Marsh & McLennan Advantage Insights logo
Conversations and insights from the edge of global business
Menu Search

Quick Takes

Rice Prices Are Rising Amid Global Food Crisis

The price of rice continues to rise for the fifth consecutive month as global food prices soar to record highs, reports the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Rice, a staple food throughout much of the world, has been more resilient against the price increases affecting other food commodities because of abundant harvests. But international rice prices have been rising since the beginning of the year and are now 11% higher than they were at the end of 2021.

Food prices have been rising precipitously around the world, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, higher energy and fertilizer costs, and other factors like food export bans. Wheat, another global food staple, has been particularly affected by the Ukraine crisis, with prices rising 55% since last year. Steep wheat prices could lead to an increased demand for rice, potentially pushing rice prices higher as the conflict continues.

The FAO warns that countries are expected to spend a record $1.8 trillion importing food this year, placing low-income countries at high risk for a food crisis.

American Businesses Have More Work to Do on Racial Equity

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, businesses across the U.S. committed to increasing racial diversity and equity. But in the two years since, how many have followed through? 

The greatest progress has been made in disclosing diversity data and pay ratios, according to JUST Capital’s 2022 Corporate Racial Equity Tracker. Of the 85 largest employers in the U.S., the majority disclose racial diversity data — 91% of companies now share their data on workforce diversity data, and 95% share board diversity data. 

Fewer companies share salary data, though the increases were significant over the past two years: Racial pay equity analysis increased from 34% to 45%, and disclosure of pay ratios by race increased from 14% to 24%.

But corporate America continues to lag behind on issues like reporting hiring and promotion rates by ethnicity, disclosing local supplier or small business spending, providing anti-harassment training, and sharing re-entry or second chance policies. 

These issues remain important to consumers and investors: A recent JUST Capital survey found that 92% of Americans believe it is important for companies to promote racial diversity and equity in the workplace. And 68% of Americans, and 87% of Black Americans, believe companies have more work to do.

Are We in a Crypto Winter?

Digital currencies took a nosedive last month, with the price of Bitcoin dropping 20% across just five days in May. In the first five months of the year, its price dropped 60%, to $26K. Coinbase’s stock price was down 82% compared to April 2021. And Ether lost more than 30% of its value, according to The New York Times.

The combination of rising interest rates, inflation, and economic instability related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict contributed to this value plunge — but so did TerraUSD. TerraUSD is a “stablecoin” — supposedly backed by stable assets. In reality, it was linked algorithmically to another digital currency, Luna, which lost nearly all of its value and implicated TerraUSD’s value.  

Though slow, the market is showing signs of recovery. In a piece for Forbes, Alkesh Shah, head of digital assets strategy for Bank of America, says that although “the media is writing as if it’s the end of the sector,” as of early June, “the market has corrected about 40% to 45%.” Similarly, the NYT notes that “Any panic might be overblown” as “the average Bitcoin owner on Coinbase would not lose money until the digital currency’s price sank below $21,000.”

Over Half of the World’s Car Buyers Want Electric

Source: Axios

More than half of car buyers around the world want to go electric, according to new research on consumer habits. Fifty-two percent of people looking to buy a car said they want their next car to be an electric vehicle — the first time the number has exceeded 50%.

Italy has the most consumer interest in electric vehicles (73%), followed by China (69%) and South Korea (63%). Australia (38%) and the U.S. (29%) are the least interested in electric vehicles out of the 18 countries surveyed. The vast majority of people, 88%, said they are willing to pay more for an electric car.

The survey shows that the world may have reached a tipping point when it comes to electric vehicles, which could help reduce global warming. The interest in EVs has risen rapidly — 22 percentage points — over the last two years, driven primarily by concerns over climate change or government penalties on gas-powered vehicles. Fossil fuel emissions from automobiles and other vehicles are a significant contributor to global warming.

100 Best and Worst US Companies

Source: The Harris Poll

In a poll ranking the most visible U.S. companies by reputation, brands that Americans considered good employers were also ranked the best companies overall, reveals a new Axios Harris Poll 100. The poll surveyed over 33,000 U.S. adults between March and April of this year to determine which companies “excel or falter in society.” 

Among the top 10 most reputable companies were three grocery chains, two car manufacturers, and big brands like Patagonia, Amazon, and Samsung. Seven out of the top 10 companies ranked highly in culture, meaning Americans considered them good places to work. Companies like Trader Joe’s and Patagonia also performed well across demographics, ranking highly regardless of age or political party. Companies that Americans consider the least reputable include Twitter, Wish.com, and the Trump Organization.

Political or public scandals also affected how companies performed year over year. Disney dropped sharply in the rankings, likely in reaction to its initial silence—followed by its public stance against—Florida’s anti-LGBTQ legislation. “The findings suggest that companies that are slow to respond to political crises, or do it inconsistently, suffer the most in terms of consumer reception and trust,” reported Axios.

Get ahead in a rapidly changing world. Sign up for our daily newsletter. Subscribe
​​