New Research Helps Businesses Predict When Disability Is More Likely To Occur

Authored By: Julie Gaudry | Publish Date: 05/26/2017
What if businesses could estimate with accuracy when disabilities are more likely to occur? Given that one in three employed Canadians will be off work for 90 days or longer at some point during their career due to disability, this information could provide significant advantages.
Long-term disability claims can negatively impact both employees and businesses. In addition to the effects of their medical condition, employees also face the significant emotional and financial stress of not working.  And business leaders, especially of smaller operations or departments where the employee fills a critical role, will feel the loss more keenly if it happens at a time when the economy – and business – is picking up.
LTD Claims Tied To GDP
While many may think that long-term disability rates rise when times are tough, it turns out that when the economy is on an upswing is exactly the time that long-term disability claims are more likely to occur.
By using data from over 300,000 group benefits clients since 2009, we discovered a direct link between LTD incidence rates and the rise and fall of GDP. Through extensive analysis and the development of a proprietary algorithm, the RBC Insurance Group LTD Forecast can predict LTD incidence rates up to two years in the future when using RBC Economic forecasts or six months into the future when using current GDP values – a helpful tool for businesses of any size.
It may seem strange that claims increase when times are good, but it’s actually akin to our body’s reaction to the stress of a prolonged adrenaline rush. When economic times are tough, employees worry about their job security and performance, which creates significant mental and/or physiological stress. As GDP rises and the economic outlook brightens they begin to feel more secure, but that pent up stress and anxiety takes its toll. At this point, the employee can succumb to illness and may require a leave from work to recoup.
The findings also support the fact that, contrary to what many Canadians think, the majority of LTD claims are stress-induced, from mental or nervous system disorders, such as depression or anxiety, to circulatory diseases such as heart attacks.1
Cost Savings Potential
Considering businesses spent almost $7 billion for LTD coverage in 2015, (the third largest cost to a group benefits plan after health and dental),2 the groundbreaking findings of this research can provide real cost-savings potential – along with a range of other workplace benefits. By using this predictive insight and understanding the correlation between GDP and LTD claims, businesses can better anticipate and manage costs related to claims and help prevent some from happening altogether. By proactively increasing focus on supportive resources available such as employee assistance programs (EAP) and putting contingency plans in place to support employees when they need it the most, you can help them get back on their feet quickly after an illness.
Tips To Help Businesses And Employees
  • Business leaders, HR departments and managers can be more attentive to employees during economic downturns to ensure they are aware of the resources available to help them cope with stress and uncertainty
  • Increase focus on employee assistance programs to assist employees as GDP rises
  • Proactively create plans to ensure adequate staffing levels during times of positive economic growth to reduce the impact of an employee’s absence on the business, including a buffer for potential claims
  • Review Group Benefit plans annually to ensure you have the right one in place for your specific business needs
  • Look for plans that have flexible options such as allowing employees to return to work on a part-time basis while still receiving benefits
  • Ensure employees understand the coverage in their plan and make use of any ‘Return to Work Benefits’ such as financial planning, rehabilitation, and other services to help make a smooth transition back into the workplace
Giving employers the tools to predict the incidence of LTD claims allows them to plan and mitigate those risks to help keep their operations running smoothly during critical periods. Combining the right information on a timely basis with a proactive approach to supporting staff can ultimately result in productivity gains through a healthier, happier, and more engaged workforce.

