What Went Right This Week: Women Rise at FTSE Firms, Plus More Positive News

TMS PEACE JOURNALISM, 1 Mar 2021

Gavin Haines | Positive News - TRANSCEND Media Service

25 Feb 2021 -The number of FTSE female directors was found to have doubled in five years, a bird missing for nearly two centuries reappeared and plans for a major UK gas power plant were shelved, plus the week’s other positive news.

Women are rising at FTSE firms, a report found

Efforts to boost female leadership in the boardroom are yielding results in the UK. A report released this week found that the number of female FTSE100 directors has doubled in five years. Women now hold one in three boardroom roles at the UK’s top 350 firms.

The figures are in line with targets set by the government-backed Hampton-Alexander review. It launched in 2016 with the aim of encouraging firms to promote women into leadership roles. The review wanted 33 per cent of board positions at FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 firms to be held by women by 2021. Data from January suggests women held 34.3 per cent of board roles across the FTSE 350.

Though more needs to be done at many firms to improve female representation, some companies, namely Diagio and Severn Trent, are exceeding gender equality targets. Both have more women on their board than men.

England and Scotland published roadmaps out of lockdown

Successive coronavirus lockdowns have exerted a heavy toll on the UK’s mental health, with one on six people saying they are struggling to stay positive. There was, then, a wary sense of relief – albeit tinged with anxiety – when the UK government and devolved Scottish parliament launched their roadmaps out of restrictions this week.

Downing Street said that limits on social contact could end in England from 21 June. The Scottish parliament set a more cautious timetable, but said that non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants would likely reopen from 26 April, offering a glimmer of hope for business owners.

Both timetables are contingent on the vaccines maintaining efficacy against the disease and the vaccine rollout continuing at the current pace.

Last week, Positive News asked a number of experts for their tips on staying resilient during lockdown. This is what they recommended.

Plans for Europe’s largest gas plant were scrapped

Climate groups scored a victory this week as plans to build Europe’s largest gas plant were axed. Energy giant Drax was due to construct the facility in Yorkshire, but abandoned the project after campaigners argued it was incompatible with the UK’s climate targets.

The firm pulled the plug despite climate groups losing a legal challenge against the UK government in January over its approval of the plant.

The positive news was tempered by a report by the thinktank Carbon Tracker. It revealed how plans to build 17 gas power plants in the UK (including the now abandoned Drax one) would undermine climate targets and push up energy bills. Carbon Tracker said clean energy could offer the same level of grid services as gas, at lower cost.

A bird missing for 180 years was found

One of the world’s most elusive songbirds has been spotted in a Bornean jungle, some 180 years after the last confirmed sighting. The black-browed babbler was presumed extinct by some ornithologists, but the fresh sighting confirms it is alive and singing.

Two local men, Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan, stumbled upon the lone songbird while out in the jungle. They caught and released it after taking photographs, which they sent to birdwatching groups. This week their October sighting was confirmed by experts.

“It feels surreal to know that we have found a species of bird presumed by experts to be extinct,” said Rizky Fauzan. “When we found it, we didn’t expect it to be that special at all – we thought it was just another bird that we simply have never seen before.”

The NHS launched a cervical cancer home testing trial

More than 30,000 women living in London are to receive home testing kits so they can check for cervical cancer without having a smear test. The swab tests will be posted to women aged 25-64, who are at least six months overdue a screening.

“Self-sampling is a game-changer for cervical screening,” said Dr Anita Lim from King’s College London, which is leading the trial with Public Health England and the NHS. “A variety of barriers can stop women from coming, even though it can be a life-saving test.”

She added: “These could be for physical, practical or personal reasons, as well as social or cultural taboo. This simple and convenient vaginal swab can be taken in the privacy and comfort of your own home.”

A poll found that UK voters support carbon taxes

Conventional wisdom dictates that new taxes are rarely vote winners. But the results of a poll, published this week, suggest UK voters support taxes on carbon-intensive services.

The poll of 2,000 adults was carried out by Opinium for the Zero Carbon Campaign, which lobbies for taxes on high-carbon firms such as airlines. Two-thirds of those polled said they supported such levies, with 68 per cent saying they wanted lower income households protected from them.

It comes as the UK government attempts to address the financial black hole caused by the coronavirus crisis and faces calls to introduce emissions slashing policies ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The UK food and drink sector met emissions targets early

With agriculture responsible for around 10 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint, the need to slash emissions associated with producing food and drink is great.

On that topic there was positive news this week with the release of a report by the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents more than 300 companies across the sector. It found that members had collectively slashed emissions by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels, five years before the target date of 2025.

“Despite the difficult year the industry has faced, sustainability and environmental initiatives have remained at the forefront of our agenda and this is clearly seen in the progress being made,” said the FDF’s Helen Munday.

An ebook gave voice to mothers of lockdown babies

Having a baby mid-pandemic presented mums with many challenges. Giving voice to those experiences is a new ebook, Born in Lockdown, which features 277 authors who shared that experience.

The literary project was launched by novelist Emylia Hall (pictured). She asked mums to chronicle their experiences during the haze of night feeds or while out pounding the pavements with unsettled newborns. The ebook has been downloaded 3,000 times since Tuesday, raising £3,500 for the charity Sands, which supports those affected by the death of a baby.

Hall describes the collection as “an extraordinary record of this time in history, full of unflinchingly honest accounts”. “Despite the pain and hardship – such love and hope shine through,” she told Positive News. Read the full report here.

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