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Climate, inflation and COVID-19: Highlights from Day Two of the Fortune Global Forum

June 10, 2021, 10:03 AM UTC

Good morning.

Day two of the Fortune Global Forum reinforced my view that 2021 is shaping up to be a watershed year for business commitments on climate change. Some excerpts on that—and other issues—below:

“There is a misperception that we have to pay a cost (to deal with climate change.) It is not a cost. We have to make an investment and stop paying costs… It is an inevitable journey. Burn the ships. There is no coming back. Get at it.”
—Francesco Starace, CEO, Enel

“It’s my view that big business is way ahead of the politicians on this one. We aren’t being driven by regulation. We are trying to drag regulation forward. We are increasingly being driven by our customers. They are demanding carbon neutral products. And increasingly, the ESG agenda is important to investors as well.”
Søren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller-Maersk

“This is the tipping point year. This is the year, certainly, where the business community got religion.”
—Claire O’Neill, Managing Director, Climate and Energy, World Business Council for Sustainable Investment

“This year is going to be the year we remember.”
—Hiro Mizuno, U.N. Special Envoy on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments, former Chief Investment Officer of the Japan Government Pension Investment Fund

On inflation:

“Yes, it is very real. We are seeing it across a number of products. It’s pulp, it’s paper, it’s anything involving oil. Plastic packaging is going up. Trucking costs have gone up significantly. Ocean freight has gone up significantly. You are seeing it in a wide range of cost areas…It’s inevitable we will see an increase in inflation. How much? I don’t know.”
—David Taylor, CEO, Procter & Gamble

On leading through difficult times:

“Often times you can lead through crisis and really just focus on getting through each day. But you are stronger if you don’t let a good crisis go to waste, and you take the lessons that you have learned and apply those. Our business absolutely is stronger because of what we have endured together over the last year and a half.”
—Kathy Warden, CEO, Northrop Grumman

On mental health and well-being:

“About a third of folks look to the return as something that will be great for their well-being. But about 44% said they had negative feelings about what the return would mean to them. There is an imperative for employers to take on the concept of well-being as a skill that can be developed, just as any other skill. It’s a matter of competitive advantage in your organization.”
—Liz Hilton Segel, Managing Partner, North America, McKinsey & Company

On India’s second COVID-19 spike:

“I’m encouraged by the situation because the cases have been coming down steadily for the last couple of weeks and the positivity rates have also been coming down. And hospital beds have increased. There has been an all-out effort, and currently we are seeing wave two slowly, slowly receding…What matters most is the vaccination. The speed with which we can vaccinate will determine how safe we can be.”
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons

On Africa and COVID-19:

“The economic hit has been much worse for Africa. You in the U.S. and Europe asked people to stay at home and said we will send you checks. You have the fiscal space to borrow cheaply and throw trillions of dollars at your economy and your people to get them through the tough times. African countries did not have that fiscal space. Our leaders asked us to stay at home, but they did not send money.”
—Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

On changing consumer attitudes toward food:

“If you look at consumer data, there are two trends. One is an increasing attention to what they are consuming, where is it coming from, what is the environmental impact. The other is actually people seeking to eat in a way that is good for their health. You might have thought in a pandemic that wouldn’t happen, but it really has.”
—Geraldine Matchett, Co-CEO, Royal DSM

On the promise of mRNA in fighting other diseases:

“It has huge potential because it is the most ancient form of information technology.”
—Özlem Türeci, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, BioNTech

More coverage from the forum here. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Shell emissions

Shell, which has been told by a Dutch court to accelerate its carbon-emission cuts, will accelerate its carbon-emission cuts. CEO Ben van Beurden promised "some bold but measured steps" in a LinkedIn post. "We will seek ways to reduce emissions even further in a way that remains purposeful and profitable," he wrote. Shell is still likely to appeal the ruling, though. Fortune

Vaccine patents

There's increasing pressure on the European Commission to back a temporary waiver on COVID-19 vaccine patents, after the European Parliament this morning voted for the IP suspension. French President Emmanuel Macron has also flipped on the issue and now backs the waiver, which was originally proposed by India and South Africa. Fortune

U.S. largesse

The U.S. will buy 500 million more Pfizer-BioNTech doses for distribution to poorer countries over the next year—200 million this year, and the rest in the first half of 2022. The move comes in the context of soaring inequality in vaccine distribution; demand in the U.S. has plummeted but it's far from being met in much of the world. Fortune

TikTok order

President Biden wants his Commerce Department to review apps from foreign adversaries that could threaten Americans' sensitive data—however, he's reversed President Trump's bans on TikTok and WeChat. Those bans never went into effect anyway, thanks to judicial pushback. Fortune


Amazon data

The U.K.'s antitrust authority, which is already in lockstep with its EU counterpart when it comes to cracking down on Facebook, is now reportedly also going to mirror an EU probe into Amazon. The Competition and Markets Authority is concerned about how the retail giant treats the merchants that use its platform. Financial Times

Drahi and BT

Patrick Drahi, the French telecoms billionaire, has bought a 12% stake in BT Group (once known as British Telecom), for $3.1 billion. Drahi's newly-formed Altice UK is now the group's biggest investor. Altice, which Drahi founded in 2001, has a good deal of expertise when it comes to fiber rollouts, and BT has been looking for a partner to aid its own high-speed fiber deployments. Bloomberg

Indian vaccines

The Indian government is still resisting Pfizer's demand for indemnification against legal liability over vaccine complications. The country's ruinous second wave of COVID-19 infections seems to be passing, but only 17% of the population have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning the government's vaccination drive is far behind the promised target of full inoculation by the end of the year. Fortune

Hybrid work

Corporate leaders such as Apple's Tim Cook are threatening their bottom lines by demanding that employees return to the office, despite a clear majority of workers favoring remote-working arrangements. That's according to behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky, who writes for Fortune that the CEOs are responding to their own biases rather than focusing on "the social and emotional glue that truly holds companies together, motivates employees, and protects against burnout." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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