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Announcing Ceres 2020 Digital Program for April and May!

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 13:46

Earlier in March, we announced that the Ceres 2020 in New York in-person event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, we’ve been working hard to reimagine how we can deliver the content we planned that aims to address the challenges investors, companies and policymakers alike face when it comes to sustainability.

We launched our Ceres 2020 digital program last week with three successful sessions, and are excited now to announce the following sessions for April.

To view more details and a list of speakers for each session, visit www.ceres2020.org.

Special Announcement for Students and Professors 

With support from Bank of America, students and professors can access the Ceres 2020 digital program at no cost. If you have a .edu email address and would like complimentary access to these sessions, please contact ceres2020@ceres.org.

Portfolio Climate Risk Management
Strategies and Challenges
Tuesday, April 7
11 am-12 pm EDT

(Moderator) Ian Simm, Founder and CEO, Impax Asset Management
Sophia Cheng, CIO, Cathay Financial Holdings and Chair, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change
Deborah Ng, Director, Risk & Strategy, Head of Responsible Investing, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan
Faith Ward, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Brunel Pension Partnership
Dave Zellner, CIO, Wespath Investments & Benefits



Greening Supply Chains in China
Wednesday, April 8
12-1 pm EDT
(Moderator) Linda Greer, Senior Global Fellow, China Affairs, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs
Ma Jun, Director, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs



Business Disruption and a Just Transition
Tuesday, April 14
12-1 pm EDT
Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)
Damon Silvers, Director of Policy and Special Counsel, AFL-CIO



Restitching our Social Fabric:
How Community Leadership Can Tackle Climate Change

Thursday, April 16
11 am-12 pm EDT
Mindy Lubber, CEO and President, Ceres
David Simas, CEO, Obama Foundation



Climate Strategies and Opportunities: Asset Managers’ Perspectives
Tuesday, April 28
12-1 pm EDT
(Moderator) Jack Ehnes, CEO, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)
Chris Conkey, Global Head of Public Markets, Manulife Investment Management
John Goldstein, Managing Director and Head of the Sustainable Finance Group, Goldman Sachs
Roelfien Kuijpers, Managing Director, Head of Responsible Investments and Strategic Relationships, DWS



Limiting Temperature Rise to 1.5 Degrees: Roles for Investors, Companies, and Policymakers
Tuesday, May 5
12-1 pm EDT
(Moderator) Steven Clarke, Director Corporate Clean Energy Leadership, Ceres
Cynthia Cummis, Director of Private Sector Climate Mitigation, WRI SBTi
Rekha Vaitla, Deputy Director of Corporate Governance & Sustainable Investment - Illinois State Treasurer
Jeff Hanratty, General Mills



Conservative Case for Climate Action and Clean Energy
Wednesday, May 6
12-1 pm EDT
(Moderator) Martha Newell-Kinsman, Manager, Federal Relations, Ceres
Heather Reams, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions
Mark Fleming, President & CEO, Conservatives for Clean Energy
Corey Schrodt, Legislative Director, Rep. Francis Rooney (FL-19)


An Open Letter from our Chairman and CEO

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 12:46

Daniel O'Day

When the news of the coronavirus first emerged, Gilead immediately began to investigate the potential of remdesivir, a medicine we had been studying for many years as part of our extensive research in antivirals. Remdesivir had never been approved for use but based on what we had learned to date, we knew it might have potential with the novel coronavirus. Since then, we have been working with the greatest sense of urgency and responsibility to determine whether remdesivir does indeed work against COVID-19.

The urgency comes from knowing the desperate need among patients and the lack of any approved treatment. The responsibility is to ensure that remdesivir, an investigational medicine, is effective and safe before it is distributed for use worldwide.

This is why we have been working at unprecedented speed to enroll patients in clinical trials. Establishing the safety and efficacy of remdesivir, in partnership with regulatory authorities, is essential to potentially enabling the treatment of many more patients in the future. Multiple studies are ongoing, and we are on track to have initial data in the coming weeks. If it is approved, we will work to ensure affordability and access so that remdesivir is available to patients with the greatest need.

In the meantime, we have made the investigational medicine available for severely ill patients who cannot enroll in a trial. This “compassionate use” program is typically reserved for a small number of individual cases but there is nothing typical about this crisis and to date we have provided remdesivir to more than 1,000 patients. The program is designed by regulatory authorities in such a way that each application has to be reviewed on an individual basis. This works well when there is only a limited number of requests – as is normally the case – but the system cannot support and process the overwhelming number of applications we have seen with COVID-19.

To address this, we are transitioning to what should be a more streamlined, sustainable approach with “expanded access” programs. The compassionate use program will continue for children and pregnant women only, reducing the numbers to a level where the system can cope. With expanded access, hospitals or physicians can apply for emergency use of remdesivir for multiple severely ill patients at a time. While it will take some time to build a network of active sites, this approach will ultimately accelerate emergency access for more people. Initial sites in the United States are up and running as of yesterday, and it is expected that sites in additional countries will be activated soon.

In recent days, many people have reached out to Gilead to advocate for access to remdesivir on behalf of friends and loved ones. I can only imagine how it must feel to be in that situation. We are used to seeing numbers and statistics in the news on a daily basis but we all know that behind each of those numbers is a real and often heartbreaking human story. I know I speak for everyone at Gilead when I say how much we all wish we could help every patient in need. Today we are working at speed to establish the temporary expanded access programs, while at the same time establishing the potential safety and efficacy of remdesivir and determining for which patients remdesivir may have activity.

Remdesivir is still an investigational medicine. We are planning for the outcome we all hope for – that it will prove to be a safe, effective treatment – and in the meantime we are taking the ethical, responsible approach to determining whether that is the case. At each step of the way, our decisions are informed by guidance from public health authorities and bioethicists, and by our decades of experience in making antiviral treatments for diseases such as HIV and viral hepatitis.

We hope that, in partnership with many groups around the world, we can play a part in helping patients with this disease. We know how much is at stake and the urgent need to determine whether remdesivir will be a safe and effective treatment.

We think about the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of fighting this pandemic around the clock and the urgent need to equip them with a treatment. We know that patients and their families around the world are waiting. All of us at Gilead are doing everything we can to meet our responsibility with remdesivir, with the greatest sense of urgency and care.

As we continue with those efforts, we will provide updates on our progress as soon as information becomes available, recognizing the significant public interest in remdesivir around the world.

Bright Funds Announces Doubled Donation Volume Resulting From Generous Employer and Donor Response to COVID-19 Crisis

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 12:46

Bright Funds, the workplace charitable giving platform, announced today that the workplace donations made through the Bright Funds platform more than doubled with an increase of 129% compared to March of the previous year. The increase in charitable giving has been driven by generous employer and employee response to the global COVID-19 crisis.

Bright Funds and their customers have created over 60 Funds specifically focused on COVID-19 response.  Similar to the mutual fund model, Funds are a collection of nonprofits addressing a specific cause area. The COVID-19 Funds have raised over $1.3 million to date.  While monetary support has increased, volunteer hours tracked in Bright Funds fell by 58% over the same period the previous year. The impact of sheltering-in-place is credited for the drop in volunteerism. Bright Funds is facilitating volunteer activities in these new circumstances by helping employers and individuals organize or search for virtual and/or skilled volunteering opportunities.

Bright Funds works closely with thousands of domestic and global nonprofits. The message from many of them is grim. According to Thara Jinadasa, Head of Nonprofit Operations at Bright Funds, “We are hearing from many nonprofit partners who are concerned about the devastating repercussions of COVID-19 on their capacity to meet fundraising goals and continue operations. Many are seeing an acute increase in demand for their services, while simultaneously seeing an abrupt decline in funding and volunteer support.”

While the outlook for the nonprofit community seems dire, there is cause for hope and optimism among nonprofit leaders, funders, everyday donors, volunteers, and employers. This is clear by the outpouring of generosity from many employers and donors on the Bright Funds platform. Many employers have made more matching gifts available to employees to amplify their support to their nonprofits of choice, such as offering two for one matching or doubling (or more) their matching limits. Many employers have rapidly deployed customized campaigns or launched innovative programs to increase support for nonprofits and communities in crisis.  Rachel Nersesian, Head of Client Success at Bright Funds shared, “It is inspiring to see the commitment shown by our clients to their employees, communities, and nonprofit partners during this unprecedented time. The thoughtful and creative campaigns, initiatives, and ideas all have the ability to make a unique and significant impact to those in need right now.

At this time of global crisis, Bright Funds is making considerable investment in their platform and services to urgently support nonprofits, donors, and employers. To support the high demand for their services, Bright Funds has streamlined the process to rollout a program, enabling employers to launch a workplace giving program in as little as one day. To help address cashflow concerns from nonprofits, Bright Funds is expediting the distribution of funds to nonprofits from monthly to as often as weekly. Bright Funds CEO Srinagesh Vitthanala, “We are at a unique time and place. While my heart goes out to all those affected, I am personally humbled to be part of our clients’ global effort to support nonprofit partners.  Bright Funds is committed to continue to improve the platform and our services to enable employees to make a difference and to get resources into the hands of nonprofits as quickly as possible.

Through this time of crisis, Bright Funds will continue to be the workplace giving platform of choice and deliver innovative ways to support employees to make a difference, employers to deliver on their philanthropic goals, and nonprofits to deliver their services.

For more details, visit https://www.brightfunds.org/ or email info@brightfunds.org.