Julie Gaudry is senior director, group insurance, at RBC Insurance and is responsible for the overall management of its group benefits business.
  1. RBC Insurance Survey 2014
  2. Fraser Group – Group Universe Report July 2016

Building Your Organization’s Health Culture

 Authored By: Medcan | Publish Date: 05/30/2017
Medcan doesn’t simply help clients make health and wellness an integral part of their business – it leads by example every day in its own. In the following Q&A, its CEO, Shaun Francis, talks about creating a culture that encourages a healthy workforce
Q: Why are health and wellbeing so important to running a successful business?
SF: Well, at the end of the day, there’s the happiness factor that comes from promoting health and wellness, which we’ll get to. But purely as a numbers exercise, if you look at employer health expenditure costs throughout Canada, they’re rising year over year. And that’s because employers are focused on providing benefits, such as drug coverage, that only support employee health after they’re sick.
In other words, right now, most businesses operate in a reactive way toward employee health. And continuing to do so, without becoming more involved in prevention and active management, means they’re bearing – and will continue to bear – tremendous costs with chronic illness.
That’s where creating a fertile health and wellness culture comes in. Becoming more actively involved in employee health means businesses don’t just contain costs by getting ahead of disease, but they enable positive behaviour change. In other words, employees find purpose in what they do, productivity increases, and so does engagement and happiness, which, of course, is what we’re all striving for.
Q: Do you have some bottom line numbers you can share, in terms of the how wellness – or lack of wellness – can impact an organization overall?
SF: Some of those figures associated with not addressing wellness, are quite stark.
For instance, more than 50 per cent of employees in Canada – one in two – report that they’re dealing with a chronic illness. That’s illness that may develop slowly and can continue indefinitely, chipping away at people’s day-to-day ability to work productively. In fact, in terms of productivity loss alone – which includes both absenteeism such as not showing up to work, as well as presenteeism, which is showing up sick, but not being ‘all there’ – chronic disease costs the economy over $120 billion annually which are huge numbers.
Also, some 87 per cent of employee healthcare claims costs are the result of individual lifestyle choices. And those costs are three times more than the cost of investing in preventive healthcare programs. So, financially speaking, employee health and wellbeing make a lot of sense.
Q: How can a company create a culture of health and wellbeing – what are the basics?
SF: It starts by demonstrating that the health of all employees matters to your organization. You can do this in a number of ways.
First, facilitate primary care for your employees, for instance, encourage them to quickly and conveniently see a doctor. That way, when they’re sick, they have the resources and ability to get well fast. This active involvement not only reduces absenteeism and productivity loss, it leads to a healthier and happier workforce.
Second, promote early disease detection in your workplace. For instance, you can host on-site screening days to stay ahead of challenges as they arise and prevent future risks. This not only can help safeguard your employees’ health, it can also result in reduced drug costs and getting a handle on lost productivity.
Third, make it easier for employees to adopt healthy lifestyle choices – both in their personal lives as well as things as seemingly innocuous as whether you serve chips and soft drinks in meetings.
Q: Can you share a few obstacles you’ve faced in trying to create a healthy and successful work culture at Medcan? Or that other organizations might face?
SF: There are two main sets of obstacles, I think.
There’s the challenge of not starting from the top, from the executive level. If your leaders aren’t showing the value of taking care of themselves by taking the day off when they get sick or going to the clinic when something isn’t right, or if they’re not exercising, or not eating healthy, it’s going to set the wrong kind of expectations for employees. Managers need to lead by example and set the tone for their organization’s culture, for instance, that demonstrating that coming to work sick is not a badge of honour, it’s actually bad for their health and their coworkers’ health – in other words, when they don’t take care of themselves, it makes achieving employee health goals more difficult and costly.
There’s also the issue of consistency. Launching a step counting challenge to get your employees to move once a year won’t cut it, because it’s not about being healthy for a month. It’s about living well, eating well, staying active, having a healthy mind, all year long, all life long. You need to help employees take care of their health and wellbeing every day.
Q: What, in your opinion, are the three key elements to successfully implement a health and wellness program?
SF: You have to lead by example, I can’t emphasize this enough. That’s where it starts. Here at Medcan, it’s very normal to see employees grab their gym bag and leave for an hour. No one questions their absence and, often times, their boss asks ‘did you have a good workout?’, probably while heading to the gym themself. And when people get sick, we encourage them and make it easy for them to see a doctor, for example through a virtual medical visit. It’s important to create an environment that supports healthy living and makes sure employees get well quickly.
You also need to communicate effectively and educate – make sure your team knows what sorts of health and wellness benefits they’re eligible for and inspire them to use those benefits.
Finally, there’s the positive feedback loop – evaluating, adapting, refining, and improving. What’s working and what’s not? And remembering, incidentally, that what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Take Millennials. They’re now the largest generation in the workplace and they have a different outlook and attitude. At Medcan, we support the ‘always on’ approach Millennials appreciate, like for instance the ability to see a doctor via video.
Q: What would you say are the best ways to engage your workforce in thinking healthy?
SF: I think it really comes down to inspiration. Our motto at Medcan is ‘Live well, for life’ and we take those words very seriously. When a colleague crosses the finish line, literally or figuratively, we celebrate it and let the whole company know. In fact, like our clients, our employees get a health inspiration newsletter every month. We also make an effort to share valuable and encouraging stories that prove we’re making a difference through our work. We are in the business of inspiring healthy change in people and that alone is very fulfilling.
And, whether it’s the ride employees have set for the weekend to train for our team’s ‘Ride to Conquer Cancer ‘or a cool new way to ferment yoghurt, you walk by the proverbial cooler and, amazingly, our employees are talking about their healthy life. At this point our health culture intrinsically supports itself and that’s very gratifying to see. It’s pretty amazing.
For more information on Medcan, visit

