TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Media_OutReach – 11 June 2019 – A total of 64 projects and business leaders across 16 countries in Asia were selected as recipients of Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards (AREA) 2019, an increase of 19% from last year. Regarded as the top corporate social responsibility awards in Asia, this year’s ceremony was organized in Taipei, after being held in Macau, Singapore, Bangkok, and Manila previously.
Organized by Enterprise Asia, the leading non-governmental organization for responsible entrepreneurship in Asia, the AREA aims to recognize and honor Asian businesses and leaders for championing sustainable and socially responsible business practices. The award categories are social empowerment, investment in people, health promotion, green leadership, corporate governance, and responsible business leadership. Some of the dignitaries who graced the event include Mr. Chang San-cheng, former premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Mr. Hou Yu-Ih, mayor of New Taipei City.
Leading the list of winners under the investment in people category was Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) with their project “Building the Soft and Hard Capacity for Professionals in the Power Industry”.
Established in 1946, Taipower is an integrated, electric utility company with businesses in power generation, transmission, distribution and services. As of 2018, the Taipower system had a total installed capacity of 44.51 GW. Its primary energy sources include thermal power, hydro power and other forms of renewable energy.
Throughout its history, Taipower has relied on its professional workforce to maintain a high-quality, reliable power supply. Internally, the Company is grappling with a retirement peak, and the related challenge of transferring skills and knowledge from older employees to the next generation. These factors have necessitated the development of an innovative talent training program that fosters the safe and effective development of new employees.
The program is designed around the goals of active recruitment through multiple channels in order to stabilize the talent pool; the cultivation of core competencies and the development of lean power talents; the acceleration of cultivation and promotion of outstanding employees, the construction of a platform to strengthen the adaptability of employee; the introduction of learning technologies that improve the effectiveness of training; and the recognition of core human resources and the application of multiple training methods to meet learning needs.
Framework and Strategy Taipower’s innovative talent cultivation program has three core components, namely a comprehensive training system and policy, the integration of emerging technologies and the cultivation of a caring, employee-centered environment.
The Company strives to use emerging technologies and methodologies in all stages of its training system. The introduction of new technologies is to improve employee effectiveness and safety. Recent initiatives included the introduction of e-books on i-Tunes U, a real-time response system, and a micro- learning video platform. Taipower is working to fully integrate Virtual Reality models to enhance training in unsafe environments.
To help employees relieve stress and to achieve a healthy work-life balance, Taipower initiated its Heart-to-Heart program. For more than 30 years, the program has provided an employee assistance system and worked to create a supportive environment that cares for the mental health needs of employees.
Achievement and Impact As a public utility, and a major employer, Taipower plays a significant role in establishing employment standards and benchmarks in Taiwan. It has consistently sought to cultivate talent and create opportunities for young employees. The Company was recently honored to be ranked 13th on a list of employers preferred by those entering the workforce in the 2018 Cheers (magazine) annual survey.
The quality of the Company’s training centers was also acknowledged when their training system passed the Talent Quality-Management System Assessment and acquired the “Excellent Enterprise Vocational Training Institute” designation from the Ministry of Labour. In confirmation of this recognition, Taipower has consistently encouraged its employees to pursue related licenses and certificates. In 2018, the Company’s training system facilitated the achievement of 4,252 certificates and obtained more than 70,000 certificates by its employees.
Future Direction Strengthening human resource management is an endless journey for every company that is seeking to achieve sustainable development. As a company in the midst of an energy transition, Taipower is particularly aware of the need to foster young talents in renewable energies and their related systems. Hence, the Company has placed a particular focus on developing young professionals to meet its future human resource demands.
In the coming years, Taipower will continue to introduce new technologies for training, and to integrate data from its training courses to improve their effectiveness. The Company will also work towards the use of a big data system to create connections between employees, company needs and training requirements. Moreover, in addition to cultivating the professional abilities of its staff, the Company will continue to use multiple channels to meet the needs of its employee and to construct a healthy, productive and sustainable workplace for all.
