5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: March 17

As the saying goes, the news never stops. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories impacting American workplaces and communities.

1. Rethinking ESG as a Framework for Purposeful Innovation

The framework for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) has become a popular topic among stakeholders, including investors, regulators and corporate leaders. But, despite billions in capital investment and significant efforts to adopt ESG strategies, it is still unclear how much real impact companies have on society.

According to Wharton and Penn Engineering experts, the lack of a clear framework for embedding ESG priorities in research and development (R&D) and innovation efforts presents an opportunity to rethink ESG as a framework for shaping and delivering purposeful innovation.

While challenges still exist which prevent companies from focusing their innovation efforts and resources on ESG goals, steps can be taken to unlock this significant opportunity. These steps include:

  • Reframing the company’s purpose to incorporate ESG goals
  • Co-creating ESG innovations with lead customers and ecosystem partners
  • Using data and AI to identify ESG innovation opportunities
  • Developing an ESG-driven innovation process

Generation Z, which comprises the largest population block in the world, has a preference for socially responsible and eco-friendly businesses, brands and products. Companies that openly promote environmentally friendly practices or products with a minimal environmental footprint are more likely to gain the attention and spending of more educated consumers.

Several frameworks measure the performance and impact of ESG-related programs, but they attempt to drive commonality in how companies communicate their ESG activities, which is driven mostly by investors and regulators. These frameworks do not directly measure how innovation efforts are driving ESG impact. Despite this, ESG has captured the attention of stakeholders, with their priorities being expressed in the form of financial investment in ESG efforts. This is directly supported by investment dollars attached to ESG efforts, with ESG assets projected to grow from $35 trillion in 2020 to $50 trillion by 2025.

2. Home-Buying Still Not Affordable for Many Despite Mortgage Rate Drops

Amid several bank failures, mortgage rates dropped from 6.76% last week to 6.60% this week, reversing the course after increases of 0.5% over the last month. Despite this decrease, the cost of homes has remained high.

Regarding who is buying homes, Black Americans have the lowest homeownership rates among all ethnic groups. Black homeownership peaked at 49.7% in 2004, at its high, trailing behind the 76.2% homeownership rate for white people.

One of the barriers contributing to the Black homeownership gap is credit disparities across generations.

“We know the outputs of lower credit scores, missing credit scores, fewer financial resources and lower incomes,” Michael Neal, principal research associate in the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, told DiversityInc in an interview for our “Dollar Divide” article series. “A part of that is economics, but what informs it is partly due to structural racism and discrimination.”

Read more about Black homeownership and the racial wealth gap and how access to homeownership can be improved.

3. CDC Reports Spike in Maternal Deaths in the US in 2021

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased significantly in 2021, with 1,205 people dying because of maternal causes, a 40% increase from 2020.

The report also found significant disparities in maternal mortality rates among racial and ethnic groups. Black women had the highest maternal mortality rate, at 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, more than double that of white women.

Historically, Black women have experienced a lack of quality care during pregnancy due to systemic issues within the healthcare system that are anchored in racism and bias. Old stereotypes that date back to slavery era experiments that were performed on women persist and show up in the form of medical practitioners not believing Black women when they report being in pain.

Read more about the mistreatment of Black women in healthcare at Fair360 Enterprise.

4. Oregon Equal Pay Law Amendment Sparks Debate over Sign-on Bonuses

Employers in Oregon are seeking amendments to the state’s Equal Pay Act that will exempt certain bonuses from equity considerations.

A bill has been introduced to the Oregon House of Representatives, with advocates saying it will combat recruitment and retention difficulties that have occurred since the pandemic hit.

The state’s current equal pay law prohibits employers from paying an employee a higher rate than a co-worker for similar work unless the pay disparity is justified by nondiscriminatory factors such as seniority, education, training or experience. However, some worker advocates argue that the proposed amendment would promote pay disparities.

Visit Fair360 Enterprise to read more about the lingering pay gap in the U.S.

5. Register for DiversityInc’s Top 50 Event!

On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, top leaders from major companies from many of the nation’s largest companies will convene for DiversityInc’s 22nd annual Top 50 event at Cipriani’s Wall Street in New York City. This year’s theme is The Link Between Leadership Accountability and Data Standardization.

The annual hybrid conference is the top corporate DEI event in the country, and includes a full day of panel discussions and data-backed presentations ahead of the announcement of the 2023 Top 50 companies and specialty lists in the evening.

Click the button below to register.


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