocket and winter approaches, reports The Economist

On August 26, energy regulator Ofgem reset its energy price cap, raising the average household’s monthly energy bills from 164 pounds ($194) to 296 pounds ($340), starting in October. Forecasts from Cornwall Insight consultancy group predict that without government intervention, energy bills will rise to 449 pounds ($516) in January and 551 pounds ($633) in April. Without government support, experts estimate that energy bills will make up 14% of the poorest fifth of households’ spending — double the amount before the pandemic. Middle-income households will also face steep prices, with 9-10% of their spending consumed by energy costs.

In response, Prime Minister Truss announced that energy bills will be capped for all households at 2,500 pounds ($2,874) a year — about $240 a month — until 2024. Businesses will also benefit from the price cap, though for a shorter period of six months.

Climate Change Causes Deadly Flooding in Pakistan

Source: The Economist

A deadly monsoon season in Pakistan has led to the country’s worst flooding in a decade, as climate change causes increasingly extreme weather around the world. 

By the end of August, Pakistan had received three times its annual average rainfall. Summer monsoon rains caused the worst flooding in areas around the Indus River, with some provinces receiving up to five or six times their 30-year average rainfall. More than 33 million people have been impacted by the flooding, and at least 1,100 people have died. 

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it is the eighth-most vulnerable country to climate change. Some officials estimate that the recovery will cost $10 billion. The costs of flooding also affect the rest of the world: Flooding in 2021 destroyed more than 12 million acres of crops, contributing to the global surge in food prices. Worldwide, flooding has caused over 250,000 deaths and led to economic damage exceeding $1 trillion since 1980.

Risk of Stagflation Rises Around the World

 

The risk of stagflation is rising around the world as inflation rates hit record highs and economic growth slows, reports the World Bank. Stagflation, a period of high inflation, low economic growth, and high unemployment, is a rare occurrence, last seen during the 1970s OPEC oil embargoes. But the combination of the Ukraine crisis and the pandemic has pushed prices high, while hampering growth and limiting consumer spending.This is the “largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s,” said Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s vice president for equitable growth, finance and institutions, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The forecast for global economic growth is down to 3.3%, while inflation is up to 6.2%. Asian forecasts have been revised down due to supply chain disruptions, China’s zero-COVID policy, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Latin American forecasts have similarly been revised, due to surging inflation. Europe and the U.K.’s energy prices and sanctions on Russian energy imports may trigger an economic crisis. High energy and food prices are also impacting Africa and the Middle East.

But the U.S. faces the highest risk of inflation, according to some experts, as the economy contracts and inflation and interest rates rise.

European Energy Systems Are Scrambling to Adapt

Reductions and temporary halts in Russian natural gas exports have exposed the vulnerability of European energy systems, pushing gas prices to record highs and amplifying recession and high inflation concerns.

The situation is worsened by drought conditions that have caused reductions in hydroelectric and nuclear power generation across Europe and led Norway to announce possible cuts to its hydroelectricity exports. The consequences on European energy systems are already evident: Germany will limit heating in public buildings to 19 degrees Celsius and has announced rationing plans unless usage is reduced by 20%

European gas storage facilities are on track to meet their refill targets, but this may not be enough to prepare for winter. The EU is planning to reform its energy markets and has agreed to cut gas use by 15% through March 2023 while increasing imports from the United States. With its REPowerEU plan, the European Commission will also reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Germany and other EU countries are scrambling to find additional suppliers while investing in energy efficiency and renewables. The U.K. has announced similar plans to phase out Russian imports and to expand its wind and nuclear capacity.

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