*** About Enterprise Asia *** Enterprise Asia is a non-governmental organization in pursuit of creating an Asia that is rich in entrepreneurship as an engine towards sustainable and progressive economic and social development within a world of economic equality. Its two pillars of existence are investment in people and responsible entrepreneurship. Enterprise Asia works with governments, NGOs and other organizations to promote competitiveness and entrepreneurial development, in uplifting the economic status of people across Asia and in ensuring a legacy of hope, innovation and courage for the future generation. For more information, visit: https://www.enterpriseasia.org/.
*** About Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards *** The Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards recognizes and honors Asian businesses for championing sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship in the categories of Green Leadership, Investment in People, Health Promotion, Social Empowerment, Corporate Governance and Responsible Business Leadership. For more information, visit: https://enterpriseasia.org/area/.
Return to work: Flexibility, preparation and communication are key
By Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK
As lockdown restrictions ease for the foreseeable future, conversations across the business world are starting to turn to how employers can safely and seamlessly prepare for their workforce to return to the office.
Research from Robert Half has found that over half (54%) of employees are worried about working in close proximity to their colleagues, while a similar proportion are eager to return to the office due to loneliness working from home (45%) or concerns about missing out on career opportunities (30%).
Unsurprisingly, after everything companies and their employees have done to successfully adapt their operations and working practices to social distancing rules over the last few months, immediately returning to the old ways of working will likely neither be sensible or practical. With safety being the key priority for the ‘new normal’ of office life – communication, flexibility and preparation should be the main focus areas for employers.
With this in mind, what are the challenges and opportunities that employees anticipate as they prepare for the return to work, beyond government and industry supplied health and safety best practice? Furthermore, how can employers best support their staff during this period?
Keep people at the heart of change
It is important to recognise that your workforce has been working through an intense period of uncertainty and change for months, which can be incredibly unsettling. On top of this, working for weeks in isolation without the usual physical interactions with team members could be potentially detrimental to employee engagement and mental wellbeing.
Having adjusted to keep staff connected with one another from a distance with virtual team building exercises, video calls and daily check-ins, as teams begin working in hybrid models with some in the office and others remote, staff engagement will need to adapt again.
Managing people with greater sensitivity and maintaining positivity throughout will be crucial. To help instil a sense of normality and engagement, encourage maximum collaboration between individuals (in accordance with social distancing rules), and make sure teams feel part of company goals and opportunities through regular meetings and communication – no matter their location.
Continuing to invest in technology and offering flexibility will also be important to ensuring that people can continue to work remotely or on-site, either in accordance with their own wishes or as part of your staggered return-to-office plan.
Communicate, communicate, communicate (and listen)
Reassuring staff that they are able to safely return to the office will require continuous communication. From expectations of the physical office, to expectations of how to operate within hybrid teams, these new expectations and new workplace requirements should be communicated to all staff clearly to avoid confusion.
Regular email updates, updates on the company’s intranet and social media channels, as well as frequent town hall meetings (either online or in a smaller setting) could be key elements of an effective communications approach.
Also, consider a feedback channel to allow staff within the team to offer thoughts on their experience of returning to the office and any suggestions on improving the process. Whether on a company-wide basis or a team-by-team approach, schedule regular check-ins to engage with employees’ questions and concerns.
Maintaining open communication channels with your team will be essential for keeping up employee morale and ensuring clarity. For example, if some employees aren’t comfortable with coming to the office every day, then they should have plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns and have them dealt with promptly, respectfully and fairly.
Staggered return-to-office planning
Depending on the size of business and density of office space, maintaining home working arrangements across teams on an alternating basis could make it easier to implement safe social distancing. This involves select teams working remotely while others work on-site on any given day.
An alternating approach to remote working might also reduce the risk of staff feeling pressured or overwhelmed by an immediate return to the office five-days-a-week. After all, some families might be juggling temporary disruptions to childcare arrangements and public transport systems will likely become crowded again. So, a transitionary period will help everyone adjust to post-lockdown office working.