Three Ways Employers Can Leverage Technology To Improve Mental Health In Workplace

Authored By: Michael Held | Publish Date: 06/05/2017
It might not be readily apparent, but chances are most of your employees have experienced or been indirectly affected by mental illness. Roughly 20 per cent1 of Canadians develop a mental illness in their lifetime, which can have drastic implications for their personal lives and those around them.
As conditions like depression and anxiety become increasingly common, it’s important for employers to recognize their role in providing staff with appropriate mental health resources they can use to cope. After all, depending on your industry, your employees likely spend about 60 per cent2 of their waking hours at work; what better place to access the help they need?
Using An EAP
Fortunately, a growing number of organizations already understand the importance of employee mental health and some even have an employee assistance program (EAP) in place for mental health services. While using an EAP is completely confidential, individuals are required to speak to a representative to gain access. Many workers are reluctant to seek help as mental illness is still stigmatized, and they fear how they might be perceived if colleagues or managers ever find out that they have reached out to their EAP.
This hesitation to come forward can have detrimental effects both for employees who are suffering and for the organization as a whole. Every week, 500 0003 Canadians miss work due to mental illness. Over $6 billion4 is lost each year to absenteeism and presenteeism in the form of foregone productivity. The financial stress this places on employers and the healthcare system can be astronomical, not to mention its crushing impact on the lives of millions of Canadians. That’s why it’s critical for organizations to actively provide mental health assistance for their staff.
Regardless of whether you work for a not-for-profit or a Fortune 500 company, every organization has the ability to create a safe space for their employees who are dealing with mental health issues. Here are a few starting points:
  • Make help anonymous and confidential.
As we work to reduce the stigma around mental illness, many people are still uncomfortable asking for help or accessing resources ‒ especially from their employer. Whether they’re looking for strategies to alleviate stress or seeking information about a particular mental disorder, your employees deserve to receive assistance without worrying that it will affect their livelihood.
The great thing is most Canadians own a computer, smartphone and/or tablet, so offering access to quality mental health support on these devices increases the likelihood that they will use the programs their employers provide. Sharing mental health resources digitally means employees don’t have to feel pressured about attending live seminars or finding time in their busy schedules to book an appointment with a professional. The promise of anonymity and confidentiality is key to ensuring employees get help in a timely manner that is also compatible with their needs.
  • Make access easy and uniform for all employees.
If employees don’t know that mental health resources exist, or if they must jump through hoops to tap into them, they aren’t going to take advantage of the program. It doesn’t matter whether your employees sit at a desk, staff the front lines, work from home or in the field; having easy access to mental health support ensures that all employees can use the services whenever and wherever they need it.
One way of ensuring easy access is by using digital resources. By simplifying account creation and login processes, it will minimize confusion and reduce barriers to use. It’s also crucial that the resources be as universally accessible as possible. This doesn’t just mean they’re properly formatted across a variety of devices, but that users with disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, can also make use of the program.