About Bright Funds

Bright Funds, founded in 2012, is a workplace philanthropy company headquartered in Oakland, California. Bright Funds partners with companies to provide a secure, global technology platform that supports employee giving, volunteerism, and grants management. Bright Funds is proud to power programs for employers of all sizes that value giving back to their communities. 

For more information, please contact:

Srinagesh Vitthanala CEO
Phone: 650-862-6409

Rachel Nersesian Head of Client Strategy & Success
Phone: 415-851-3334

How UNDP’s BCtA Private Sector Is Helping Fight COVID-19

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:46

News | Business Call to Action

The Business Call to Action (BCtA) continues to work with its member companies by providing guidelines on how to cope with the pandemic. We are working to better understand the bottlenecks companies are facing, their priorities during this crisis and its impact on people at the base of the economic pyramid through surveys with our members. Here are some of the first BCtA companies to respond to COVID-19:
Free support to fight COVID-19
Social enterprise Dimagi’s open-source mobile platform CommCare is being provided for free to support governments and organizations in their COVID-19 response.

The company has released a customizable app template that implements WHO’s FFX (First Few X) cases reporting and contact tracking protocols and can be deployed immediately. These standardized protocols developed by the UN’s World Health Organization help with the systematic collection and rapid sharing of data in a format that can assist with the timely estimations of COVID-19 transmissions.
“Our early response is the most powerful tool that most organizations have to control the long-term impact [of COVID-19]. The most important facet of that response is time.  For that response we need to rely on the existing tools that work today, not the ones being promised in the future,” stated Dimagi’s CTO Clayton Sims.
CommCare has already been used in controlling and responding to infectious disease outbreaks including Ebola and Zika.

Central cloud server
In India, social enterprise Sevamob’s patient data management system stands ready to serve the population during the COVID-19 crisis if needed, said Shelley Saxena, founder of Sevamob. The system allows for uploading and saving patient reports on a central cloud server and is available offline, an added benefit, particularly in rural areas where health teams may experience connectivity issues.
The system can also be customized without needing further programming thus easily adaptable to work in pandemic-like situations. “In a COVID-19-like situation if you want to identify patients who may cause community-to-community transmissions, literally in minutes you can set up additional forms and questionnaires within the system that become a part of the patient’s record,” said Saxena. These reports are updated live and can easily be shared with the relevant stakeholders. Sevamob's 200 mobile clinics continue to serve low-income populations across India who would not have any access to healthcare otherwise.
Data-access for all
In Ghana, global internet service provider BLUETOWN has provided free data-access to all users to view informational COVID-19 videos from the WHO. The company’s inclusive business model is built around bridging digital divides, improving access to digital content and services, and reducing poverty and inequality. “In this time of crisis vital and timely access to information should be for everyone regardless of purchasing power,” stated the company.

Telehealth free of charge
In Pakistan, telehealth provider Sehat Kahani is collaborating with the government to help combat COVID-19 by providing free virtual consultations for the next three months. Through their smartphone app, the company can virtually triage patients and send them to the correct healthcare facilities if need be, without burdening the healthcare system with non-virus cases while also reducing unnecessary exposure.

The company's network of 1,500 doctors and having technology at hand allowed them to respond quickly to the pandemic.  “We have the experience [in telehealth], we have a network of 1,500 doctors who are constantly trained, and we knew who to get on board quickly,” said Sehat Kahani’s co-founder on their quick response in assisting with the pandemic.

Remote technology keeps high-risk patients safe
Thaïs Health (formerly known as AccuHealth), started in Chile and is a pioneer in remote patient monitoring offering tele-monitoring services to chronically ill patients from the bottom of the pyramid. Such remote monitoring can help prevent acute incidents by being proactive rather than reactive and the company is using similar predictive care in addressing COVID-19. “Our technology-assisted Remote Patient Monitoring solution addresses the looming COVID-19 treatment capacity crisis,” said the company’s co-founder and CEO Xavier Urtubey.
By using predictive modeling, near real-time care coordination and behaviour modification techniques, they are able to provide proactive, collaborative, patient-centred care to those who have been identified as having COVID-19 or those who may need to have their vital signs monitored. 
With such an approach they are able to keep high-risk patients at home as much as possible but can get treatment when necessary. “This helps flatten the infection curve while still being able to detect the earliest signs of COVID-19,” explained Urtubey.
Supporting supply chains
In Indonesia, East-West Seed continues to get its vegetable seeds as close to its smallholder farmers as possible. Disruption of vegetable farming could lead to shortages of nutritious vegetables in the near future and farmers need continued access to seeds and other essential agriculture inputs, stated the company. Working with other seed companies, central and local governments, they are doing their utmost to get exemptions from lockdowns to minimize the impact on farming. The company has put in place safety measures for employees, social distancing techniques and provided workers with hygienic products.
Hygiene education saves lives

In Nigeria, Aimcare's educational classes, through their Water Ease programme, has imparted over 11,000 children in rural areas with handwashing and hygiene knowledge, the first step in mitigating disease. 
Amongst the health and wellbeing programmes, trainings and products Aimcare provides, hand washing is the most cost-effective intervention in preventing disease. “Most people don’t understand the health benefits of handwashing and that is where we can come in,” said Aimcare’s CEO Mmekidmfon Umanah. “We know the communities, we have access to them and we can continue our work on training people on hygiene,” said Umanah on providing people at the base of the pyramid with the knowledge to mitigate disease by simple yet effective measures such as soap and handwashing techniques.
With over 3 billion people in the world without access to basic handwashing facilities such as soap and water, the company is on a mission to lower that number by teaching women to make their own personal care products. Their Learn and Earn programme teaches women to make soaps, disinfectants and detergents to use in their households and to sell to others in their communities.

A Commitment That’s About More Than Chocolate -- It’s About Saving Our Forests

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 11:46

The world loves chocolate. But the world needs trees – now more than ever. The challenge is that trees are disappearing at alarming rates and sometimes that is due to the production of cocoa to make chocolate. In the past 60 years, 90% of Côte d’Ivoire’s forests have disappeared according to NGO Mighty Earth.

It’s a situation that strikes home for me having grown up around trees on the island of Crete. I take this issue seriously, and for me, it’s personal. 

I’m proud that in 2017, Hershey decided to take action to prevent deforestation and joined with other cocoa and chocolate companies to form the Cocoa & Forests Initiative (CFI) led by the World Cocoa Foundation. We dove in immediately and created agroforestry programs and set goals to plant millions of trees in West Africa where most of the cocoa is grown. 

I’ve had the privilege to lead this work. And I know firsthand that it matters – not just to the planet but to cocoa farmers as well. In 2015, many cocoa farmers experienced a harsh drought. It was a real shock and they discovered that the farmers who had enough shade on their farms and had a diversified income, were able to best weather the challenge.

This wake-up call was a boost for our agroforestry goals, which are part of our bigger Cocoa For Good sustainable cocoa strategy. Today, we see more farmers ask us for training on climate-smart cocoa, agroforestry and crop diversification.

We’re seeing results from our commitment to protect and restore forests

Last year, I shared my experiences being a part of founding the Cocoa & Forests Initiative and driving for clear skies; how it has created a new personal consciousness and the pride in helping create a joint-awareness across industry and the Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana governments.

Between 2013 and 2019, Hershey distributed more than 7.4 million cocoa trees and 921,000 shade trees.  These trees offer multiple purposes:  biodiversity, food security and income diversification. We also started experimenting with new agroforestry models – initially covering 11,134 hectares – with a higher density of trees on farms to push the bar above current standards.

Last year, I was honored to be a part of the launch of our very first landscape program in the Kakum National Forest area of Ghana – an area equivalent to 20 times the size of Manhattan – with our research partner, the Nature Conservation Resource Center. Now through this work, dozens of communities are trained and have a natural resource plan to manage water, farming and forests for the coming 10 to 30 years.

Helping farmers gain title to their land

Some of the progress that I am most proud of is our work to help farmers gain title to their land.  Without a land title, farmers get lost in the system and cannot invest in their land. This means they have no incentive to plant more trees.  Through our work, we are helping farmers with parcel mapping which gives them the license to invest in their farms, plant trees and best of all, the land titling unlocks land value for the farmers.  

This is only a small part of the work and progress we have made with our commitment to agroforestry and our CFI efforts. I encourage you learn more through our just-released CFI progress reports for Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.   

We know this work has just begun. I am proud of the support we have of our suppliers and partners who bring unparalleled expertise to make this work a reality. But most of all, I am proud of my company for recognizing the need and the importance of this work that is so personal to me, and giving me the chance to do something that I am passionate about and I believe will make a difference for the future of our planet.    

Graphics Printers Mobilize Globally to Support Public Health

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

HP Inc.’s print service providers (PSPs) are mobilizing industrial facilities worldwide to deliver print products and help in the global effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Many PSPs are working with limited staff to adhere to health regulations, while retooling production lines to support the effort. 
“We greatly appreciate our print partners and their employees for their unrelenting dedication and are pleased we can also play a part in supporting the huge effort taking place,” said Santi Morera, general manager and global head of HP’s Graphics Solutions Business.

Important supplies and healthcare needs

Nosco of Illinois, a subsidiary of Holden Industries, Inc, a supplier of digital print solutions for folding cartons, labels and flexible packaging focused heavily on pharma and healthcare, is using multiple HP Indigo digital label press equipment 24/7 to produce packaging testing kits, Drug products, syringes for hospitals, face masks, and hand sanitizer during the current crisis with the virus. Millions of labels have already been produced and production will continue to support the needs of the pharma and healthcare market.

