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Quick Takes

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Voter Turnout in Elections This Year?

Source: Council on Foreign Affairs

Around the world, countries are taking precautionary measures to make sure the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect voter turnout in elections. Earlier this year, the Dominican Republic and North Macedonia — each suffering from a high number of COVID-19 cases — both saw large drops in turnout from its previous election. In Burundi and South Korea, however, voter turnout increased, despite coronavirus-related concerns. 

To combat the spread of COVID-19, many countries required mask usage in polling stations, checked voters’ temperatures, enforced social distancing and eliminated sharing materials. Other measures included staggering voter hours, providing alternative options to in-person voting and implementing special procedures for COVID-19 patients. However, most of these precautionary measures are expensive to implement, and countries have concerns about how to communicate such changes to voters.

Currently, more than 40 million ballots have already been cast in the upcoming United States presidential election. While the Pew Research Center found that the majority of registered voters are “very or somewhat confident that in-person voting places will be run safely, without spreading the coronavirus,” most states are currently seeing a sharp increase in cases.

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.

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.

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