Finally, if you have developed your technology infrastructure to facilitate remote working, you would do well to continue to leverage these new capabilities as in all probability, a mixture of remote and at-office work will be needed for some time.
How sustainable AI improves the triple bottom line
An investment in green AI enables financial services firms to align people, profit, and planet
By Nick Dale, EVP business development, Verne Global
Green investing is widely regarded as a mega trend, with chief executive Larry Fink of BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, stating, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects … awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”
The recent seismic shift in public opinion about climate change has not only increased attention on the sustainability and societal impact of investing in a company, it’s also influencing the decisions being made in finance industry boardrooms overall, whether that’s implementing innovative business models or adopting new partnerships and technologies. However, as business leaders strive to make green choices, many are unaware of the hidden environmental costs of the technologies they are employing.
AI in the finance industry
The use of AI has become ubiquitous across industry sectors, and is now an integral part of the technologies being used in financial services, from optimising asset portfolios and underwriting loans to assessing risks.
AI is especially beneficial for things like quantitative trading, which uses large data sets to identify patterns that can then inform strategic trades. AI’s machine learning models can analyse vast and complex data and make predictions accordingly. But AI models are not only data-hungry, they are power hungry.
Supercomputers train and test mountains of data for AI models, and can run 24-hours a day, for hours, days, or even weeks. These applications consume huge amounts of energy, and as AI technology continues to grow and develop, the computations behind it are also increasing in size and complexity. The carbon emissions from training a single AI model for language translation is roughly equivalent to 125 round-trip flights from New York to Beijing (AI Now 2019 Report).
The carbon cost of AI becomes even higher when you factor in the energy required to keep the computing equipment housed in data centres cool – overheating can impact performance and damage equipment. As a result, in a conventional data centre, at least 40% of all energy consumed goes towards cooling.
But sustainable AI is possible if financial services organisations take positive steps to minimise its environmental impact.
Minimising AI’s carbon footprint
Location, location, location
Many tech giants are committing to reducing their carbon footprint, with Amazon pledging to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024, and Google investing in data centres in Nordic countries specifically for better energy efficiency.
This is because in the Nordics, data centres are largely powered by renewable energy sources. Iceland, in particular, uses 100% renewable hydroelectric and geothermal power – with no nuclear power sources – and is connected to a reliable power grid. These renewable energy sources are much less harmful to the environment because, unlike fossil fuels, they don’t cause pollution and don’t generate greenhouse gases. Not to mention, renewable energy is based on natural resources that can be replenished within an average human lifetime, as compared to fossil fuels, which can take thousands—or even millions—of years to replace.
Over 80% of compute doesn’t need to be near the end-user, and in those situations, choosing data centre locations in cool climates has a significant impact on carbon emissions. AI compute can be located in places like Iceland, which can utilise all-year-round, free cooling due to its temperate climate.
Data centres that are located in hot climates, like Arizona in the US, require high-powered cooling systems in operation around the clock. With average high temperatures of 40° Celsius in the summer, these data centres can use up to 4 million gallons of water a day to absorb heat through evaporation into cooling towers. Consequently, when location doesn’t hamper performance or accessibility, housing AI compute in data centres with natural cooling is a no-brainer.
Energy efficient and cost-effective
Many in the financial sector have traditionally viewed sustainability as a trade-off between profit and planet, but when it comes to green AI, financial services firms can have it both ways. By housing the servers that train AI models in data centres powered by renewable energy sources, businesses can substantially reduce energy expenses and benefit from long-term, fixed pricing.
And when renewable energy sources are combined with year-round, cool climates, the energy demands and costs of AI can be dramatically reduced. AI is here to stay, but by making the right choices, companies in the finance sector can still drive profitability whilst making real and measurable progress on sustainability.