Custom Label of California is a supplier with a designated “essential business” status producing products for healthcare, food and more. As a result of a spike in orders, HP has shipped emergency ink supplies the same day to the site to ensure no disruption in production. “One of the largest increases in incremental volume is for packaging for ready-to-eat food due to the shift from dining out to making food at home,” said Lars Ho-Tseung, President and CEO, Custom Label. “Volume is also increasing for labels and packaging for over-the-counter drug products for flu symptoms.

Duggal Visual Solutions, a New York City commercial print service provider, has also teamed up with Kings County Distillery, a Brooklyn Navy Yard neighbor that has converted its efforts to produce hand sanitizer. The two companies are producing, bottling and labeling the products that are in short supply in the US. Duggal is printing the paper-based labels on its sheetfed HP Indigo 12000 presses.

“Neighbors are helping neighbors, taking the tools you have to partner and create immediate solutions,” said Marc Lovci, vice president at Duggal. “Kings reached out at to our Indigo department to create the labels including die cutting and adhesive.”

In China, Foresee Images Technology of Shanghai, printed labels for medical equipment, such as sterilized wet wipes. The customer required labels in  same-day turnaround, within 6 hours, for a print job that typically requires a week to complete. To ensure protective measures were also in place, the printer had to disinfect the premise and provide shielded gear for staff who were quickly resourced to complete the production of uncontaminated labels.

Signage for testing centers, hospitals and supermarkets

Kirkwood Printing of Wilmington, MA,  also mobilized for overnight delivery of outdoor signage printed for drive-thru testing centers set up by a locally headquartered national pharmacy. The signage, produced on HP Latex R2000 printers, helps direct people around the area. In addition, point of purchase posters are being printed on HP Indigo digital presses for many retailers to advise of store closings. “Shortly after this crisis began, we began diverting resources to COVID-19 related needs, providing materials as fast as possible for signage to inform the public,” said Mark Nappa, chief sales officer of Kirkwood.

As a leading printing company in China, Beijing Indigo Digital Printing printed virus prevention informational signage and materials for National Health Commission and Beijing National Health Commission. HP Indigo digital printing enabled printing and supply of the materials in fast turnaround for sending materials to front-line hospitals quickly.

Ironmark of Maryland is supporting with COVID-19 related signage for nine different health care systems at over 150 locations. The new signage warns of health precautions, designates areas at hospitals including triage and repurposed space with facilities for patient care services. 

Carly Press of the UK identified the need to print free stickers for local residents to put up outside their homes, in order to indicate they are in self isolation. Utilizing their HP latex 360 printer and some spare press capacity, Carly Press was able to print clear, bright stickers, and are experiencing growing demand for from their local area to nationally across the UK. 

Protective gear for those on the front lines

Dispackaging in Spain is using its HP Latex R series printers to produce face shields to help cope with the lack of protection for health service workers. Production of the low-cost masks has reached 50,000 units a week.

Duggal Visual Solutions has retooled its production facility to produce face shields for medical staff and first responders in New York City. “Over the past week, we assembled a task force to address the shortage in health care safety equipment and immediately saw we could quickly produce face shields. Over 150 volunteers are coming to work to make this life-saving equipment, producing 120,000 units in the first week, with a total order of 360,000 units,” said Marc Lovci, vice president at Duggal.  Duggal Visual Solutions occupies 250,000 square feet of production space, in five buildings within the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Labels are printed in the Indigo Digital Press division.

Sabaté,a specialized point of sale creator from Spain, has used HP Latex technology to produce protective separation screens and floor signs in grocery stores. The protective separation screens for counters create a barrier between customers, workers and product (in this case, food). The counters are made of polycarbonate and HP Latex printed ultra-transparent vinyl. The floor vinyl is self-adhesive, and it’s used to limit passage of people and keep the safety distance.

Superior Packaging & Finishing of Braintree, MA is using HP Indigo 12000 presses to create thousands of face masks to donate to local hospitals and businesses to limit the potential for exposure faced by essential, non-medical employees. "My heart goes out to all the doctors, nurses, and first responders putting their health on the line for all of us. We want to do everything we can to make sure they have the tools to stay safe so that they can continue to do their jobs," said Donny Charlebois, president and founder.

Family activities to keep spirits high

Smartphoto and Cartamundi in Belgium, identified two family groups that love each other’s company, kids and their grandparents, forced to spend time apart during the outbreak. An initiative called “ik denk aan jou – kaartspel” (translated as “I’m thinking about you - card deck”) encourages children to design playing cards by drawing or uploading pictures for their grandparents so that when the lockdown has passed the family can play together again. 

40,000 “Thank yous” – Personalized airline boarding passes for medical workers

To thank nurses and doctors who were on the frontline in Wuhan hospitals for more than two months, boarding passes home were personalized with special messages for a group of over 40,000 doctors and nurses who selflessly risked their lives in the call of duty to save countless lives.

China’s Jiangsu Baicheng printed the unique boarding passes using their HP Indigo 12000HD to reinforce their gratitude for their efforts and hard work during a highly tense environment. They were given only 24 hours to complete the job to catch the flights. They completed it in 16 hours!

About HP Inc.

HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) creates technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere. Through our product and service portfolio of personal systems, printers and 3D printing solutions, we engineer experiences that amaze. More information about HP Inc. is available at www.hp.com

Media Contact

Vanessa Forbes

Nina Gilbert

Hormel Foods to Host Live Virtual Concert Starring NBC’s The Voice Runner-Up Chris Kroeze, Minnesota Native and Nashville Recording Artist Natalie Murphy & Multitalented Singer-Songwriter and TV Personality Nick Hoffman

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

Hormel Foods, a global branded food company (NYSE: HRL), announced today that it will host a virtual live concert featuring Chris Kroeze, runner-up on season 15 of NBC’s Emmy Award Winning television show, The Voice. The live concert is the latest way the company is thanking team members for their continued efforts to provide food to the world during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The virtual concert will take place this Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m., CT, and will feature live performances by award-winning global artists Chris Kroeze, Natalie Murphy and Nick Hoffman. Kroeze was runner-up on season 15 of the hit NBC show The Voice and captured the hearts of millions during his time on the show. The artists have toured the world, appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and shared the stage with music legends like Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Travis Tritt, the Doobie Brothers and more. Hoffman is also the host of the Outdoor Channel television series “Nick’s Wild Ride”, which airs on Outdoor Channel and is also co-founder of his band, The Farm.

“Our team of nearly 20,000 has continued to work tirelessly as we play a critical role in providing safe, high-quality food during this uncertain time,” said Jim Snee, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer at Hormel Foods. “This special concert is just one way we can thank them for how they have risen to the challenge and continue to produce food with a sense of purpose and pride. I’m looking forward to us all coming together to celebrate their efforts and enjoy some incredible music with our families and friends.”

Growing up in Barron, Wisconsin, Kroeze is no stranger to Hormel Foods. The company has a Jennie-O Turkey Store production facility there and Kroeze has family that work at the plant.

“Growing up around the company’s Jennie-O facility in Barron, I know how hard Hormel Foods employees work to provide food for families,” Kroeze said. “During this unprecedented season in our country and our world, you all have stepped up again. A virtual live concert seems like a small way to say thank you for all you are doing, but we couldn’t be more honored to do it and we can’t wait to be with you all virtually on Friday night.”

In addition to the virtual live concert, Hormel Foods is honoring its production professionals through its commitment of more than $4 million to be used for a bonus for our plant team members, including $300 for full-time and $150 for part-time. Hormel Foods has also increased its CARE Program employee assistance fund, extended paid sick leave and waived waiting periods and eligibility requirements for certain benefits.

Hormel Foods has taken a leadership role in helping with hunger relief and food insecurity and announced a pledge of $1 million in cash and product donations to assist nonprofits with their efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak. The company’s monetary and product donations will be made to global, national and local hunger-relief organizations. Feeding America, Convoy of Hope, Conscious Alliance and food and hunger-relief organizations in the company’s plant communities will be among those organizations receiving immediate funding and donations.

Hormel Foods has donated more than $50 million in cash and product donations to help others over the last five years. For more information about the company’s charitable giving and corporate responsibility efforts, please visit https://csr.hormelfoods.com/.


Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minn., is a global branded food company with over $9 billion in annual revenues across 75 countries worldwide. Its brands include SKIPPY®, SPAM®, Hormel® Natural Choice®, Applegate®, Justin’s®, Columbus®Wholly® guacamole, Hormel® Black Label® and more than 30 other beloved brands. The company is a member of the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, was named one of “The 100 Best Corporate Citizens” by Corporate Responsibility Magazine for the 11th year in a row, and has received numerous other awards and accolades for its corporate responsibility and community service efforts. In 2016, the company celebrated its 125th anniversary and announced its new vision for the future – Inspired People. Inspired Food.™ – focusing on its legacy of innovation. For more information, visit www.hormelfoods.com and https://csr.hormelfoods.com/.


Chris Kroeze’s combination of vocal and guitar skills, along with his humility and small-town country-boy persona, have captured the hearts of millions. The runner-up on Season 15 of NBC’s “The Voice” performs throughout the United States and internationally, including multiple overseas tours each year for U.S. armed forces. Along with headlining the majority of his shows, he’s shared the spotlight with Montgomery Gentry, the Doobie Brothers, Travis Tritt, Blake Shelton and many others stars. A native of Barron, Wisconsin, Kroeze is a longtime friend of Jennie-O Turkey Store and Hormel Foods.

