Archive for January, 2022

2022 – a landmark year in global health?

Posted on: January 26th, 2022 by Tomas White

2021 saw incredible advances in areas of global health that pose significant challenges to populations in all parts of the world. The WHO’s recommendation for a malaria vaccine for children, the introduction of a licensed Ebola vaccine, new global plans to tackle meningitis, and the launch of the Global Diabetes Compact represented major step-changes in the way we tackle the world’s biggest killers.

And of course the world rallied to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic. By October 2021, healthcare workers had delivered more than 7 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine globally, just 10 months after the first COVID-19 vaccine received approval.

Nevertheless, the pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on so many lives – both directly and indirectly. The WHO speculates that it is likely to halt two decades of global progress towards universal health coverage (UHC), having triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s and badly disrupted health services. It is estimated that 23 million children missed out on routine vaccines in 2020, the largest number in over a decade – increasing risks from preventable diseases such as measles and polio. And over half of the countries WHO surveyed between June and October 2021 reported disruptions to services for diabetes, cancer screening and treatment, and hypertension management.

The impacts of COVID-19 are far-reaching and the resilience of health systems, of equitable access, and of advances in technology and innovation, has never been more pressing.

At MHP Mischief our Global Health work spans a wide range of health challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and put strategies off-course. But we are also seeing opportunities to learn, improve, and innovate.

The pandemic has exposed the limits of health system resilience, underscoring the need to build them back up to better deliver on both UHC and health security. But, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights, there is ‘a new appreciation of the importance of health’ and this is reflected across all sectors. “On an unprecedented scale, companies want to be engaged in matters relating to health. From the C-suite down deep into supply chains, there is a recognition that health underpins wealth – and nearly everyone is keen to play a part.” Whether through new public-private partnerships, financial investment and on-the-ground support, companies are bringing their innovation and resources to join in the global recovery.

One such example – the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR) – has been initiated by the London School of Economics (LSE), WEF, and AstraZeneca, motivated by a shared commitment to improving population health, through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. From new models of care, to innovative financing mechanisms and breakthrough technologies, PHSSR aims to make change happen, by identifying transferrable solutions with the greatest potential, and supporting their adoption to deliver better health and better care for all.

In the spirit of ‘building back better’, 2022 is a crucial year to put the world back on track with its global commitments. This will be a significant year for governing the 2030 Agenda and maintaining political engagement in the critical environmental goals agreed at November’s COP26 last year.

We are set to see a more integrated approach to tackling health challenges deeply affecting both the planet and its people. The global governing platforms of the World Health Assembly (May), High-level Political Forum (July), UN General Assembly (UNGA) (September) and COP27 (November) are touted as momentous opportunities this year to take into account the different and particular impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic across all Sustainable Development Goals and the integrated and co-dependent nature of the Goals.

After the tumultuous years of 2020 and 2021, there is a clear sense that the world wants to see itself put back on track, that all eyes are now on health, and there is a new understanding of the interconnected world that we live in. This is set to be a landmark year for the health of our people and planet – and we are proud to be part of it.

If you want to find out more about our work to help organisations tackle major challenges in Global Health, please contact Arabella Moore ([email protected]). 

What does sustainability really mean in the investment industry

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Tomas White

Our research asked investors to consider what role sustainability plays in their personal investments, pensions and stock trading, and what they understand when presented with the wide variety of ESG labels used by financial services providers.

Amongst the key findings were: 

  • 62% of investors would pull out of a fund that was failing to meet its sustainability credentials – with one in eight doing so as quickly as possible
  • Only half of investors trust that funds labelled as ‘ethical’ or ‘ESG’ actually invest in sustainable assets
  • Poor ESG communications mean investors struggle to understand what they are investing in

Sustainable-Investment

 

The research highlights that, while some people hold financial returns as their only objective for investing, there is clearly a growing group who are looking to see their sustainable beliefs reflected in the way their money is managed.

The fund management industry now faces the issue of giving investors the level of information they need to find funds that invest in line with their priorities, in an accessible and easy-to-understand manner – current labels and descriptions are not yet sufficient and with an increasing number of investors threatening to vote with their feet, addressing this critical communications challenge must be a key focus for the industry.