  • Don’t just support employees; their families need help too.
Every person who works for an organization has a life outside of their job, and family stress can seriously harm an individual’s quality of work and productivity. It’s hard not to internalize the problems our loved ones are going through. None of our experiences happen in a vacuum and often the longer we go without addressing an issue the more of a domino-effect it can have on the people around us.
For example, if an elderly person is experiencing health problems, her children are likely to carry their stress and worry into work with them. Their concern for their aging mother could affect their ability to focus on the job and interact appropriately with their colleagues. At home, it could adversely influence how they connect with their partners and children too.
As previously mentioned, technology is ubiquitous and makes sharing information fast and efficient. Employers should leverage the scalability technology affords by providing mental health support not only to their employees, but to their employees’ families as well.
Billions Of Dollars
Employers simply can’t afford to ignore mental health in the workplace anymore. Lost productivity, indemnities, and healthcare expenses are costing the economy billions of dollars each year, and this doesn’t even take into account the personal cost to individuals and their families’ well-being. Luckily, it’s never been easier for employers to actively support their employees by offering useful information about mental health.
Michael Held (LL.B., MBA) is the chief executive officer and founder of LifeSpeak, a digital platform that offers employees around-the-clock-access to a wide range of topics related to total well-being.
[1] Statistics Canada releases mental health survey results
Diana. on Sep 19, 2013 in Mental Health & Coping. stigma, research, prevention, awareness and stereotype.
[2] Mental Health Issues – Facts and Figures
[3] Why mental health in the workplace is often misunderstood and stigmatized
Alexandra Sienkiewicz –
Google has increased the number of accidents its self-driving cars have been involved in, as its co-founder defended the hi-tech programme.
Google has increased the number of accidents its self-driving cars have been involved in, as its co-founder defended the hi-tech programme.
Sergey Brin told shareholders on Wednesday that one of its automated vehicles had been rear-ended in the past week, taking the total number involved in collisions since their launch six years ago to 12.
Mr. Brin said he would not release reports of the crashes to protect those involved, but said that
"seven or eight times we were rear-ended”, while on another occasion a human driving one of the test vehicles rear-ended another car.
“Our greatest learning is that people don’t pay attention, even trained drivers.” he said. “The other three were situations where the car was not driving itself, we were at a stop light or we were sideswiped.
"I’m very proud of the record of our cars. We don’t claim to be perfect, our goal is to beat human drivers.”
In a letter released on Wednesday, Mr. Brin added: "We hope to make roadways far safer and transportation far more affordable and accessible to those who can’t drive.”
Last month Google revealed its vehicles had been involved in 11 accidents in the past six years.
The company released that information after The Associated Press reported that Google had notified California of three collisions involving its self-driving cars since September, when reporting all accidents became a legal requirement as part of the permits for the tests on public roads.
Chris Urmson, the head of Google's self-driving car project, wrote in an online post that all the accidents have been minor - "light damage, no injuries" - and happened over 1.7 miles in which either the car or a person required to be behind the wheel was driving.

Display maker, LG, like its regional rival Samsung has spent millions on display research and manufacture, and now claims to have produced the thinnest ...