“It’s not fair to the rest of us that you get to sing like that!” – Blake Shelton


Natalie Murphy is a self-proclaimed city girl from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a classically trained violinist destined to rock out for thousands. With a unique fiddle style described as melodic and passionate with an edge that cuts like an electric guitar, she has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry – with some of the biggest names in country music – close to a dozen times. In 2018, Murphy debuted her solo album, “Water the Flowers,” and continues to flourish as an individual performer.


Nick Hoffman is an American singer, songwriter, fiddle player, producer, and television personality. He is also the host of the Outdoor Channel television series “Nick’s Wild Ride”, which airs on Outdoor Channel and is also co-founder of the Elektra Records/Warner Music Nashville Recording Artists The Farm. He co-produced their self-titled debut album alongside hit songwriter and producer Danny Myrick. This Album produced two Top 40 radio hits: “Home Sweet Home” which hit #19 on the Country Charts and “Be Grateful” which hit #39. Hoffman has collaborated and performed alongside many notable musical acts including Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Sara Evans, Brooks & Dunn, and more.

Dow's Industry in the Time of Coronavirus

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

I continue to be inspired by those on the frontline – the first responders, everyone on Team Dow and all our partners – who continue to keep us safe, keep us informed, and keep us moving forward through this COVID-19 crisis. I applaud you.

I also want to share a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues in our industry.

We supply the world with materials needed for many life-critical applications: disinfectants, sanitizers, cleansers, personal protection equipment for healthcare professionals, memory foams for hospital beds, and more.

And we, like so many others, are putting our assets to work to help combat this pandemic for the good of all.

Today – building off our announcement last week – we're expanding hand sanitizer production at additional manufacturing sites in Europe, Latin America and North America.

We do not typically produce hand sanitizer; however, a large portion of the required raw materials are readily available at our sites. Through close partnerships with suppliers, state and federal regulatory officials and volunteers, we have been able to quickly move to get ready for production. Our output is expected to be the equivalent of more than 880,000 eight-ounce bottles. All of it has been allocated for donation. The majority will go to health systems and government agencies for distribution. The other portion will be distributed at our production sites, helping protect our colleagues on the frontlines. First deliveries are expected to begin this week.

Many of our partners and customers are stepping up, too, using their resources to support the fight against COVID-19. Our collective contributions – especially in this environment – are gaining new appreciation because of our ability to create and deliver the products the world so desperately needs.

As we move forward through this crisis, here are three things our industry should be focused on.

First – just as we have done at Dow, we all must run our businesses safely and reliably.

We cannot forget the contract we have made with the world to run our plants, operations and businesses safely and protect our workers. For us, that includes:

  • Redoubling our cleaning efforts across all sites with emphasis on high touch areas, including door handles, light switches, kitchen/lunchroom area
  • Implementing temperature screening for visitors
  • Promoting personal hygiene, such as handwashing
  • Providing hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial surface wipes and encouraging their use
  • Posting sitewide guidelines about COVID-19 health and safety practices at site entry and exit points
  • Ensuring ongoing stock and supply of personal protective equipment
  • Keeping our colleagues regularly and reliably informed via the CDC and WHO websites

Now is also the perfect time to double-down on safety and remember our commitments to Responsible Care®, ensuring that the health and wellbeing of our employees and our communities is at the top of our priority list.

Second – let’s not forget that our industry is uniquely qualified to address world challenges when and where they are needed.

Every crisis has immediate and long-term needs. This is our opportunity to deliver innovations that meet some of our greatest global challenges.

The needs of our customers – and of people around the world – for new and innovative products will outlive this temporary crisis. We can’t lose sight of the fact that the world needs us – now more than ever – to supply the next round of innovations that protect human health, protect our environment, and help reduce the impact on the world we all share. Because at the same time, beyond COVID-19, other challenges persist.

Finally – related to that last point, I want to encourage all of us to continue moving forward on our commitments to sustainability.

We cannot lose momentum on the important work we have all been doing to address big global challenges – such as moving to a more circular, more carbon-neutral global economy. This will take collaboration and urgency, similar to the fight against COVID-19.

These sustainability challenges are also irreversibly interconnected, much like those COVID-19 has brought on, such as healthcare issues, economic issues, and social issues. And I’m heartened to see – and be a part of – partnerships to address these issues.

We expect these COVID-19 impacts to be temporary. But our land and water and air are here forever. And if we apply the same collaborative approach we’re applying here, we can – and we will – make a difference.

As leaders, it’s our role to do all we can to ensure the health and well-being of all our colleagues, customers, suppliers and the broader global community. Our industry is indispensable in this effort; and, today, I am as proud as ever to be a part of it.

Jim Fitterling, CEO


This article originally appeared on Jim Fitterling’s LinkedIn profile.

International Paper's Kentucky Mill Donates to the Mason County Food Bank to Help Support Its Increased Need Due to COVID-19

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

The International Paper mill in Maysville, Kentucky has donated 2,500 corrugated boxes to the Mason County Food Bank to help the nonprofit address increased need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mill initially donated 1,000 boxes to the Mason County Food Bank for 2019 Thanksgiving and Christmas meal distributions. Since the pandemic, the food bank has experienced an increase in community need and was breaking down what was left of the donated boxes and re-taping them to double their supply. When the Maysville team learned of this urgent need, they  jumped into action.

A donation of 2,500 corrugated boxes are being delivered over the course of the next few weeks to the Mason County Food Bank to continue to supply the Maysville community and surrounding areas with meals. The boxes are filled with perishable and nonperishable items and will last families about a month. The food bank is currently serving 30 to 40 families a day and they expect this number will increase.

“International Paper has been an important community partner,” said Rebecca Cartmell, executive director, Mason County Food Bank. “They have generously donated to the food bank over the years and now have provided new boxes during a time of need. Their support of our organization is invaluable.”

This donation is part of International Paper’s support of the Feeding America network of food banks. Learn more.

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and Russia. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods and enable worldwide commerce; pulp for diapers, tissue, and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. We are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., employ more than 50,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2019 were $22 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit internationalpaper.com.

NRG Energy, Inc. Pledges $2 Million to COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

As the battle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic continues, NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NRG) announces broad efforts to aid those on the front lines of the pandemic response and provide relief to people adversely impacted.

NRG commits to donate $2 million in charitable contributions including cash and urgently needed safety equipment supporting first responders, as well as funds that aid local communities and teachers. The company is also allocating additional funding to the NRG Employee Relief Fund, which has been used in the past to assist employees adversely impacted by natural disasters and other extraordinary events.

“From the start of this pandemic, our priority has been to protect the health and safety of our employees, while also fulfilling our commitment to safely provide reliable electricity to our customers,” said NRG President and Chief Executive Officer Mauricio Gutierrez. “Now, we are expanding our focus to support those on the front lines who are providing crucial services to our communities, businesses and families.”

NRG’s COVID-19 relief initiatives will aid community-based charitable organizations, to include:
  • Cash funding and in-kind contributions to first responders for safety supplies, including personal protective equipment, protective apparel and air-purifying respirators
  • Donations to community and small business relief funds in locations where we operate
  • Financial contributions to Teachers through DonorsChoose.org

All frontline efforts are aimed at providing support to organizations at local levels, where they can have the greatest community impact. In the weeks ahead, NRG’s charitable giving arm, PositiveNRG, will work directly with non-profits and funds to identify causes in the greatest areas of need.

NRG’s pledge to DonorsChoose.org will support public school teachers, spotlighting the necessity of education and the critical role teachers play in communities. The company's partnership with DonorsChoose enables NRG employees to give to specific projects in their local communities or contribute to the Keep Kids Learning program, which helps teachers in low-income communities send key resources to students impacted by coronavirus-related school closures.

“Our hearts and support are with everyone working to address the impacts of COVID-19,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “NRG is committed to serving the communities where we live and work, and as a community, we will get through this.”

About NRG Energy

At NRG, we’re bringing the power of energy to people and organizations, putting customers at the center of everything we do. We generate electricity and provide energy solutions and natural gas to more than 3.7 million residential, small business, and commercial and industrial customers through our diverse portfolio of retail brands. A Fortune 500 company, operating in the United States and Canada, NRG delivers innovative solutions while advocating for competitive energy markets and customer choice, and by working towards a sustainable energy future. More information is available at www.nrg.com. Connect with NRG on Facebook, LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter @nrgenergy, @nrginsight.

About positiveNRG

PositiveNRG is NRG Energy’s charitable giving arm, focused on creating a positive impact for employees, customers and communities. The program is reflective of our company’s values by empowering healthy choices, enabling community resilience and supporting environmental health. PositiveNRG establishes long-term relationships with non-profits and organizations that help our communities to flourish, co-creating a better future for everyone.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions and typically can be identified by the use of words such as “expect,” “estimate,” “should,” “anticipate,” “forecast,” “plan,” “guidance,” “outlook,” “believe” and similar terms. Although NRG believes that the expectations are reasonable, it can give no assurance that these expectations will prove to be correct, and actual results may vary materially.

NRG undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. The foregoing review of factors that could cause NRG’s actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in the forward-looking statements included in this news release should be considered in connection with information regarding risks and uncertainties that may affect NRG’s future results included in NRG’s filings with the SEC at www.sec.gov.