The headline findings from our research are summarised below – examining:

  • The most important factors for investors when assessing the sustainability
  • How individuals act on these beliefs
  • The extent to which current ESG labels are consistent with investor expectations
  • Differences in perspectives on sustainable investing between men and women

ENGINE-MHP-Mischief-What-Does-Sustainability-Really-Mean-in-the-Investment-Industry

To explore the push towards a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable world economy – and the implications of some of the findings contained in our research – MHP Mischief Financial Services Director Cat Ommanney spoke to FT Moral Money Editor Simon Mundy.

They discuss:

  • The FT’s editorial stance on sustainability
  • What the investment world looks like in 2030
  • Whether the focus on ESG is just a bubble
  • The relative importance of E, S and G factors.
  • The biggest communications challenge facing asset managers regarding sustainability
  • The main hurdles in reaching our climate change goals
  • The clarity of current ESG labelling
  • How the investment industry can best effect change.

 

ESG Insights: January

Posted on: January 20th, 2022 by Tomas White

KEY THEMES

1. The challenge of decarbonisation: Scope 3 emissions
2. Effective ESG reporting: the biggest challenges facing corporates
3. Engage or Divest: the rise of shareholder activism and fund divestment

1. The challenge of decarbonisation: Scope 3 emissions

Scope 3 emissions – the greenhouse gases created indirectly by a business beyond its control, most commonly through its supply chain – will dominate this year’s focus on corporate climate responsibility. This differs from the more familiar Scope 1 and 2 emissions, the former directly generated from a company’s core business and the latter indirectly produced by energy bought by a company. But too much focus on Scope 1 and 2 emissions risks becoming another, often inadvertent way of greenwashing, particularly as public and private vigilance can be overwhelmed by carbon neutral and net-zero pledges publicised constantly across all industries.

For most, Scope 3 emissions unlock the real climate impact of a business. On average, they are 11.4 times higher than operational emissions and account for more than 70% of a corporate’s carbon footprint. If you strip out the Utilities sector, that figure is much higher:

2021 saw increasing awareness of how Scope 3 is key to any serious corporate climate commitment. IKEA set a benchmark for Scope 3 awareness in retail last year with a report that focused on their planned value chain emissions reductions by 2030. They found that it would be “the equivalent to cutting the average climate footprint per product by an estimated 70%”. IKEA isn’t alone. Maersk, the world’s second-largest container company, took unprecedented steps for the shipping industry last week by accelerating plans to achieve net zero emissions in its business by 2040, a decade earlier than previously planned.

According to the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), only 37% of suppliers in 2020 said they were taking action and engaging with their own stakeholders on Scope 3, even lower than the previous year. For far too long there has been a worrying misconception that businesses have no control over Scope 3 emissions. They do, and there are several steps that corporates can take to demonstrate this.

1. Digitise your supply chain

This is the most straightforward method for cutting Scope 3 emissions. There are plenty of tools available to help drive sustainability performance and enhance the visibility and traceability of your product. A recent report by Schneider Electric highlighted the value of incorporating AI and blockchain technologies to reduce carbon footprints, and hinted at the growing influence of these technologies in operations and supply chain management. Morrison’s created a stir last month by pledging to reduce carbon emissions across parts of the supply chain out of its control by 30% within the decade, offering 400 suppliers free access to software analytics so they can manage operational carbon emissions effectively.

2. Leverage supplier relationships

Do not underestimate your clout with partners in your supply chain. As of this year, Tesco will be introducing fully electric HGV’s to serve its Welsh distribution centre, initiating the process of switching to a new provider with fleet-wide zero-emissions transport operations by 2025. Leverage your relationships with suppliers and agree on carbon footprint reporting parameters and reforms. As the case of Morrison’s shows, shared supply chain analytics are a practical way to get started.

3. Innovate

Interrogate your product or service’s development to find inefficiencies that can be eradicated from the decision-making and logistics process. Weir Group announced its commitment to a Science-Based Targets initiative last month, recognising its carbon footprint is “dominated” by emissions beyond their own facilities, namely, by the customer’s use of their products. Weir’s commitment to accelerate Scope 3 reduction depends upon conscious innovation: engineering products and solutions that shrink emissions output. The announcement confirmed that some of Weir’s technologies were “already offer[ing] energy savings of up to 40%”.

2. Effective ESG reporting: the biggest challenges facing corporates

ESG reporting is a challenging endeavour, with a multitude of differing frameworks, evolving regulation and – at present – limitations to the comparability of relevant data. To understand the various challenges facing corporates who are keen to meet best practice, and initial steps that can be taken to help address these challenges, the Financial Reporting Council’s ESG paper is a sensible starting point.