Display maker, LG, like its regional rival Samsung has spent millions on display research and manufacture, and now claims to have produced the thinnest LCD panel around. The firm said its 5.2in 1080p resolution LCD panel is 2.2mm thick, has a 2.3mm bezel and is intended for use in smartphones.
"Today's introduction of the world's slimmest Full HD LCD panel represents an exciting advancement for the high-end smartphone segment, and is possible due to our world-class expertise in IPS and touch technologies. Byeong-Koo Kim, VP and head of LG Display's IT and Mobile Development Group said.
He said that LG Display will continue its commitment to developing products that maximize consumer value as well as opening new doors for the mobile and tablet PC industry.
LG said that the key to achieving the 2.2mm thickness is the firm's One Glass Solution, which it said has the latest version of its touchscreen technology.
According to the firm, two flexible printed circuits are inserted between the panel and the touch resistant film, a process that the firm claims reduces the number of lines on the panel by more than 30 percent.
The firm said that its 5.2in 1080p panel is the first to have this touchscreen technology.

Posted about a year ago by Corporate Digest
One among the global leading Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solution provider, Huawei, in collaboration with Tigo Tanzania, have ...

One among the global leading Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solution provider, Huawei, in collaboration with Tigo Tanzania, have introduced new modern smart phone, Huawei Ascend Y300, in the country.
The Ascend Y300 is a super-low-cost Android handset. The new smartphone will enable consumers in the country cope with the fast growing technology of being connected to the internet anywhere anytime.

The new Smartphone is based on Google Android 4.1 operating system and is intended to give the user excellent browsing experience with the operating system in one thin touch phone.
“The new smartphone has enhanced applications including double cameras, big screen experience, latest Android applications with Huawei emotional User Interface,” Huawei Device Country Manager, Peter Zhang said.
He said that this phone is specifically designed to cater for the needs of social net workers and uses the android application platform. “The phone has multifunctions where you can use it in saving document, recording and internet applications,” he said.
According to Mr. Zhang, the smart phone will be available in all Tigo shops in the country.

Tanzania has announced plans to harmonize series of taxes in the manufacturing sector which pose a huge burden on operators and reduce ...
Tanzania has announced plans to harmonize series of taxes in the manufacturing sector which pose a huge burden on operators and reduce the sector's contribution to the country's economic growth.
The new development is meant to reduce the cost of doing business by reviewing various levies and duties imposed on industries
"We have started to sort out a series of taxes that affect not only the manufacturing performance but also the country's position on the World Doing Business Report," Finance and Economic Affairs Minister, Ms. Saada Mkuya Salum said.
She said the government had been making efforts to support investors in the manufacturing sector by creating a conducive environment such as provision of the right infrastructure.
For example, addressing snags like a large number of regulators who increase operating costs through various charges and cause red tape and other difficulties.
The Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) has been pushing for the implementation of the measures they will boost competitiveness of local manufacturing and value addition.
Moreover, manufacturers have also been seeking the government's intervention to address legal and regulatory challenges. Studies carried out on the sector have established the presence of high costs of compliance for manufacturers.

 With a mission to introduce business opportunities through meetings, Ocean business partners in collaboration with Galley tours and Comoro ...
With a mission to introduce business opportunities through meetings, Ocean business partners in collaboration with Galley tours and Comoro Chamber of Commerce (UCCIA) have organised a three-day forum to be held in the union of the Comoros Island from 8th to 11th June, this year.
Tanzania's delegation will comprise 20 people including business people in various sectors such as oil and gas, suppliers and other related fields with a purpose to mobilise growth of Tanzania- Comoro business.
"This International Trade Mission to the Comoros Island will introduce delegates to the many business possibilities through focused meetings and introductions to the local businesses, and other International Oil & Gas companies operating in Comoros," The Ocean Business Partners Director Abdulsamad Abdulrahm said.
"Our goals are to provide investors with information about the investment climate and opportunities in order to make them aware with opportunities found in the Comoros, especially for those seeking to do business," he added.
According to him, the mission is officially blessed and supported by the government, the Comoros Chamber of Commerce and the National Agency for Investment Promotion (ANPI).