Kevin L. Cole, CFA

Candice Adams

Resources From Discovery Education and Its Partners Available to Help Families and Students Improve Financial Literacy

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 10:46

Dynamic no-cost digital content from Discovery Education and its partners is available to help families and students across the United States improve financial literacy throughout April, the Financial Literacy Month.

“We share the belief of the school communities we serve that building a strong financial foundation is critical for students as they progress through school,” said Lori McFarling, President of Corporate Education Partnerships at Discovery Education. “In recognition of Financial Literacy Month and the increasing need for young people to understand the basics of becoming financially literate, we’re proud to work with our corporate and community partners to provide access to no-cost virtual learning resources that amplify and empower students with the knowledge to be financially fit."

Discovery Education celebrates the following partners for their commitment to supporting students’ continued learning at-home through the delivery of these no-cost financial literacy resources:

Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids!
The financial literacy program from Jackson Charitable Foundation and Discovery Education empowers kids in grades K-6 with the knowledge, tools, and practice they need to make informed decisions that will help them reach their goals and dreams. Learn more at Cha-ChingUSA.org and engage communities in financial empowerment, starting with:

  • Money Smart Kids Contest: Open to educators, parents, and community members, vote daily on behalf of your school for the chance at $10,000 to put toward financial education and $1,000 to donate to the charity of your choice. Vote daily from now until June 25, 2020.

Econ Essentials
 CME Group joined forces with Discovery Education to create Econ Essentials, a program designed to help high school students learn about economic principles with engaging standards-aligned resources. Dive into the program at EconEssentialsInSchool.com and learn how real-world examples make complex economics attainable:

  • Behavioral Economic Lessons: The four-part dynamic digital lesson bundles explore how psychology relates to economic decision-making.

Pathway to Financial Success in Schools
 Discover Financial Services and Discovery Education empower students to take control of their financial futures through a comprehensive, Gr. 6-12 financial literacy curriculum with self-paced eLearning modules and classroom and family extension activities. See the full suite of materials at pathwayinschools.com and kick-off the financial literacy education with family:

For more information about Discovery Education’s corporate and community partnerships and the support provided to students, educators and families during the COVID-19 crisis, visit DiscoveryEducation.com. Curated, standards-aligned, K12 financial literacy resources can also be found in Discovery Education Experience.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Discovery Education is offering schools and school systems not currently using the company’s digital services free access to Discovery Education Experience. Schools accepting this offer will have access to Discovery Education’s dynamic K-12 learning platform and its ready-to-use digital lesson plans, activities, and standards-aligned resources through the remainder of the school year. In addition, Discovery Education is offering a suite of no cost resources for parents and caregivers called Daily DE that can be used at home. For more information, visit Discovery Education’s comprehensive Virtual Learning resource center dedicated to helping educators adapt their instruction to meet today’s needs.

For more information about Discovery Education’s digital resources and professional learning services, visit DiscoveryEducation.com, and stay connected with Discovery Education on social media through Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @DiscoveryEd, or find us on Instagram and Pinterest.


About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-aligned digital curriculum resources, engaging content, and professional learning for K-12 classrooms. Through its award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia resources, and the largest professional learning network of its kind, Discovery Education is transforming teaching and learning, creating immersive STEM experiences, and improving academic achievement around the globe. Discovery Education currently serves approximately 4.5 million educators and 45 million students worldwide, and its resources are accessed in over 140 countries and territories. Inspired by the global media company Discovery, Inc., Discovery Education partners with districts, states, and like-minded organizations to empower teachers with customized solutions that support the success of all learners. Explore the future of education at DiscoveryEducation.com.

Grace Maliska, Discovery Education, gmaliska@discoveryed.com

Grant Program and Webinars for Volunteers Fighting COVID-19

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 08:45

In response to the outbreak, the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE) has launched the IAVE COVID-19 Response Fund to support volunteer-led preparedness, containment, response and recovery activities. This Fund will help ensure volunteering organizations have resources to keep critical volunteering efforts strong in this time of such great need. 

“Our Global Network of Volunteering Leadership organizations are on the frontlines of helping their communities respond to COVID-19,” said IAVE Executive Director, Nichole Cirillo.  “This Fund will help meet their immediate needs and allow them to continue volunteer operations in their regions.”

The IAVE COVID-19 Response Fund will focus on supporting global volunteer leadership organizations working directly to respond to the pandemic among the most vulnerable populations in order to help build their capacity for response. 

These will include organizations focused on youth, older adults, people with disabilities and other communities vulnerable to the physical health, mental health and economic impacts of the pandemic including supporting volunteer healthcare workers, quarantined and especially vulnerable individuals, and training and hygiene promotion activities.

IAVE is also hosting a COVID-19 webinar series to up-skill volunteer and employee engagement efforts during this crisis.  Topics include: Managing volunteers during a pandemic, Protecting the Health and Safety of Volunteers; How youth can respond to the coronavirus, and more.  The webinars are free and open to all. 

More information on both of IAVE COVID Response Fund and the Webinar series can be found at www.iave.org/covid19.


How ViacomCBS Is Connecting to Fans During the Coronavirus Crisis

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 08:45


Originally published by ViacomCBS


By Nicole Bitette

The coronavirus has caused a radical shift in how—and how much—content is consumed around the globe. With millions of people forgoing typical social activities, there’s been an increased demand for options that can offer on-demand information and entertainment. Behind the camera, news crews are working amid unprecedented conditions to deliver constant updates, and late night shows known for slick in-studio productions are now finding creative ways to give fans daily boosts.

With this in mind, ViacomCBS brands have taken new approaches to support their fans during the global pandemic. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah has been doing segments from the host’s couch while Stephen Colbert delivered his monologue from the bathtub. Amidst the shuttering of movie theaters, Paramount Pictures announced that it will digitally release Sonic The Hedgehog on March 31, just 45 days since its theater launch.

ViacomCBS also partnered with the Ad Council and the U.S. government on a PSA campaign that encourages social distancing. Starting last week, the #AloneTogether campaign aired on linear television spots and via paid social media. Talent from across the brand portfolio, including Trevor Noah and David Spade, as well as accounts from shows like Siesta Key and Lip Sync Battle, participated in the campaign.

Here’s a look at how the brands at ViacomCBS are finding creative ways to keep audiences entertained and informed:


Bellator fighter Cris Cyborg is offering daily quarantine workouts on YouTube as gyms and studios around the world are closed in order to lessen the spread of COVID-19. The daily workouts—which launched in partnership with the ViacomCBS #AloneTogether campaign—will be live on Cyborg’s channel beginning at 10 a.m. PST every Monday through Friday and they will be saved for users to watch at any time.

CBS All Access

On March 23, CBS All Access announced it would offer 30-day free trials to new customers, just ahead of the finale of Star Trek: Picard.

The streamer enlisted the help of Jean-Luc Picard himself, Sir Patrick Stewart, to deliver the news.

“That is the heart of Star Trek, how to become more human,” Stewart says in the clip. The month-long trial is redeemable until April 23 by using the code “GIFT” when signing up.

CBS News

The CBS News division has continued to deliver round-the-clock coverage on-air and online despite several staffers testing positive for the virus. In the last weeks, a smaller than normal staff has produced CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes. Affiliates from Boston and San Francisco are helping CBSN, the streaming network, with additional space and resources. CBS News Radio moved its technical base from New York to Washington. And, the local CBS news channel in New York has led with anchors from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

CBS This Morning moved its studio location several times last week, relocating temporarily to the the DC studio of CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell since its normal West 57th Street studio had to close. Last Thursday it broadcast from the Ed Sullivan theater, the usual home of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “I couldn’t even promise [the anchors] teleprompters at first,” producer Diana Miller told Variety. “They’re so flexible. It’s so clear that they want to be on the air. They’re incredibly resilient, positive and curious. They are the face of the operation and they are good at keeping us all calm.”

CBS Television Studios

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert stopped filming with a live audience on March 12 and in the days following, the show shut down in-studio production, but ramped up production remotely.

The Late Show recorded new monologues March 16-18 from Colbert’s home, which were edited into scheduled repeats of The Late Show. They aired on online and on CBS. Of note were the locations he chose: on March 16, Colbert delivered his monologue from his bathtub; on the 17th, he sat beside a fire in his backyard; and on Wednesday, March 18, he greeted viewers from his front porch.

The Late Late Show With James Corden will air a primetime special on March 30 at 10 p.m. EST on CBS in the wake of COVID-19.

Corden will host the show, titled Homefest: James Corden’s Late Late Show Special from his garage and feature special guests via webcam, like Will Ferrel and David Blaine. There will also be special music performances from BTS, Billie Eilish with Finneas, Dua Lipa, Andrea Bocelli, John Legend, and more.

CBS Sports

To give basketball fans their March Madness fix, CBS Sports will air entire classic March Madness games over the next few weeks.

Comedy Central

Since The Daily Show stopped filming last week, host Trevor Noah has been filming digital segments and monologues from his couch and guests have appeared via video chat. The digital version of the late night talk show, labeled The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah, which began streaming via online and social channels on March 18 will air on linear beginning Monday, March 23. The online episodes were an immediate hit—earning recognition for the production value and amassing more than 3 million viewers on YouTube within the first day of release.

Noah’s also created educational messages related to the coronavirus for the ViacomCBS’ #AloneTogether PSA campaign, as well as for the Mayor’s Office of NYC. On The Daily Show YouTube page, viewers can donate to No Kid Hungry via a simple button. The show’s fundraising feature has already helped raise more than $140,000 toward the organization.