The FRC has identified and grouped the main ESG challenges within six stages: Production, Audit and assurance, Distribution, Consumption, Supervision and Regulation.

  1. Production – Companies face challenges in how they measure, manage, control and assure ESG data, with reporting often aspirational and high level but without providing users information about progress or whether financial data is aligned with the commitment.
  2. Audit and assurance – There can be a lack of credibility in ESG information, and independent assurance may be insufficient to meet expectations given the current level of data maturity.
  3. Distribution – ESG information is often located in separate places, reports and media, and often not in an accessible or reusable format.
  4. Consumption – Users often have difficulty obtaining ESG data, and where it does exist it is often based on differing methodologies with limited comparability.
  5. Supervision – With increasing expectations of more and better ESG reporting, there is a need to supervise whether companies, auditors and assurance providers meet appropriate standards.
  6. Regulation – Different countries, organisations and markets are responding to ESG challenges at differing speeds and depths, making international comparability and coordination difficult.

To address the above challenges is not a quick fix. The FRC has proposed three modes of action as being most helpful in addressing these challenges:

  1. Co-ordinating – Further coordination is needed within the UK and internationally across reporting, markets and regulation;
  2. Connecting – Whilst the UK can, and already has, made progress, connecting with others internationally will be a more effective longer term outcome; this can be achieved by leveraging partnerships in order to provide leadership, guidance and support, along with a commitment to drive change;
  3. Contributing – All interested parties must contribute collectively to the broader discussion on these matters, if ESG is to work effectively across multiple markets.

Following the publication of the FRC’s paper, in November the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS) announced the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), aiming to establish a global consensus for climate and sustainability disclosures. The ISSB will consolidate with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) by June 2022, resulting in the formation of a new global standards setter. The ISSB is expected to come out with a first set of ‘baseline’ global standards on climate-related disclosures in mid-2022.

In the meantime, we have identified factors that corporates should prioritise to ensure their own ESG data is accessible and credible, and move their own ESG reporting forward in line with the direction of travel:

  • Available – Make your ESG data accessible not only to your shareholders but broader stakeholders.
  • Digitisation – Consider electronic distribution of ESG data and a digital tagging system to make it easily identifiable.
  • Prioritisation – Speak with shareholders and your broader stakeholders such as suppliers, customers and employees to understand their priorities when it comes to your ESG data and reporting.
  • Verification – Consider engaging with an external third party to validate the quality of your ESG data.

For a more detailed discussion on the FRC’s ESG paper, please click here to watch our video with the FRC’s Executive Director of Regulatory Standards, Mark Babington.

3. Engage or Divest: the rise of shareholder activism and fund divestment

It’s nothing new that businesses are increasingly focused on developing and communicating effective ESG strategies to shareholders and stakeholders alike, with poor ESG credentials now a veritable risk to accessing capital. This is increasingly critical as investors look to ‘Engage or Divest’; they either engage in ESG-related activism, or divest holdings in those companies which don’t meet specfic ESG thresholds.

In recent months large shareholders have actively engaged with investments, using their influence to engender change and force companies to improve their ESG credentials, as well as divesting away from those holdings which are in traditionally ‘ESG-unfriendly’ industries or where performance is lagging.

For example, Nest, the £20bn state-backed workplace pension scheme, in December announced plans to reduce its portfolio emissions by 30% by 2025 and disposed of holdings worth £40m in ExxonMobil, among other oil and utility companies, citing lack of progress on managing climate change risks. Similarly, Dutch civil service pension fund ABP confirmed it will stop investing in fossil fuel producers and sell the majority of such holdings, which account for 3% (€15bn) of its total assets, by Q1 2023.

Despite growing levels of ESG-related investor activism, management teams need to remain focused on their responsibilities to shareholders in terms of value creation and returns. Unilever recently came under fire from Terry Smith of Fundsmith, amongst other investors, who believes it has become obsessed with ESG at the expense of business fundamentals; in his view, this has been the cause of the share price decline over the last 2-3 years.