90 percent of the globe will be covered by mobile broadband networks by 2020, according to the new Ericsson Mobility Report.
90 percent of the globe will be covered by mobile broadband networks by 2020, according to the new Ericsson Mobility Report.
The report has reinforced the trend that by 2020 advanced mobile technology will be commonplace around the globe. The report says smartphone subscriptions will more than double, reaching 6.1 billion, which is about 70 percent of the world’s population on smartphones.

Interestingly, the report shows that while growth in mature markets comes from an increasing number of devices per individual, in developing regions, it will be drive by a swell of new subscribers.
By end of 2020almost 80 percent of smartphone subscriptions added will be from Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.
This means a huge jump in data usage, with smartphones accounting for 80 percent of all mobile data traffic. Average monthly data usage per smartphone in North America will increase from 2.4 GB today to 14 GB by 2020.
Rima Qureshi, Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer, Ericsson, said this immense growth in advanced mobile technology and data usage, driven by a surge in mobile connectivity and smartphone uptake, will makes today’s big data revolution feel like the arrival of a floppy disk.
“We see the potential for mass-scale transformation, bringing a wealth of opportunities for telecom operators and others to capture new revenue streams. But it also requires greater focus on cost efficient delivery and openness to new business models to compete and remain effective,” Qureshi said.

Corporate News

Uber Kenya to begin taking cash, mobile money payments

A man uses an Uber 4 Business app to hail a taxi. PHOTO | FILE
A man uses an Uber 4 Business app to hail a taxi. PHOTO | FILE 
In Summary
  • The change is meant to target users that are not comfortable having their debit or credit card details online.

Taxi hailing firm Uber has added cash and mobile money payment options to its service in Nairobi in a bid to grow the number of users.
The options go live Friday, making Kenya the second market in which Uber has added a cash option after trying out its card-based cashless model.
“Paying with cash is really important for people in Kenya,” said Jambu Palaniappan, Uber regional general manager for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This cash experiment will give us some great insights and help us develop our technology to best meet the needs of local consumers.”
The cash system was first rolled out in Hyderabad, India last month.
“It will roll out gradually over the next few weeks,” said Mr Palaniappan. “Not all of you will be able to see the cash option (on your mobile app) right away as we are testing different groups and user preferences.”
This comes to target users that are not comfortable having their debit or credit card details online.
Riders who choose the cash payment option will take a ride and pay their driver at the end of the trip an amount calculated by the app and rounded up to the nearest Sh50 to ease issues of change.
The cashless system for public transportation launched in Kenya is struggling to take off with many commuters still opting to pay for their trips in cash.
The San-Francisco based company has been expanding its services in Kenya with the recent introduction of Uber 4 Business (U4B), targeting corporate Kenya. The service is set to rival corporate cab services offered locally by taxi companies like Pewin, Princess, Wote and Jatco by providing users with less paperwork as well as Uber’s popular hailing and tracking options.
In Chicago and New York, Uber launched another service last month dubbed UberEats. Piloted in Los Angeles and Barcelona, the app allows users in the four cities to get food from restaurants delivered to them.
The app company is seeking to cement its hold on the Nairobi taxi market before making any expansion into other cities in Kenya or the region.
“We want to first get Nairobi right,” said Mr Palaniappan.
Uber has grown rapidly in value to be worth around $40 billion (about Sh4 trillion). According to the Financial Times, the company is readying another huge round of funding to fuel its global expansion.

Corporate News

EABL ranks top in Africa with more women in boardroom

EABL emerged top in Africa with a 45.5 per cent female board representation. PHOTO | FILE
EABL emerged top in Africa with a 45.5 per cent female board representation. PHOTO | FILE 
In Summary
  • A study by AfDB also ranks regional beer maker East African Breweries Limited (EABL) as the firm with the highest (45.5 per cent) representation of women directors.
  • Several studies have showed that female representation in Kenyan boardrooms is below global standards, standing at less than 15 per cent.

