A new briefing for investors published by ShareAction and Access Now has revealed that investors in ICT (information and communication technology) companies that contribute to human rights violations through the restriction of internet services, face financial and reputational risks to their portfolios.
Such restrictions, known as internet shutdowns, intentionally render electronic communications tools such as email, Facebook, or WhatsApp, inaccessible or effectively unusable within a specific location. Governments often request that companies enforce shutdowns in order to exert control over the flow of information during elections and public demonstrations.
The briefing focuses on the risks associated with internet shutdowns, and the actions responsible investors can take. As well as posing a threat to human rights, there are also clear financial and reputational risks to businesses. The cessation of normal operating practices predictably cuts the revenue of ICT companies. The shutdown of services in Egypt in 2011 for five days resulted in direct costs of at minimum USD $90 million. Even relatively brief shutdowns can drive customers to competitors. In Brazil, millions of users downloaded the mobile messaging app Telegram when a court-ordered block shut down its rival WhatsApp for 24 hours in December 2015.
In July 2016, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution which specifically condemned internet shutdowns as a barrier to human rights. Earlier this year, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai pushed back strongly against the use of internet shutdowns during protests. Yet the trend only grows. In 2016 alone, digital rights organisation Access Now has recorded more than 40 internet shutdowns worldwide, a sharp increase from 2015, during which fewer than 20 were recorded. A prominent recent example occurred during the attempted coup d’état in Turkey in July, when media coverage of the coup detailed the unavailability of social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Promoting human rights is good business practice.
With increased competition and lower switching costs, customer trust in these companies stands at risk globally, especially when users perceive corporations as complicit in unlawful or unethical practices.
The briefing recommends that investors encourage companies to: appoint a board-level officer who is responsible for handling shutdown orders; establish a clear policy for responding to and documenting orders, including resisting; and improve transparency about human rights risks where companies operate and increase reporting on the orders.
“Promoting human rights is good business practice. Encouraging transparency around the countries in which companies operate, and those in which they have received requests for service shutdown or monitoring, is a vital first step for concerned investors,” said Colette G. St-Onge, Digital Campaigns Officer at ShareAction.
“Internet shutdowns serve as early warning mechanisms of human rights violations. We’ve seen that when governments order telecommunications companies to disrupt the internet, they create a situation in which misinformation runs rampant, money is lost, and people can be harmed or killed in the ensuing blackout. The recommendations in this briefing show concrete steps for companies to take constructive action, and for investors to hold them to account,” said Peter Micek, Global Policy and Legal Counsel at Access Now.
Consumers Investing in Eco-Friendly Cars with the UK Green Revolution
The UK public appears to be embracing the electric car UK Green Revolution, as recent statistics reveal that more and more consumers are making the switch from petrol and diesel to electric or alternatively fuelled vehicles. The demand for diesel fell by almost a third in October compared to last year, whilst hybrid and electric cars rose by a staggering 36.9%.
Time for UK Green Revolution Change
So, what is the reason for this sudden change? This comes down to the current situation in the UK, which has led to people embracing eco-friendly technologies and automobiles. One of the main reasons is the Government’s clean air plans, which includes the impending 2040 ban on petrol and diesel automobiles. There is then the rollout of the T-Charge in London, the city of Oxford announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel from the city centre by 2020 and various other big announcements which take up a lot of space and time in the UK press.
In addition to this, the negative publicity against diesel has had a huge impact on the UK public. This has led to a lot of confusion over emissions, but actually, the newest low emission diesel automobiles will not face restrictions and are not as bad to drive as many believe. Most notably, German brand Volkswagen has been affected due to the emissions scandal in recent times. It was discovered that some emissions controls for VW’s turbocharged direct injection diesel engines were only activated during laboratory testing, so these automobiles were emitting 40 times more NO in real-world driving. As a result of this and all the negative publicity, the manufacturer has made adaptations and amended their vehicles in Europe. Additionally, they have made movements to improve the emissions from their cars, meaning that they are now one of the cleaner manufacturers. Their impressive range includes the Polo, Golf and Up, all of which can be found for affordable prices from places like Unbeatable Car.
The Current Market
The confusion over the Government’s current stance on diesel has clearly had a huge impact on the public. So much so that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to restore stability in the market and encourage the public to invest in the latest low emission automobiles. SMMT believes that this is the fastest and most effective way to address the serious air quality concerns in this country.
One way that the Government has encouraged the public to make the switch is by making incentives. Motorists can benefit from a grant when they purchase a new plug-in vehicle, plus there are benefits like no road tax for electric vehicles and no congestion charge. When these are combined with the low running costs, it makes owning an electric automobile an appealing prospect and especially because there are so many great models available and a type to suit every motorist. One of the main reasons holding motorists back is the perceived lack of charging points. However, there are currently over 13,000 up and down the country with this number rapidly increasing each month. It is thought that the amount of charging points will outnumber petrol stations by 2020, so it is easy to see more and more motorists start to invest in electric cars way ahead of the 2040 ban.
It is an interesting time in the UK as people are now embracing the electric car revolution. The Government’s clean air plans seem to have accelerated this revolution, plus the poor publicity that diesel has received has only strengthened the case for making the switch sooner rather than later.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!