Total ESG assets are predicted to reach USD$53trn by 2025. It remains to be seen as to whether more shareholders will look to divest of ESG-unfriendly assets, or if they will be emboldened by 2021’s victories and look to take a more active role across the corporate landscape to push for greater ESG performance. Either way, this underlines the importance of effective ESG performance and communication.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In recent months we have been working with a number of clients on interesting issues related to ESG. Taking these into consideration – along with the key themes discussed in this newsletter – we have collated some recommendations corporates should consider with regards to their ESG communications:

  • Focus on reducing Scope 3 emissions to get ahead of the curve and ensure your ESG credentials don’t fall below investor ESG thresholds.
  • Make your ESG data readily available, engaging, easy to digest and ideally verified by a third party to showcase quality of data and transparency.
  • When communicating ESG-related commitments such as net zero carbon strategies, consider hosting a dedicated capital markets event.
  • Who you are is as important as what you do; ensure that your corporate purpose is intertwined with your sustainability strategy.

CLIENT IN FOCUS

Shaftesbury PLC is a Real Estate Investment Trust which owns a 16-acre portfolio based in the heart of London’s West End. It has a portfolio of around 600 buildings, clustered in high profile locations, many of which make a significant contribution to the heritage of this historic part of London. Shaftesbury’s portfolio is focused around five iconic villages: Carnaby, Covent Garden, Chinatown, Soho and Fitzrovia; across the estate there are over 600 businesses, including retailers, restaurateurs, cafés, bars and office occupiers, as well as residential properties.

In November 2021, Shaftesbury launched its Sustainability commitment, complete with net zero carbon roadmap and an ambition to reach net zero by 2030. An accompanying launch event for Shaftesbury’s stakeholders, including shareholders, partners and advisors, was seen as an effective way for the REIT to lay out its ambitious strategy, together with how it plans to achieve it. The event also provided an opportunity for discussion with stakeholders, a reflection of Shaftesbury’s collaborative approach.

For any corporates considering a commitment of this nature, below are some takeaways from Shaftesbury as to how you can make your communications particularly effective:

Stay aligned to your corporate values – Shaftesbury’s purpose is to contribute to the success of London’s West End by curating lively and thriving villages where people live, work, and visit. It has a proven management strategy to create and foster distinctive, attractive and prosperous locations, led by an experienced management team focused on delivering these long-term strategic objectives and staying aligned to its five core values:

  1. being human in how we operate
  2. original in how we nurture talent and think
  3. community minded in our approach to the West End
  4. being responsible, and
  5. long term in our approach to everything

The above values are engrained within everything Shaftesbury does, including its newly announced Sustainability commitment.

Talk about your approach – Shaftesbury was keen to emphasise its strategic approach; that is, to carefully manage, re-use and adapt its portfolio of mostly smaller, mixed-use and heritage buildings, all of which are in conservation areas and in many cases of listed status. Through refurbishment, reconfiguration and change of use – as opposed to demolition – Shaftesbury’s strategy avoids the high levels of carbon emissions and waste that are inherent in demolition and new construction projects, whilst also protecting the unique heritage of its West End location. Shaftesbury’s approach is also very collaborative, and its commitment to reach net zero carbon will involve working closely with partners, occupiers and broader stakeholders.

Utilise appropriate governance – When developing its sustainability commitment, Shaftesbury put in place governance processes to provide accountability and reinforce its commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2030, and carbon neutral for its own operations by 2025. A Board-level Sustainability Committee has been established – in addition to the existing Executive Sustainability Committee – to review progress and ensure specific deliverables are met as Shaftesbury moves towards its net zero carbon target. Additionally, Shaftesbury discloses climate risks in line with the requirements of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the details of which can be found in its Annual Report, as well as publishing an Annual Sustainability Report. Shaftesbury is also a member of the Better Buildings Partnership, a collaboration of the UK’s leading commercial property owners who are working together to improve the sustainability of existing commercial building stock.

Publicise your commitment – Shaftesbury was keen to host a capital markets event to ensure all stakeholders were well informed about its pledge. This provided Shaftesbury CEO, Brian Bickell, and Head of Sustainability, Matt Smith, to talk through the commitment and provide clear details of how they will approach what is an ambitious target. This interactive event was a great opportunity to not only raise awareness of the commitment, but also provided credibility and weight behind Shaftesbury’s plans, as well as an opportunity for open discussion with stakeholders, to both reassure and gain feedback for further consideration.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