Kenyan listed companies have the largest representation of women on their boards compared to their peers on the continent, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) has shown.
The AfDB survey also ranks regional beer maker East African Breweries Limited (EABL) as the firm with the highest representation of women directors.
The continental bank said a fifth of Kenya’s blue-chip firms have female board members, which placed it ahead of South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Ghana.
EABL’s 45.5 per cent female board representation helped the regional brewer to beat Impala Platinum Holdings and Woolworths Holdings, two South African firms, to the top position.
Several studies have showed that female representation in Kenyan boardrooms is below global standards, standing at less than 15 per cent, despite proof that a representative mix is beneficial to companies.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB’s special envoy on gender said to break the glass ceiling in Africa, its urgent to bring women on corporate boards.
“We can do this by fast-tracking them through middle and senior management in the private sector. We need to think and act differently and invest markedly in women’s leadership,” she said.
The study, which was released at the World Economic Forum Africa, found that the sectors with the highest number of female board members are the financial services, basic materials and construction, and automotive industries.
“Where are the Women: Inclusive boardrooms in Africa Top Listed Companies” comprises a survey of the boards of 307 listed companies across 12 countries as of 2013.
EABL emerged top with a 45.5 per cent female board representation, followed by Impala Platinum Holdings (38.5 per cent) and Woolworths Holdings (30.8 per cent).
Kenya was ranked top with 19.8 per cent representation mark followed by Ghana (17.7 per cent), South Africa (17.4 per cent) and Botswana (16.9 per cent) while Zambia (16.9 per cent) completed the top-five list.
Several studies into the role of women in boardrooms have concluded that firms with a significant number of women in senior management did better in leadership, accountability and innovation. Despite such conclusion, Kenya still ranks poorly in this respect.
A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that only 15 per cent of listed companies have crossed the threshold of having 30 per cent women on their boards.
A presidential taskforce on parastatal reforms in Kenya noted that on average, women make up 27.8 per cent of the board members in the State-run agencies and 14.3 per cent of board chairs.
Most women leaders blame the lack of transparency about availability of board positions, the lack of mentorship and competition within the entrenched boys club as some factors keeping them out of boardrooms.
“Africa may stack up well compared with other regions, but it has a distance to go to make sure its strong economic growth includes its most talented women at the top,” said AfDB

  • Traditional Portfolio Construction Best Practices Still Apply When Incorporating Social Investments

    New Report From Cambridge Associates Outlines a Framework for Social Investing; “Risk-to-Return” Approach Overcomes Perceived Barriers and Enables Investment. Committees to Evaluate and Implement Social Investments in a Diversified Investment Portfolio.

    Clarification On OECD Guidelines Raises Expectations Of Canadian Institutional Investors

