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New thinking on corporate risk and resilience in the global economy.

Quick Takes

Global Plastic Waste Is a Major Risk for Everyone

Source: University of Leeds

Every year, nearly 30 million tons of plastic are discarded on land, 50 million tons are burned in the air and 11 million tons are dumped into the ocean, according to a computer model from the University of Leeds, U.K

Plastic waste predominantly comes from high-income countries; however, middle- to low-income countries have less access to waste collection services, thereby producing more poor waste management. Improving waste collection services is the most important factor in reducing plastic pollution, which will require political, societal and corporate support.

Businesses also need to cut back on plastic for global improvements to be made. The packaging industry accounts for the highest use — and waste — of plastic, at 146 million tons in 2015. There are multiple ways that businesses can eliminate waste, such as substituting plastic with compostable materials, and selling products and packaging that are recyclable.

More Households Turn to Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa During COVID-19

Source: World Bank

Agriculture was the main source of livelihood for smaller households in sub-Saharan Africa last year. More households entered the industry than exited, and more urban households joined the industry compared to rural households, perhaps due to food insecurity and loss of employment. In Nigeria alone, the percentage of households involved in agriculture increased from 76% to 84% since the start of COVID-19. 

Despite agriculture acting as a “buffer” against COVID-related disruptions, farmers are struggling to access resources, such as feed, animal health services and markets. In Nigeria, 89% of livestock households said they had limited access to feed, for instance, and 82% of households said they had limited access to markets.

Similar to the 2008 global economic crisis, the agricultural sector absorbed some of the shock from COVID-19 for low-income households in 2020. But moving forward, key stakeholders in the industry will have to address the supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, along with new climate risks.

2020 Was a Record-Breaking Year for Electric Car Sales

Source: International Energy Agency (IEA)

Last year, electric car sales in Europe more than doubled over 2019 levels — increasing 135% year-over-year. Europe and China — the drivers of the electric car market in 2020 — accounted for about 1.3 million sales last year, according to IEA. Japan and Australia were the only large markets that saw a higher drop in electric car sales than overall car sales.

Although pandemic-related lockdowns impacted electric car sales at first, early indicators showed market resilience — such as policy support, increased purchase incentives, lower battery costs, newer technology and interest from electric car buyers. IEA estimates show that 2020 was “a record-breaking year for electric mobility,” surpassing three million sales worldwide.

Multiple countries announced plans to phase out internal combustion vehicles to align with net-zero emissions by 2050. To do so, the share of electric vehicles in global sales must climb to around 50% by 2030. Major vehicle companies are getting on board. For instance, Ford announced its plan to target an “all-electric” offering for vehicles in Europe by 2030. 

 

Public in Rich Nations Feel Optimistic About Future Crisis Responses

Source: Pew Research Center

The majority of respondents in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and France feel optimistic about future public health emergency strategies from their government, according to Pew Research Center. 

Nearly eight-in-10 respondents said Germany has handled the coronavirus pandemic successfully. Despite their optimism, the American public reported a 6% drop in approval rating for their country’s response to COVID-19 from June to November. Ideology and the current status of the economy played a major role in how respondents rated their country’s response to the coronavirus.

As countries around the world ponder how to ramp up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, few respondents found it acceptable for their government to implement mandatory vaccination measures. The U.K., which had the third-highest vaccination rate worldwide, was the only exception, with 60% of respondents stating they would accept a vaccination program. Pew found that trust in national government is associated with more acceptance of a government-required program.

Trust in Businesses Rose During COVID-19 Crisis

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer

Trust in businesses grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, and business remains one of the public’s most trusted institutions, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. However, public trust declined in most industries — with technology, fashion, professional services and automotive seeing the most significant reversals. 

Since business is more trusted than the government and media, 86% of the public now expect CEOs to take the lead in addressing societal issues — such as the pandemic’s impact, job automation and local community challenges. 

COVID-19 has added to the public’s personal and societal fears, with many worried about the future of the workforce. For example, the majority of Trust Barometer respondents are alarmed by the rate at which companies could replace human talent with artificial intelligence.

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