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Quick Takes

Higher Social and Environmental Performance Improves Your Talent Pool

Source: MSCI ESG database, Fortune, Universum, Marsh & McLennan Advantage Analysis

Employers with high environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores are better able to attract young talent and satisfy their employees compared to those with lower scores. The most attractive companies to young professionals have an ESG score 25% higher than average. 

Sixty-four percent of consumers will “buy or boycott a brand” based on its social or political stance, according to Edelman. This trend is especially prevalent with millennials and Gen Zers, who will represent 72% of the global workforce by 2029. “Some companies have been able to promote a culture of pride through their environmental or social performance, while others have had to deal with employee activism,” according to researchers from Marsh & McLennan Advantage. 

Greater commitment to ESG can also drive a higher quality of work and employee retention: Engaged employees “work harder, stay longer and seek to produce better results for the organization,” according to research from Mercer. The importance of ESG is on course to strengthen, and as businesses emerge from lockdown and eventually seek to recruit, those with ESG initiatives will have a competitive edge over others.

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.

China Receives the Most Foreign Investment in 2020

Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

China surpassed the United States for the first time as the largest recipient of global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020. China attracted an estimated $163 billion, compared to $134 billion in the United States. Global FDI flows in 2020 were an estimated $859 billion compared to $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to UNCTAD. 

China’s success was led by a steady recovery in GDP growth and effective government programs that stabilized investment during the first lockdown. East Asia and South Asia reported growth as well because of early rebounds in Hong Kong and a growing digital economy throughout India. West Asia, however, did not experience similar trends, as the region’s economy was devastated by the drop in oil prices.

The COVID-19 pandemic suppressed all investment activity — M&A deals, greenfield investment and cross-border finance deals. Global FDI flow is expected to remain weak in 2021. Although GDP growth and trade are expected to resume growth, investors will proceed with caution. 

How Businesses Can Help With the Vaccine Rollout

Source: Oliver Wyman's Consumer Sentiment survey, December 2020.

Nearly 60% of survey respondents in the U.K. and U.S. said they would be more willing to visit businesses in person once all the staff are vaccinated. However, the latest Oliver Wyman Forum survey indicates that less than half of Americans are “very willing” to get vaccinated, while nearly 15% said they would never get the COVID-19 vaccine. In comparison, 70% of U.K. respondents are “very or somewhat willing” to get the vaccine.

Vaccine skepticism in the U.S. is likely related to the significant drop of public trust in the government since the start of COVID-19. Americans received unclear messages from the previous administration about the pandemic. But businesses can help address this skepticism, as people’s trust in business surpasses their trust in the government and nonprofits. 

Some companies are already assisting in the vaccine rollout, including Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon. These large corporations can assist with data storage, appointment scheduling and the delivery of supplies, as well as offer space for vaccination centers. Eventually, this vaccination rollout can revive the economy, benefiting the business community.

2021 Will Bring an Uptick in 5G Technology, Reaching 1.95 Billion People Worldwide

Source: Bankr

More than half of the world’s population is expected to have access to 5G coverage by 2025. The advanced technology is on track to grow by 253% in the next four years. In 2020, 5G technology had reached about 15% of the world population, or 1.17 billion people. In 2021, its reach could increase by 10%.

As of August 2020, 38 countries had deployed 5G technology, with North America and Asia leading in the implementation. Europe lags behind the two regions due to weaker demand for 5G. In developing countries, general internet reach is at 47%, compared to 87% in developing countries. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions into remote working, making access to connectivity more important than ever. However, this abrupt digital transition exposed the billions of individuals who do not have internet access and are, therefore, more likely to fall behind economically and academically. WEF states that “closing this digital divide is reliant on making 5G available to everyone, everywhere, in a modern and open way.” Access to 5G could benefit industries like education and health care, job and skills training, civic engagement and public services.

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