The impact and implications of Covid-19 on financial reporting
By Mark Billington, Regional Director, Greater China & South-East Asia, ICAEW
The economic consequences of Covid-19 have been unprecedented, affecting activity in nearly every country in the world. Indeed, the latest forecast from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) projects that most economies in South-East Asia (SEA) would fall into recession in the first half of 2020 and Gross Domestic Product will contract by 1.9 percent over the whole year. Across the region, governments have had to bring in various fiscal stimulus measures to protect the economy.
Exceptional times bring tremendous challenges for businesses and requires leaders to have a clear view on the short- and long-term effects of Covid-19 on their businesses, and to respond accordingly. This starts with taking extra care to recognise the impact of Covid-19 in financial reports, especially of events which have occurred between the balance sheet date and the date when the accounts are authorised for issue.
Distinguishing between adjusting or non-adjusting events
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve and more information comes to light about the nature of the virus and its impact, companies with 2020 year-ends need to consider how it has affected their business and how the effects should be reflected in the accounts at the end of their reporting period. This boils down to distinguishing whether Covid-19 should be accounted as an adjusting or non-adjusting event.
In December last year, China alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to several cases of an unusual form of pneumonia in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province. But it was only early this year when substantive information on what has now been identified as coronavirus (Covid19) came to light. As a result, for companies with a 31 December 2019 year-end, Covid-19 is generally considered to be a non-adjusting event.
This changes for companies which have early 2020 year-ends, who will need to consider the timelines more carefully to assess the conditions at the end of their relevant reporting period. For companies with 31 March 2020 year-ends, Covid-19 is likely to be considered a current-period event, which means that companies need to assess and record all events and conditions that existed at or before the reporting date. When it is determined to be an adjusting event, a business will need to review all areas of the accounts that might be adversely affected by the COVID-19 virus.
There may be a greater degree of judgement required when identifying the conditions at the end of the reporting period, and a closer assessment needed of whether developments are adjusting or non-adjusting.
Exercising judgement about conditions at the balance sheet date
Companies have to exercise significant judgement to determine the conditions that existed at the balance sheet date. This is heavily dependent on the reporting year end in question, the company’s own individual circumstances and the events which are under consideration.
A number of factors should be considered when making judgements about conditions at the balance sheet date. This includes the timing and impact on stakeholders such as staff, customers, and suppliers, of travel restrictions, quarantines and lockdowns, closure of businesses and schools; and government support initiatives. With each of these events, companies have to determine whether an event shines a brighter light on conditions at the balance sheet date or if conditions changed after the reporting date.
This evaluation in financial reporting is important because it affects the forecasting of future income and cash flows, which are based on conditions that existed at the balance sheet date. Estimating recoverable amounts might be very different for the same asset if the calculation was performed for a 2019- or 2020-year end.
Upholding values of corporate transparency and trust
In these times of uncertainty and crisis, it is even more important to be transparent about risks and assumptions used in financial reports, and to make disclosures as specific to the business as possible, to avoid the risk of financial reporting being downplayed. In fact, market regulator Singapore Exchange (SGX) and rating agency Fitch Ratings have recently cautioned companies against using alternative performance measures such as Ebitdac (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation and coronavirus) in their interim financial reports to flatter results, and stressed that “disclosures must be balanced and fair and avoid omission of important unfavourable facts”.
More than ever, businesses must continue to diligently uphold values of corporate transparency and trust and continue to disclose transparent and quality information to investors and other stakeholders. In order to do this, directors are tasked with the important responsibility to comply with various reporting standards and understand the circumstances of particular disclosures to provide a fair and balanced assessment of the company’s financial position and performance.
Covid-19 also has significant implications for audit reports on company financial statements. Preparing and auditing financial statements poses tough calls in difficult and unclear circumstances for directors and auditors. It is vital that these uncertainties are interpreted appropriately and in the context of the current unprecedented circumstances
As the business impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold and affect economies and the future of many organisations, businesses should continue to consider both their situation but also the wider economic landscape they operate in and reflect that in their financial reports.
 SGX warns against use of ‘earnings before coronavirus’ metric, The Business Times, 27 July 2020
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