    Authored By: Professor Roel Nieuwenkamp & Hugues L├ętourneau | Publish Date: 06/23/2017
    Last March, the OECD confirmed that pension plans, mutual funds, and other shareholders in a company that violates the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) are expected to use their leverage as shareowners to mitigate social and environmental impacts, even if they are minority shareholders.
    On June 29 and 30, governments, businesses, investors, and civil society are gathering at the annual OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct to press forward on the application of the guidelines in the financial sector.
    This expectation aligns with a quiet but significant global trend that is redefining the role of investors and enterprises as countries strive to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. On one hand, an increasing number of governments are adopting regulations requiring pension plans to disclose their strategy to incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks in investment decision-making. For instance, under regulation 909 of the Ontario Pension Benefits Act, pension plans in Ontario are now required to indicate whether, and if so how, ESG issues are incorporated into the investment policy. At the same time, governments (e.g.: UK, France, EU) and stock exchanges (e.g.: London Stock Exchanges) are adopting extra financial reporting and listing requirements for companies. This means that investors have more tools at their disposal than ever before to carry out due diligence in their investment portfolios.
    Responsible Business Conduct
    The OECD Guidelines for MNEs are a set of recommendations on what constitutes responsible business conduct. Central to the guidelines is the expectation that multi-national enterprises of all sizes should conduct due diligence to prevent or address adverse environmental and social impacts that are directly linked to the MNE. Each OECD country, including Canada, has created a National Contact Point (NCP) to receive complaints by civil society organizations who observe failure around the implementation of the guidelines by companies.
    Since its creation in 2001, 12 of the 15 cases accepted by the Canadian NCP have involved extractive sector companies. This is unsurprising given the extractive industry accounts for 33 per cent of the TSX Composite.
    Canadian MNEs are also exposed to other human rights risks across the world. These include child labour in coffee supply chains (e.g.: restaurants, grocery stores), forced labour in the sourcing of electronic components (e.g.: auto parts), or disastrous health and safety standards in garment supply chains (e.g.: retail chains).
    Increasingly, civil society actors are filing NCP complaints that implicate the financial sector. From 2000 to 2010, eight per cent of complaints filed at NCPs in all OECD countries involved the financial sector. In 2014 and 2015, it was the most prevalent sector in NCP complaints.
    Until last March, the lack of clarity regarding the application of the OECD guidelines to those that hold shares in MNEs meant that little attention was paid to the guidelines by Canadian asset owners and managers.
    Now that it is clear that the OECD guidelines apply to Canadian shareholders who correspond to an MNE under the guidelines – shareholders that include some of the world’s largest pension funds, large financial institutions investing individual retirements savings, and smaller pension plans.
    What does due diligence look like for these institutions? While the largest institutions may have personnel in charge of responsible investment, this is not necessarily the case for smaller pension boards which may hold a small amount of shares in thousands of companies scattered across the world.
    Practical Steps
    Regardless of size, asset owners and managers can take very practical steps that will enable them to know and show that they meet expectations under the OECD guidelines.
    This starts with having a clear and credible incorporation of ESG risks into key policies. Importantly, investor policies that comply with the OECD guidelines will acknowledge that risk-based due diligence includes the analysis of risks to the parties affected by the operations of MNEs such as workers or individuals – not just financial risks. Pension plans may incorporate the ESG issues in line with the OECD guidelines into their investment policy statements, their proxy voting guidelines, or their request for proposals with asset managers. Asset managers may proactively incorporate ESG issues into their mandates.
    Secondly, investors need to carry out risk-based due diligence on an ongoing basis. While it can be challenging to prioritize the most pressing environmental or social risks within an investment portfolio, investors could choose to take into account key company risks within specific activity sectors or exposure in geographies with weak rule of law.  Useful tools to prioritize risks include the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board Materiality Map, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, and ESG rating agency screens. Investors may supplement their rationale for ESG risk prioritization with consultations. A pension plan can consult its beneficiaries while an asset manager can consult its clients to inform their respective decisions.
    Thirdly, to prevent and mitigate adverse impacts, investors should use the leverage they have as shareowners. Asset owners and managers may opt for a shareholder engagement with the company to improve performance on an ESG issue, either directly or through a service provider, and they may file shareholder proposals or vote shares on matters that involve environmental or human rights issues. For instance, investors may consider how their fund’s shares were voted on key shareholder proposals and how this fits with their due diligence under the guidelines. Key proposals in 2017 have included a proposal asking Enbridge to detail due diligence on social and environmental risks (supported by 30.1 of shareholders) and a proposal asking Exxon to report on the impact of climate change policies on company operations (62.3 support).
    Finally, investors should track and communicate the steps they have taken to avoid causing or contributing to adverse social and environmental impacts, providing details on company engagement, outcomes, and proxy voting records. Transparent communication on the implementation of due diligence is a key step for investors who wish to avoid being “named and shamed” or involved in NCP complaints filed by civil society organizations. Furthermore, clear communication on the implementation of due diligence constitutes an important opportunity for investors to demonstrate that they recognize their roles and responsibilities in shaping a more sustainable form of capitalism.
    Professor Roel Nieuwenkamp is chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct and Hugues L├ętourneau is a senior ESG analyst at the Shareholder Association for Research and Education.

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