  1. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) new rules and guidance came into effect on 1 January 2022, requiring all publicly-listed companies to declare whether they meet TCFD recommendations in their financial reporting, and FCA-regulated asset managers to disclose how they incorporate climate-related risk into their investment decisions.
  2. The Institute of Directors has demanded public companies improve the ethnic diversity of their boards, after many FTSE 100 companies failed to meet the 31 December 2021 deadline.
  3. The International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation (IFRS) announced the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) on 3 November 2021, aiming to establish a global consensus for climate and sustainability disclosures.
  4. The ISSB will consolidate with the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) by June 2022, resulting in the formation of a new global standards setter.
  5. The ISSB is expected to come out with a first set of ‘baseline’ global standards on climate-related disclosures in mid-2022.
  6. Analysis from the CFA Institute found that the correlation between MSCI’s ranking system with S&P and Sustainalytics was below 50%, which can be confusing for fund managers and companies.
  7. Oil and gas shares and energy equity funds outperformed ESG-aligned companies and funds in 2022, according to Morningstar data.
  8. ESG ratings provider Sustainalytics launched its ‘Corporate Supply Chain ESG Solutions’ to help companies assess and manage ESG risks within their supply chains.

UPCOMING KEY EVENTS

Get in touch

MHP Mischief’s Capital Markets team provide strategic financial communications advice to private and public companies across a range of sectors. We advise companies on all aspects of their engagement with the capital markets, from financial reporting, M&A, IPOs and fundraisings to corporate profile raising activity, ESG communications and reputation management. For any questions or feedback please do get in touch.

MHP Mischief Wins Global Campaign for World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by Tomas White

Established in 2019 the WBCPC seeks to unite the vision and goals of bladder cancer patient organisations to ensure the best possible outcomes for bladder cancer patients across the world. It advocates for the best possible support, information and care for people affected by the disease, no matter where they live in the world.

Following a competitive pitch process, MHP Mischief has been appointed as the Coalition’s global communications and engagement agency.

Led by the agency’s Senior Director (Patient Advocacy) Alison Dunlop and Head of Studio Gemma Irvine, the team will run a creative communications campaign during World Bladder Cancer Awareness Month in May 2022 to increase awareness by highlighting the facts about bladder cancer, promoting awareness of the symptoms, and calling for more research investment. The campaign is part of a 3-year programme under one creative umbrella, which carries different thematic focus each year that will translatable across regions and encourage participation from members of the coalition and beyond.

Alex Filicevas, Executive Director of World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition (WBCPC), said:
“Since the establishment of the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition, we’ve been working to bring the community together and empower bladder cancer patient voices as we raise awareness worldwide.

“As we hopefully return to Bladder Cancer Awareness Month in 2022 post-pandemic, we want this step to be big, impactful and set a new path for our community.

“MHP Mischief has shown it understands our vision and can amplify our message and make these findings accessible to all.”

Alison Dunlop, Senior Director (Patient Advocacy) at MHP Mischief, said:

“We’re delighted to have been appointed by the World Bladder Cancer Patient Coalition and its partners at the beginning of this important journey.

“Bladder Cancer can no longer be a ‘forgotten cancer’ and we are looking forward to working with the WBCPC to raised awareness of the disease and help build a strong community of bladder cancer patient advocates around the world. Our integrated approach allows us to bring leading experts across the business to deliver on this unique challenge.”

MHP Mischief Makes Senior Hire In Booming Public Affairs Practice

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by Tomas White

Max was previously a top aide to the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, where amongst other responsibilities he worked across government and devolved institutions on the strategic National Infrastructure Assessment. He has also held senior roles at Demos and Respublica think-tanks; and is a regular media contributor.

Wind-Cowie’s infrastructure expertise and his experience in research and insights will further boost MHP Mischief’s team which has recently made further hires from the Conservative Chief Whip’s office and Department of Health and Social Care, as well as the appointing ITN broadcaster Charlotte Grant and top Grayling adviser Craig Ling.

It comes at a period of real growth for MHP Mischief’s Public Affairs practice – which jumped four places in the most recent PR Week Top 150 ranking (rising from #12 to #8), and has been shortlisted as one of the PRCA’s Public Affairs Agencies of the Year for the past two years.

The team was recently reappointed by Wine Drinkers UK after helping the industry body secure a freeze in alcohol duty (something that has occurred only three times in the past two decades), and counts brands such as Atos, British Business Bank, South Western Rail, and Portman Group amongst its clients.

MHP Mischief’s Head of Public Affairs Jamie Lyons said:

“I am delighted Max is joining us. His real expertise in infrastructure, energy and industrials will be a huge benefit to our clients. And his understanding of the importance of qualitative and quantitative research will further enhance our offering.”