David Spade, who hosts the late night show Lights Out With David Spade, for the network has been recording jokes and monologues from his Los Angeles home, which he’s nicknamed “the bunker.” Spade is recording the videos himself and then passing them along to Comedy Central to post on YouTube and Twitter, but he’s uploaded the videos to Instagram on his own.


To encourage music lovers to practice self-quarantine, MTV brought back its classic show Unplugged. The first installment featured an at-home unplugged performance from Wyclef Jean. The series is available to stream on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Additional artists will be announced soon.


Nickelodeon launched its summer schedule a few months early. The scheduled programming is designed for school-age children. The network is also airing two new animated shows on a daily basis: The Casagrandes, a spin-off of its popular show The Loud House, and It’s Pony, a British cartoon. Audiences have also been able to watch marathons of shows like SpongeBob SquarePantsPAW Patrol, and Henry Danger.

To help inform parents and children about the pandemic, the network has launched a special website called NickHelps.com, which features informational short-form content about COVID-19 for children and downloadable activities. Children can receive hand washing tips from the Bubble Guppies or learn about social distancing from SpongeBob.

The Nick Jr. preschool streaming service, Noggin, also launched on Apple TV in 25 territories, including the U.S., the UK, Germany, and France. New customers receive a free 7-day trial through the app.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures announced last Friday that the family-friendly flick Sonic The Hedgehog, based on the Sega video game character, would be available on-demand on March 31.

As well, the studio’s film The Love Birds will be released to Netflix since its theatrical and SXSW premieres had to be cancelled.

Pluto TV

In addition to joining ViacomCBS’ #AloneTogether campaign, Pluto TV is seeding a rotating selection of 20-plus news channels on its homepage so that users can immerse themselves in the headlines as soon as they turn the service on.

Pluto TV is also sending push notifications synced with breaking news on its CBSN channel. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pluto TV primarily used push notifications as a marketing and promotional tool, but the hunger for information in the current moment helped them understand its potential as a safety information system.

“We’re always coordinating with CBSN when news is coming in, and when press conferences are happening. We’re trying to keep our audience as up to date in real-time as possible,” said Pluto TV Senior Vice President of Programming Scott Reich. “Keeping them informed is the number one priority.”


On March 20, Showtime announced it will offer a free 30-day trial to new customers. Users who sign up before May 3 will have access to the premium network’s hits like BillionsShamelessThe Chi, and Ray Donovan.

Simon Schuster

As many schools have announced weeks-long closures, Simon Schuster issued a temporary policy whereby teachers and booksellers can read its children’s books aloud to classes and customers over streaming platforms.

The publisher has also given authors information about making the most of their social media accounts during coronavirus and pledged to double its annual contribution to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which helps booksellers in need.

Smithsonian Channel

In light of global travel bans, Smithsonian Channel is helping viewers all 50 states without leaving home by streaming Aerial America on Smithsonian Channel AVOD and YouTube.

To give people a breather from their new day-to-day, the network is also offering bi-weekly yoga class from Julie Montagu on Facebook Live at 2 p.m. EST on Mondays and Fridays. The brand also has a #CutenessBreak Twitter thread featuring its vast library of cute animal content on one mega-thread, as well as new weekly #MondayMotivation Twitter campaign, in which fans can get a personalized, hand-drawn illustration of a motivation or mantra to add to their vision board.

As part of the #AloneTogether campaign, the network is also participating in Facebook Watch parties every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. EST, featuring a back-to-back watch party of two Aerial America episodes together that engage fans with state-by-state trivia.

CLP’s Sustainable Path to Build a Utility of the Future

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 08:45

Building a Utility of the Future: 2019 Sustainability Report

The CLP Group’s latest Sustainability Report highlights the Company’s strategies to navigate transformative global megatrends and chart a sustainable path to build a Utility of the Future.

In the 2019 Sustainability Report, CLP focuses on responding to climate change, technology, cyber resilience and workforce transformation, the topics identified as the most material to the Group and its stakeholders. The report continues to offer comprehensive coverage on the Company’s performance on a wide range of standard environmental, social and governance topics.

In view of accelerated climate change, decarbonisation remains fundamental to CLP’s business strategy. In December 2019, the Group released its updated Climate Vision 2050, taking further actions to decarbonise its generation portfolio in Asia Pacific.

The Group also made further progress with its digitalisation strategies, and continued to reinforce the resilience of its information systems and strengthen data protection. For instance, it has been developing innovative solutions to improve energy efficiency, while deploying new technological capabilities to pursue new lines of business.

Workforce transformation is key to CLP’s commitment to empower customers in the ongoing energy transition, and the Group has taken steps to attract and retain the right talent, as well as upgrade the skills of its workforce to innovate in a digitalised world.

Learn more about CLP's performance and outlook:

Stakeholders who send feedback to CLP on its reports on or before 30 June 2020 will receive four CLP Carbon Credits. Share your views on the Sustainability Report here.

MetLife Foundation Donates $100,000 to North Carolina Food Bank to Help Those Impacted by Coronavirus

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 08:45

MetLife Foundation announced today that it is donating $100,000 to Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina to help deal with increased demand for their services as a result of coronavirus. 

Food banks face the challenge of getting shelf-stable food into people’s homes as quickly as possible, especially now that vulnerable populations such as the elderly have been advised to practice social distancing. In addition, food banks face greater need from families with children who no longer have access to meals at schools. 

“We want to help those impacted by coronavirus,” said Mike Zarcone, head of Corporate Affairs for MetLife and Chairman of MetLife Foundation. “That includes the communities in North Carolina where we work and live. We know that children out of school and seniors face food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, and we are committed to help.” 

Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina serves communities across a 34-county region that has been affected by the outbreak. 
“We’re incredibly thankful for the dedication of MetLife to our COVID-19 relief efforts,” said Food Bank President and CEO Peter Werbicki. “These funds help us stay nimble and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable people we serve.” 

# # # 

Media Contact: Liz Harish, 929-343-7473 

About MetLife Foundation

At MetLife Foundation, we believe financial health belongs to everyone. We bring together bold solutions, deep financial expertise and meaningful grants to build financial health for people and communities that are underserved and aspire for more. We partner with organizations around the world to create financial health solutions and build stronger communities, engaging MetLife employee volunteers to help drive impact. MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2019, MetLife Foundation provided more than $860 million in grants and $85 million in program-related investments to make a positive impact in the communities where MetLife operates. To date, our financial health work has reached 9.9 million low-income individuals in 42 countries. To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit www.metlife.org

About MetLife

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets globally and holds leading positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com

CIT Financing Speeds Protective N95 Masks to Healthcare Workers

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 08:45

 CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT) has provided critical financing for its client Aria Designs to help it procure millions of advanced N95 surgical masks that will protect medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aria Designs, a North Carolina-based furniture manufacturer and importer, is using its global supply chain and manufacturers to supply the much-needed protective masks. To help finance the order, Aria Designs turned to CIT, which has long worked closely with Aria to finance its furniture transactions.

"We explained the situation and CIT immediately said: 'Let's go. How can we help?'" recalled Jeff Arditti, CEO of Aria Designs in Lenoir, North Carolina. "That gave us the confidence to go forward. CIT made it possible."

To date, Aria Designs has collected orders for more than 5 million masks from hospitals, medical practices and emergency services across North Carolina. Thanks in part to CIT's financing, the first masks are expected to arrive in the coming days – with millions more to follow by airfreight in the days and weeks ahead.

"Supporting clients is central to how we do business," said Mike Hudgens, Southeast regional manager for CIT's Commercial Services group, which finances transactions on everything from furniture to fashion to electronics. "When we learned of this opportunity to help our client and join the fight against COVID-19, we jumped right in."

About 150 people are employed by CIT in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the large majority of them associated with the Commercial Services group supporting the financial needs of consumer products companies that sell furniture, apparel, housewares, electronics, toys, hardware and much more.

"Financing that gets protective masks flowing to the healthcare professionals who need them most is another example of how CIT's expertise empowers businesses to make good things happen," Hudgens said. "We're proud to have played a key role in financing the delivery of surgical masks that will help stop the spread of the coronavirus from patient to healthcare provider."

For Aria Designs, the quick pivot to importing surgical masks has also allowed it to keep more of its workforce employed during the retail shutdown. That benefits its workers and also helps keep the local economy moving at a critical juncture.

But for Aria, it's primarily about helping protect the healthcare workers who are tending to those affected by the pandemic.

"It's our privilege to support the healthcare community in the midst of this unprecedented emergency," Arditti said. "We're grateful for CIT's financial expertise in making this possible."

About CIT
CIT is a leading national bank focused on empowering businesses and personal savers with the financial agility to navigate their goals. CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT) is a financial holding company with over a century of experience and operates a principal bank subsidiary, CIT Bank, N.A. (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender). The company's commercial banking segment includes commercial financing, community association banking, middle market banking, equipment and vendor financing, factoring, railcar financing, treasury and payments services, and capital markets and asset management. CIT's consumer banking segment includes a national direct bank and regional branch network. Discover more at cit.com/about.

John M. Moran

Coronavirus: How to Survive and Thrive

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:45

Navigating the new realities of COVID-19 is straining every corner of life, forcing business, non-profit, health and education leaders to take unprecedented action to stop the pandemic’s spread and leaving many wondering how their organizations will survive. 

