Bloomberg Businessweek December 21, 2020

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1 min
a new force

Israel faces a Dec. 23 deadline to pass its already delayed budget if it wants to avoid paralysis and another general election, which would be the fourth in two years. The Bank of Thailand sets interest rates on Dec. 23. The institution is trying to arrest sharp gains in the country’s currency, the baht, that threaten to make exports less competitive. Germany’s Finance Ministry publishes its monthly financial report on Dec. 22, detailing closely watched data on borrowing, the federal budget, and other economic developments. The European Medicines Agency gives its opinion on the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus shot on Dec. 21, with vaccinations possibly starting in the EU just a few days later. On Dec. 23, China’s Ministry of Finance announces details of its planned bond sales for the first quarter of 2021, providing a…

1 min
in brief

Globally, coronavirus cases exceeded 73.8 million, and almost 1.7m people have died. On Dec. 14 health-care workers in several states were the first Americans to receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Vanguard’s Total Stock Market became the first equity fund to amass $1 trillion in assets. 20 China’s economy is pointing to a strong rebound in 2021, pulling further ahead of other major countries. Industrial production in November rose 7% from the year before, and retail sales expanded 5%, the government said on Dec. 15. Gunmen attacked an all-boys school in northern Nigeria on Dec. 11; more than 300 students remain unaccounted for. The militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. AstraZeneca agreed on Dec. 12 to buy Alexion Pharmaceuticals for $39 billion. The acquisition will help it expand…

4 min
biden needs to lead on climate reporting

President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to rejoin the Paris climate agreement sends an important signal to the world about U.S. leadership. But the action will merely take us back to four years ago. To push us forward, on his first day in office, President Biden should bring together leaders from the Group of 20 to join the U.S. in endorsing a mandatory standard for global businesses to measure and report the risks they face from climate change. It’s a critically important step that’s entirely within reach, because such a standard already exists and has won widespread global support. In 2017, under the auspices of the Financial Stability Board, the international Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which I chair, issued a set of guidelines to help companies measure and report climate risks…

8 min
the covid escape pass

It’s mid-2021, and people arrive at the airport, or line up to attend a concert, or a baseball game. They pull out their phones and tap an app that shows whether they’ve had a coronavirus vaccine, or perhaps a test, and breeze through the gates. That’s the brave new world businesses are contemplating as humanity embarks on the biggest mass-vaccination program in history. On Dec. 2, the U.K. became the first country to approve the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine, followed by the U.S., Canada, and others. Yet even with the end of the pandemic in sight, governments and corporations will have to negotiate some unprecedented logistical, technological, and legal challenges in the months ahead. Until late spring, doses will be in short supply, which means the immediate future will be…

5 min
a bet on (plastic) bricks and mortar

On Beijing’s typically bustling Wangfujing street, the luxury boutiques selling handbags, shoes, and clothing are mostly deserted on a Saturday afternoon. But wedged between Prada and Tiffany, one shop is packed: Lego. The 6,700-square-foot outlet of the Danish toymaker is crowded with parents watching their children snap together plastic bricks to a soundtrack of Christmas songs, while store employees explain the basics of Lego construction to shoppers unfamiliar with the toys. “Legos can keep him away from the TV and the iPad,” Emily Fang says as her 5-year-old marvels at Chinese-themed plastic-brick models of dragons and pandas. “It undoubtedly has enhanced his patience and creativity and makes him feel more confident.” While the double threat of the coronavirus pandemic and online competition has slammed sales at toy stores elsewhere, Lego Group…

7 min
how gm put the mean in green

A battery-powered Hummer pickup truck. Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors Co., loved the idea from the moment she heard it. What better way to assure skeptical buyers that the company’s coming raft of electric vehicles won’t be just geeky science projects, GM President Mark Reuss’s team had argued, than by rolling out a “green” version of one of its most badass nameplates? At a meeting in March 2019, Barra quickly asked chief engineer Josh Tavel how much time it would take to get the electric Hummer out the door. The usual four years, he responded. That was big carmakers’ age-old gestation period for getting a new model from a designer’s sketch pad to dealer showrooms. But it wouldn’t do for Barra, who’s decided to make battery power the…