Max Wind-Cowie said:

“I am very excited to be joining MHP Mischief’s talented and committed Public Affairs team at this moment of growth for the practice. I’ve long admired the team for their campaign ethos and imaginative, effective approach to helping clients to thrive. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

The JVT train leaves the station: Why was Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam an excellent communicator?

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by Tomas White

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) for England, Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam (or ‘JVT’ as he is affectionately called), is to step down from his post in March 2022. He joined DHSC on secondment from the University of Nottingham in 2017 and will return to be the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. Nottingham’s gain will be DHSC’s loss as he is extremely well-regarded within the Department and will be missed by everyone who worked with him.

I was lucky enough to work with JVT during my time as Chief Press Officer at DHSC and I got to see first-hand why he is one of the most celebrated scientists and communicators in the UK today.

In his time as DCMO for Health Protection, Professor Van-Tam has played important roles in a number of different incidents, including domestic outbreaks of MERS and Monkeypox, the 2017/18 influenza season and the response to the Novichok attacks. He was recently knighted in the New Year’s Honours list for his impressive achievements.

The public are not accustomed to seeing technical advisors on their television screens, but during the COVID-19 pandemic JVT was thrust into the limelight and became a household name, thanks to his important role in the vaccines programme. His appearances at the daily No10 press briefings became characterised by his direct but effective approach to science communications and creative metaphors (and his ties in the colours of his beloved Boston United!)

I once had a long conversation with a senior BBC journalist about why government scientists like JVT have been such successful communicators during these unprecedented times. We boiled it down to three main things:

1. He answered the question that was asked, not the question he wanted

Most people listening to an interview just want a straight answer to a question. JVT and his fellow government scientists were so much more trusted because they did exactly that and were less likely to deploy spin. There was no attempt to dodge questions or give the government ‘line to take’. They answered the question that was asked clearly and directly and while they may not always have been easy answers to give, it made audiences feel like they were being honest with them.

This sometimes led to awkward moments, like when he condemned the Prime Minister’s former Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings’ lockdown breach, saying the rules “are clear and they have always been clear”.

2. He made his answers relatable

Sir Jonathan has won plaudits for his talent for making complex scientific messages media-friendly and relatable to the public, including most memorably persuading the public to take the vaccine by speaking about his mum taking the jab, and his use of football analogies to illustrate the Government’s COVID game plan.

My personal favourite is when the UK approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in December 2020 there was much discussion over the storage and transportation of the doses, which needed to be maintained at extremely cold temperatures – unlike, as the professor pointed out, yoghurt.

“This is a complex product with a very fragile culture,” he said. “It’s not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times.”

If you’ve ever worked with him, you’ll know he does this all the time. He understands the importance of packing a message in language that his audience will understand and not to confuse them by using too much jargon.

3. His arguments were grounded in evidence not emotion

As a scientist, Professor Van-Tam is used to using evidence and facts to support his arguments and this translated to his media performances. During his many press conference appearances he would give factual, evidence-based answers to questions and clearly explain the rationale for why certain decisions were made over others, delivered with gravitas and sincerity. So even if the audience disagrees with the conclusion they can at least sympathise with the thinking underpinning a decision or approach.

The landscape of scientific and government communications has transformed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and as JVT steps down from the Government podium, budding media performers looking to follow in his footsteps would be wise to learn from his example.

2022: A year for answers in Women’s Health?

Posted on: January 6th, 2022 by Tomas White

It goes without saying that 2021 has been a(nother) tumultuous year (we have high hopes for you, 2022!). But the turbulence caused by COVID has also been a catalyst for change across many areas, especially health. Entrenched societal issues have suddenly been laid bare through the impact of COVID and are now too difficult, too impactful, to ignore. One of the most prominent issues thrust into the spotlight has been health inequalities. While the term covers a myriad of challenges across race, culture, gender and geography to name but a few, as we look to 2022, one of the publications aiming to make a positive impact, and one to keep a close watch on, is the first ever Women’s Health Strategy.

The strategy had a series of false starts, with a consultation launched to coincide with the 2021 International Women’s Day following an understandable delay from 2020. This was extended for a few weeks due to underrepresentation of key voices, including 16-18 year olds, over 50 year olds and women from Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. However, the Government did manage to publish its Vision for Women’s Health before Christmas and will follow up with the Strategy in spring.