Markstein, an integrated communications agency with offices in Birmingham and Washington, D.C., will join 3BL Media, the world’s leading distribution platform for purpose-driven organizations, for a free webinar on Tuesday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m. EST. The webinar is designed to share best practices to help your organization not only survive the crisis, but eventually thrive again. It will feature public relations veteran Sheila McLean, mid-Atlantic president of Markstein, and Robbie Lock, executive director of the 3BL Association, a professional group devoted to sharing best practices in corporate responsibility.   

COVID-19 has shut down the economy, shuttered factories, stores, schools and restaurants and left airports, hotels, office buildings and grocery store shelves empty.   

“No leader will get everything right all the time,” McLean said. “The best ones bring humility and vulnerability to the effort, admit their mistakes and adjust. Most importantly, good leaders need to immediately think about not just survival, but recovery.” 

The webinar will explore key steps that can help move your organization toward recovery and highlight those leading the way.  

“Now is the time to lean into your corporate responsibility strategy,” Lock said. “Your employees and customers will look to brand purpose and social and environmental work to navigate this crisis and then lift up all stakeholders when it’s over.” 

Register for the free webinar HERE

About Markstein

Markstein is an integrated communications agency that blends art and science to create measurable solutions. We are inspired by the belief that helping to solve complex problems can change the world for the better – one client at a time. 

About 3BL Media

3BL Media delivers purpose-driven communications for the world’s leading companies. Our unrivaled digital distribution, editorial and leadership platforms reach an audience of 10+ million change makers.

# # #

Every Website Can Now Be a COVID-19 Volunteering Outpost

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 07:45

VolunteerMatch, the world’s largest volunteer engagement network, has launched VolunteerMatch Connect, a free product that enables everyone to turn their website into a volunteer action hub with a simple copy and paste code snippet. 

“From research we performed during the month of March, we learned that 93% of nonprofit organizations are seeing heavy volunteer cancellations, with some losing over 50% of their volunteer force,” said Laura Plato, VolunteerMatch’s COVID-19 Response Leader. “Building awareness of virtual and safer local volunteering opportunities in service to our most vulnerable populations during this time of great need is critical. VolunteerMatch is proud to make this digital product available completely free to support the effective recruitment and coordination of volunteers at a local, state and federal level.”

VolunteerMatch Connect provides direct access to search and connect to opportunities through the Help with Covid-19 Portal. Nonprofits are able to post opportunities related to the coronavirus pandemic and the site forms a point of connection for organizations and individuals, so that they can respond quickly to the frequently-changing needs of their communities.

“There are over 100,000 virtual and local volunteers currently needed across the United States to aid communities impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, and each day we see this number increase. By offering a self-contained module that easily integrates into a website in a standard ad-sized space, anyone from solopreneurs, to bloggers, to large organizations can now take full advantage of VolunteerMatch’s capabilities to engage their communities in service,” said Plato.

Two sizes based on common ad specifications are currently available: large rectangle, 336px by 280px; and half page, 300px by 600px. You can grab the VolunteerMatch Connect code here.

VolunteerMatch has also established a VolunteerMatch COVID-19 Resource Hub and Slack Workspace to encourage the wisdom of the crowd, and is making its comprehensive database of nearly 800,000 virtual volunteering opportunities more searchable and easier to find. 

# # #

About VolunteerMatch 

VolunteerMatch believes everyone should have the chance to make a difference. As the web's largest volunteer engagement network, serving over 130,000 participating nonprofits, 150 corporate partners, and 13 million annual visitors, VolunteerMatch offers unique, award-winning solutions for individuals, nonprofits and companies to make this vision a reality. Since its launch in 1998, VolunteerMatch has helped the social sector attract more than $12 billion worth of volunteer services. Learn more about VolunteerMatch at VolunteerMatch.org, and follow @VolunteerMatch on social media.

CSR-related Crisis Response -- Plan Ahead, But Expect Unique Challenges

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 06:45

As stewards of environmental sustainability, social impact and ethical governance, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals and their internal functional partners are often engaged in key aspects of crisis management. The global spread of COVID-19 is no exception. What I have learned from this and past events -- including regionalized business impacts from wildfires, rolling blackouts and earthquakes -- is that in each event, the general tenants of CSR-related efforts are similar. Strong policies and crisis management procedures are a must to have in place well before an event occurs, but it's imperative to recognize and expect unique challenges in each situation that may require careful consideration and sometimes novel actions.

General Tenants of CSR-related Crisis Response

While ever-present in normal business operations, during a crisis event I tend to field an increased level of questions from multiple corporate stakeholders about the following CSR-related aspects:

  • Employee Health & Safety – Always a first priority in such situations, the health and safety of employees – as well as contractors and temporary workers -- has broad implications across aspects such as facility practices, workplace tools, benefits and business travel.
  • Business Continuity/Emergency Response Management – Critical to governance during a crisis is having processes and systems in place to address dynamic and difficult situations. While many companies have these plans in place, with the hope of never having to use them, they are imperative during an event to ensure minimal disruption of customer and business commitments. 
  • Human Rights & Labor – Working conditions and policies that support individual human rights span stakeholders. During a crisis event, the focus may spotlight specific areas of human rights and labor, but policies around discrimination, privacy, and worker welfare, as well as supply chain flexibility are often front and center.
  • Community Health & Prosperity – Corporate citizenship actions during crises help support the livelihood of local neighbors and organizations. Along with philanthropic and volunteer efforts, even a company’s own products may have a role in improving or addressing issues in the communities where they do business.
  • Environmental Sustainability – Sustainability aspects during a crisis are generally related to weather or other environmentally caused events, such as landscape fire mitigation during wildfire spread and alternative energy sources during power outages.
  • Communications – While not a specific CSR-related topic, I would be remiss not to mention the role of communications across all these aspects during a crisis to keep employees and stakeholders updated on impacts, challenges and opportunities.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of corporate crisis management aspects but are the ones that tend to bubble to the top in the CSR space. As mentioned earlier, having strong policies aligned to the above before an event occurs is critical. That also goes for crisis management team structures to ensure designated individuals are tasked to lead crisis response within a defined decision-making hierarchy for quick decisioning as needed.

At Keysight we rely on our global as well as country- and site-specific crisis management teams to direct our formal response during such incidents, utilizing global policies and procedures already in place, including our:

With such policies in place as a basis, the unique aspects of each event may require distinctive actions.

COVID-19 Response Challenges

The reality is that no amount of planning can uncover the nuances of every crisis. Sometimes unique challenges without precedence do occur. In such times, fast action and decisioning is important to maintain employee health and productivity, customer success, supply chain continuity, community prosperity, and overall business continuity.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and its unprecedented impact on businesses and communities worldwide, certainly has raised some never-before seen challenges. Here are just a few to consider.

  • Site and Regional Closures -- The COVID-19 situation has brought to bear the unusual situation of not only company locations closing, but broad swaths of regions and even countries being shut down. While there are a multitude of employee and community impacts this affects, corporate priority should always be on the immediate well-being of employees and their on-site contract/temporary workers. As country borders close, the urgency is to ensure traveling employees return home safely and that alternative work options are addressed to maintain employee productivity wherever possible. In some cases, new work approaches and services may have been needed to aid in such transitions. And of course, the well-being of employees and associates in this dynamically changing situation has been top of mind as it relates to sick time to support individual employees or family members, mental well-being for those feeling isolated through work at home arrangements, or in instances where job responsibilities cannot be done remotely. Then attention turns to business continuity to manage customer and stakeholder needs in support of maintaining business commitments.
  • Basic Human Rights Challenges -- As a health crisis, COVID-19 involves unique privacy considerations when it comes to employee medical data in support of medical quarantine guidance. Paid time off policy reviews may also have been needed to address the unprecedented level of family and community impact. In these cases, privacy becomes a delicate balance in protecting individual rights while ensuring the health and safety of all employees, customers and suppliers. In addition, consideration of supply chain partnerships and their employees is also critical in supporting basic human rights worldwide.
  • Community Support without Direct Interaction -- With social distancing guidance and limitations on physical gatherings, supporting local communities during COVID-19 has been particularly challenging. For those that are not sick, some charitable organizations continue to work with in-person volunteers if within government guidance. But in many cases, this is not possible. Utilization of individual and corporate philanthropy and remote volunteerism provide alternative approaches for consideration. In addition, some companies are able to redirect their products and services to support specific community needs, such as ramped production of personal protective equipment and delivery services for necessities such as food and medicine.

Even though defined policies and crisis management plans may not directly address all these sorts of incident challenges, when combined with defined decision-making processes they can provide guidance in addressing unique circumstances and help determine appropriate business response.

Onward Toward Recovery

While many businesses and individuals worldwide are experiencing a new, hopefully short term, reality in their daily lives, there will be a brighter day in the future. At that time, efforts will transition to recovery and best practices for business to return to normal, or maybe even in a better state than before as it relates to some of these topics.

In the meantime, we should all lean on our current policies and procedures, support human health and prosperity and incorporate any learnings from this event into our future crisis response management.

COVID-19 Brings Policy Responses, Risks to Emerging Markets, and Hoarding

Latest news from CSR Wire - Thu, 04/02/2020 - 06:45

This month’s consequences from the COVID-19 virus have been substantial.  Apart from the impact on public health, equity indices have corrected with considerable speed amid a massive shift away from risk assets.  Consumers have pulled back, by choice or by mandate.  The optimistic tone seen in the economy and markets just two months ago has given way to fear and uncertainty. 

To counteract these contractions, citizens around the world have looked to policy makers to expand their efforts.  This week saw substantial movement in that direction. 

