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COVID-19 Threatens Press Freedom Across the World

Source: Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Note: White represents “Good Situation,” yellow represents “Satisfactory Situation,” orange represents “Problematic Situation,” red represents “Difficult Situation” and black represents “Very Serious Situation.”

Journalistic efforts were completely blocked or severely disrupted in 73% of the 180 countries analyzed in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Last year, only 7% had a “favorable environment for journalists,” compared to 8% of the countries in 2019.

“The coronavirus pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field,” the report notes. The largest drop in ranking was Malaysia — down 18 places at 119 — as a result of increased censorship. Countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa ranked the lowest due to internet censorship, surveillance and propaganda — especially in China, which ranked 177th. 

Norway ranked first in the index, followed by Finland and Sweden. Europe and the Americas remain the most favorable continents for press freedom, despite “abuses” and “violations” against press freedom increasing. At the same time, the public is putting an increasing amount of trust in business, as opposed to media, along with expectations for social leadership, according to Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer.

Rebuilding Trust Is Key to Business Travel Recovery

Source: Morning Consult

Business travelers represent only 10% of total airline travelers but up to 75% of airline revenue — and roughly one-third of business travelers are not planning any trips for the remainder of the year, according to a Morning Consult survey. Meanwhile, most of those planning to travel for business in 2021 only have one or two trips scheduled.

Trust in brands plays a key role in how business travelers approach the industry. Over 60% of business travelers say trust determines which company they travel with compared to 57% of the general public. Similar to other travelers, business travelers value brands that are reliable, have good customer service and hold a high safety record. However, business travelers also assess trust based on a brand’s commitment to sustainability, how long it has existed and whether it earned the recommendation of a trusted individual. 

COVID-19 brought an unprecedented halt to the travel industry last year, but with vaccine rollout,  domestic leisure travel returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. Although the disruption in business travel isn’t expected to fully reverse anytime soon, rebuilding trust has a clear role to play in accelerating industry recovery.

Food Production Is Pushing the Climate Target Out of Reach

Source: Our World in Data

Food production alone could cause the world to miss its 1.5 degree Celsius climate target even if countries stop burning fossil fuels immediately. Along with energy, food production is one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse emissions — one-quarter to one-third of emissions come from food systems.

Our World in Data identified five ways to reduce emissions from the food industry: adopting a plant-based diet; consuming healthy calories; limiting food waste; and improving crop yields and farming practices. Shifting to a plant-based diet would lead to the biggest reduction in emissions. If these practices were fully adopted by 2050, the world would see net negative emissions.

Both consumers and producers have significant roles to play in reducing food emissions that involve legislation, investment and creating better policies. Although fully incorporating these five methods into daily activity could be difficult, the changes would lead to “a global food system that is more productive, has a lower environmental impact, and provides a healthy, nutritious diet for everyone.”

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. 

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