In the Vision, the emphasis on the need to better support those health issues that most women face purely because of the life course of being a woman was sobering. Of a substantial list of issues proposed, the survey, which saw over 110,000 responses, including around 97,000 from individuals, called out reproductive and post-reproductive health as critical areas to tackle, alongside healthy ageing and long-term conditions, mental health and the health impacts of violence against women.

It reported that a staggering 84 per cent of respondents had said there had been instances in which they had not been listened to by their healthcare professionals. In particular it noted those times where pain is the main symptom, “being told that heavy and painful periods are ‘normal’ or that the woman will ‘grow out of them’”.  It also highlighted the consistent story that women had to persistently advocate for themselves and push for further investigation. Sadly, this will come as no surprise to the many women who have either experienced heavy periods or conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovaries. And for those that us that haven’t – we will have friends who have.

Its focus on the continued taboo and stigma surrounding ‘female specific issues’ shouts loud and clear about the need for more open communication, more awareness and more recognition of the reality and impact of these ‘life factors’ from both the health system, and society as a whole. It also firmly lays down the imperative to, importantly, believe but also respond to women’s needs.

To fully ensure women have equal opportunity to the best health outcomes, alongside system and societal changes, health innovations are critical. Treatments to support reproductive and post-reproductive health, from contraception to endometriosis to the menopause can have a substantial impact on how women interact in society and our ability to play a role in the economy. Whilst we have seen dramatic advances in treatments for many disease areas over the last few decades, innovation in the reproductive and post-reproductive sphere has not always kept pace. The Vision highlighted a current lack of research into women’s health issues and, in particular, a need for more research into female-specific issues, such as endometriosis and the menopause.

At MHP Mischief we have commissioned our own research looking into what innovation breakthroughs are accelerating investment in this market, and what market-shaping policy change, and indeed broader societal shifts, need to happen to ensure all women benefit from greater choice and control over issues specific to their reproductive and post-reproductive health. We will also be looking at how advancements in the UK can be expanded across other geographies and what equitable access could mean for women all over the world. We will be sharing our findings in early spring so watch this space!

There are definitely indications that the tide is turning. 2021 saw a landmark development with the first over-the-counter (OTC) contraceptive pill – a reclassification that is one of the biggest revolutions in women’s health in the 60 years since The Pill launched. Reproductive health is also reported to be on track to hold a leading market share of the women’s health industry, with an estimated global worth of $171billion by 2027, with Femtech start-ups and tech innovators driving the acceleration of new and improved solutions to support women. In fact, 2021 was an important year in women’s health for many reasons – seeing small but important shifts across the political and health spectrum. Along with the OTC classification,  the tampon tax was abolished on 1st January and the announcement to reduce Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) charges came in October – but there is still so much more to do.

So if 2021 posed the question on what needs to happen next, 2022 might be the year where women’s health starts to get some answers. As Maria Caulfield MP, the newly announced women’s health ambassador said: ‘It is time to re-set the dial on women’s health’.  We can’t wait to see what this year brings.

Why the appointment of Deborah Turness is a coup for the BBC

Posted on: January 6th, 2022 by Tomas White

Deborah Turness was my boss when I first joined ITN in 2006. A fireball of energy and creativity, she would come to the morning newsroom meeting to discuss the day’s agenda, armed with newspaper clippings, full of ideas about how to make ITV’s news coverage stand out. She was always driving home the message that ITN may be up against much bigger news beasts with more resources, but as a smaller operation we could succeed by being nimble, thinking outside the box and ultimately telling the day’s stories in the most compelling and engaging way for viewers.

Now, as the new CEO of news and current affairs at the BBC, she has arguably the most important job in British broadcast journalism. After Fran Unsworth announced her departure, there had been speculation her replacement would come from within. But in the end, the BBC broke a cycle of internal appointments and went for an external candidate – one that is used to trailblazing.

Turness brings to the role a wealth of experience. She was Editor of ITV News for nearly a decade – the first woman to hold the role. When she joined NBC News, she became the first female president of a network news division in the US. Not bad for a Brit! Her international and commercial background perhaps explains the change in title from director to CEO (and with it, a salary increase – Unsworth was on £340k and Turness will be paid £400k). The BBC says the new title is to reflect its ambition to “continue to build the BBC’s global news brand.”

As a junior, she is a boss you really want to deliver for. That kind of dedication from employees could prove crucial at a time when the BBC faces such a mighty agenda. The journey ahead for the organisation and its new recruit will be anything but easy. But with Turness’ unique blend of dynamism, business expertise and reputation for impartiality – expect an interesting ride.