The U.S. Federal Reserve has been the first and most decisive agency to act.  Two weeks ago, its governors agreed to a 50 basis point cut to the federal funds rate, acting quickly to help markets find their footing.  But investors were unimpressed.  So, over this past weekend, the Fed pulled out all the stops with a comprehensive package of stimulus.  Overnight interest rates returned to their crisis-era lows of 0%-0.25%, accompanied by strong forward guidance that rates would “maintain this target range until…the economy has weathered recent events.” 

The Fed took additional steps that draw on crisis-era strategy.  Quantitative easing has returned, as the Fed plans to add $700 billion to its balance sheet before the end of the year.  It reopened swap lines with other central banks to ensure an ample supply of dollars worldwide.  And it encouraged banks to use the Fed discount window to meet their liquidity requirements. Despite past hesitation to take advantage of borrowing from the Fed, several major banks stated they will incorporate it as a funding source.

The Fed reopened several programs first chartered in 2008, committing to purchase commercial paper (short-term unsecured corporate debt) and providing credit to primary securities dealers to help them finance their inventory.  Support has also been extended to the money market mutual fund industry, which has seen accelerating outflows from certain products.

The Fed was not alone in its efforts.  Late on Wednesday, the European Central Bank committed to €750 billion of sovereign and corporate bond purchases.  The Bank of England slashed its policy rate and made an unlimited commitment to support its commercial paper market, while the Bank of Japan doubled its asset purchase program.  Central banks in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and the Philippines, among others, have taken actions to support their economies.  The coordinated global monetary response is underway.

As well, central banks in many jurisdictions have formally encouraged banks to use their capital and liquidity to support the economy.  In some cases, central banks are making funds available for direct lending to borrowers harmed by the coronavirus.

With these supports, central banks have resumed the accommodative posture adopted during the global financial crisis.  But COVID-19 is not a monetary problem, and it cannot be cured with monetary solutions.  An equivalently strong fiscal stimulus is required.

“Monetary policy can keep markets working while other responses take shape.”

The U.S. fiscal response has been frustratingly slow.  Congress initially passed a limited, $8 billion bill to fund emergency response and vaccine development.  Another measure followed this week that includes support for the cost of virus testing, paid sick leave for many workers caring for children, and funding to states to expand unemployment, healthcare and food aid programs.  But greater support is still needed to bring the country through this crisis.

COVID-19 has quickly become a massive demand shock.  About 68% of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending.  When consumers stay home en masse, the damage is rapid.  Businesses shutter and employees are laid off.  We saw the first inkling of what is to come in this week’s steep rise in filings for unemployment insurance.

The mood in Washington has become more urgent, as the government considers a package that may exceed $1 trillion in size.  It may include a payroll tax holiday, direct cash payments to U.S. residents, and subsidies to the small businesses and industries most affected by the slowdown.  But there remains disagreement on specifics, which is delaying passage.

Continually growing headline estimates of the size of upcoming interventions reflect legislators’ growing concern about the damage COVID-19 is causing. Gone are the days of principled objections to increased deficit spending; the debate has focused on how much stimulus to implement and how soon it can be done.  Long-term U.S. interest rates reflect an expectation that the budget will be busted.

“The price tag for supporting the global economy will be high, but it must be paid.”

Leaders of every developed market realize the importance of fiscal stimulus to weather the COVID-19 disruption, and they are responding in force.  The U.K. launched a £330 billion program of loan guarantees in addition to targeted measures for small businesses and companies in the hospitality sector.  France pledged €45 billion of aid and €300 billion of loan guarantees and is exploring measures as extreme as nationalizing key businesses.  Spain is offering €100 in loan guarantees thus far, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez sagely summarizing the loss: “2020 will not have 12 months,” as the disruption will squander months of potential output.

Eurozone member states have individually pledged a total of €1 trillion in aid, and still, their largest fiscal weapon remains unused.  Chartered in 2012 during the depths of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) provides an emergency backstop to countries in need of a bailout.  If EU members agree to reviving ESM issuances, more than €400 billion of supplemental loans could rapidly be made available to EU nations.

Asian nations that faced the virus first have shown the value of a strong response.  Monetary policymakers got the message clearly, while elected leaders are starting to rise to the challenges ahead.  While it will be expensive, it is not as costly as inaction.

Emerging Troubles

The Chinese Year of the Rat, 2020, was meant to be a year of prosperity.  Instead, it has brought a great deal of humanitarian and economic challenge.  COVID-19 has spread to over 160 countries and territories around the globe, causing serious disruptions across markets and to all forms of economic activity.  Though advanced economies are now at the epicenter of outbreak, emerging markets (EMs) have also been hit hard.

Disruptions across EMs are growing.  With major demand centers (advanced economies) moving closer to recession, EMs’ resiliency will be tested.  Commodity- or natural-resource-rich EMs are hit with the double shock of coronavirus and falling commodity prices (not just oil).  Several of those already struggling to cope with rising protectionism are facing a sharp drop in export earnings.  Weaker exports will not only weigh on each economy’s external sector but also on domestic demand, as cutbacks in production result in losses of work. 

To make matters worse, the U.S. dollar has been strengthening.  EM currencies have weakened amid the outbreak and are likely to remain under pressure given the uncertainty around economic prospects.  Businesses and governments would face significant challenges in servicing their dollar-denominated debt.  Several emerging markets are reportedly struggling to acquire the dollars needed to service their obligations, given the uncertainty of the value of local currency.

The widespread selloff is causing a sharp reversal in capital flows from relatively risky EM assets into safe haven assets like the dollar.  According to the Institute of International Finance, EMs have recorded about $55 billion in capital outflows in less than two months, double the pace of withdrawals seen during the 2008 crisis. 

Though Latin America (LATAM)’s exposure to the viral outbreak has been limited, the Brazilian real and Mexican peso are among the worst-performing currencies this year, reaching record lows.  Declining external demand and commodity prices, tightening financial conditions, and the impact of virus containment measures will result in significant shocks to LATAM economies.

Among other major emerging markets, Turkey, South Africa and Iran are also struggling, even though the first two haven’t seen a major outbreak yet.  With Europe, Turkey’s main trading partner, in a lockdown, the country’s export and tourism sectors are likely to suffer.  Measures aimed at limiting the spread within Turkish borders will weigh on domestic consumption.  Turkey had unleashed massive stimulus from its 2018 currency crisis; its monetary and public finances will now stretch even more to underpin the economy.

The outlook for South Africa was bleak coming into 2020, but the external shock of COVID-19 will further destabilize its fragile economy.  The South African rand has tumbled 13% this year.  In the event of an outbreak, South Africa’s socioeconomic conditions will only make the fight against the virus more complex, as implementing lockdowns won’t be easy.  The external shock coupled with weak domestic fundamentals, including high (external and short-term) debt and an energy crisis, will likely push the economy deeper into recession. 

“Emerging markets have no room for fiscal support measures, and monetary easing could well backfire.”

The situation in Iran is far worse.  It is battling an outbreak with an already decimated economy owing to economic isolation and now the oil price war.  The rial has depreciated considerably, which will fuel inflation.  Standing at a breaking point, the crisis has forced the Iranian government, for the first time in 60 years, to request a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Though some of the economic damage can be mitigated by policy support measures, any monetary easing is constrained by these countries’ weaker currencies and risks of inflation.  They have little room for fiscal easing, as several emerging markets are running fiscal deficits. 

In sum, the Year of the Rat does not look like it will deliver on its promise.  Next year will be the Year of the Ox, a symbol of strength: hopefully, this will bring some stability to EM economies.

Paper Panic

What do tulips and toilet paper have in common?  Read on.

Friends of mine who grew up in Eastern Europe have remarked that recent scenes in the world’s grocery stores remind them of their childhoods.  Empty shelves, fights over newly-delivered inventory, and black markets with high prices have been common during recent weeks, as populations prepare for extended periods at home.  Guards have been called out to patrol supermarket aisles, while thieves have hijacked trucks delivering particularly scarce items. 

On the surface, the hoarding is completely irrational.  The coronavirus does not bring digestive issues, and there are more than 100 toilet paper manufacturers in the United States.  Studies suggest that an 18-roll package of toilet paper should be enough to last a family of four for two months.  Why, then, do we see people marching out of retailers with 4-5 of them?

“Hoarding, while not altogether rational, is not at all unexpected.”

It’s because people around the globe are governed by behavioral economics.  We are risk averse, and since we cannot eliminate all risks, we often work hard to control the things we can.  Hoarding essentials gives us the peace of mind we are struggling to achieve elsewhere.

Further, when we see someone else hoarding (or see an accumulation of hoarding stories on social media), we tend to override our more reasoned calculations and join the crowd.  Scarcity becomes a perception, even if it isn’t a reality.

The hoarding of toilet paper is mostly bemusing, as restocking is rapidly catching up to demand.  Where hoarding is more serious is when it involves essentials that are not made locally, like preventative face masks.  They are in short supply at medical centers, even as boxes of them sit in people’s basements.

Students of history will remember that a similar mania surrounded Dutch tulip bulbs 400 years ago.  While consumers have become more sophisticated in some ways since then, some of our baser instincts remain very much the same.

Information is not intended to be and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation or recommendation with respect to any transaction and should not be treated as legal advice, investment advice or tax advice. Under no circumstances should you rely upon this information as a substitute for obtaining specific legal or tax advice from your own professional legal or tax advisors. Information is subject to change based on market or other conditions and is not intended to influence your investment decisions.

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