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Executives Are Too Optimistic About a Return to Normal

Source: Oliver Wyman Pandemic Navigator; https://pandemicnavigator.oliverwyman.com/

Note: Each example represents only one of many possible pathways to the herd immunity threshold; pathways become more numerous and flexible the further out the target date.

Many executives are making planning decisions based on the notion that by the very beginning of 2021, things will get “back to normal.” However, according to recent Oliver Wyman analysis, the long haul will be longer than most expect with normalcy unlikely before Q3 2021.

Recent news on 90-95% vaccine efficacy and significantly higher daily case run rates than those examined above will also have an impact on timing to herd immunity. Taken together, an average new daily case rate of 120,000 and a 90% efficacy vaccine, can improve the timeline by over a month and a half. However, the impact of such a rapid daily case run rate is dramatic — it would result in an additional ~200,000 deaths as compared to a run rate of 70,000 new cases per day. 

Given the long haul in front of us, companies may need to consider if what has been working for the past seven months can be sustained for the next 9 to 12.

Too Much Free Time May Be Almost As Bad As Too Little

Source: American Psychological Association

Having too much free time can be detrimental to a person’s well-being, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association. Much has been discussed regarding balancing work and free time, but the benefits apply only to a point.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey, conducted from 2012-2013, and found that the beneficial effects of free time on a person’s well-being began declining at around 5 hours. They also found that those who were asked to imagine a day with 7 hours of free time reported a lower satisfaction level than those imagining a day with 3 hours per day of free time.

The key to workers’ happiness is the feeling of being productive. Those who spent their time in a productive way (e.g., working out or doing hobbies,) reported a higher level of well-being than those who used it in an unproductive way (e.g., watching T.V.) Furthermore, the amount of free time spent socializing led to a higher well-being rate than free time spent alone.

Public Views of US Business Sectors Are Plummeting

Americans rated U.S. business industries at their lowest points since 2011 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average record-low, according to Gallup, was during the 2008 Great Recession at 34% — just five percentage points lower than the current average of 39%.

Of the 25 industries ranked, the federal government, the most negatively rated industry since 2014, was again viewed the most negatively by the American public at 31%, followed by the oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries. This year, Americans rated a mere four industries positively — farming and agriculture at 59%, restaurants at 58%, the grocery industry at 54% and the computer industry at 51%. In the past three years, farming and agriculture and the restaurant industry were the top-ranked sectors.

Public sentiment toward certain sectors is related to how they responded to the pandemic, states Gallup. However, as a whole, the public has trusted businesses more than other institutions during the pandemic.

China Is Dominating E-Commerce Activity

Source: Statista Digital Market Outlook

Global e-commerce sales are expected to increase by nearly 50% by 2050. Most of this growth will come from Asia — the region expects a 51% increase in e-commerce activity — and predominantly from China, according to Statista

The Chinese e-commerce market rose notably faster compared to the rest of the world — even prior to COVID-19 — driven by high-speed internet and smartphones, high consumer confidence in online shopping and a larger variety in e-commerce and payment platforms. The pandemic did, however, speed the region’s adoption of e-commerce: It registered $1.3 trillion in sales last year. By 2025, sales will grow to nearly $2 trillion, indicating that “almost every second e-commerce dollar could be spent in China.” 

The pandemic has significantly impacted consumer trends across the world, especially related to online shopping. To keep up with this market trend, large retailers are accelerating their investments in e-commerce to ensure their survival both during and after the pandemic.

Net-Zero-Aligned Investments Increase Nearly Fivefold in 6 Months

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today

In order to facilitate the global transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 and reduce the risks climate change poses to their investments, investors are setting commitments to steer their portfolios to net-zero emissions. With COP26 approaching, the first half of 2021 has seen rapid growth in the number and value of assets under management (AUM) aligned with the net-zero goal.

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today, representing around 36% of global AUM. The Initiative has joined with the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance and Net-Zero Banking Alliance to form the Glasgow Alliance for Net Zero, with over $70 trillion of assets between them.

As more investors align their portfolios with net-zero targets, companies will face mounting investor pressure to adopt credible net-zero transition plans and improve their disclosures of emissions and climate risks.

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