Amidst another torrid week for Facebook on a number of fronts, the company and social media rival Twitter also had to deal with the controversy surrounding babysitting app Predictim. The app scrapes the social media profiles of prospective nannies and provides an assessment of whether they pose a risk, essentially using algorithms to make a judgment on somebody’s suitability for hire, as reported here by the BBC’s North American tech correspondent Dave Lee.
It highlights again some of the comms challenges faced by social media platforms caused by third party apps. As Facebook investigates the Predictim app and Twitter blocks it, the lines are clearly blurred over how much responsibility the platforms have to protect users from the content they themselves have posted. The bigger story for Facebook this week was, of course, the amazing developments with the House of Commons’ Serjeant-at-Arms seizing documents from Six4Three… another third party app that uses an algorithm to analyse user content and flag pictures of women in bikinis.
The Commons committee is trying to assess Facebook’s privacy policies through documents seized, but both of these two stories underline the shift in focus on how social media platforms police the use of even published material by users. The ethical questions are strong with these and many other third party apps and the platforms are coming to grips with the reputational risk of not tackling sketchy players.
Government earmarks £3m in funding for AI research for legal and insurance sectors
BEIS has earmarked £3m to be put towards research into how AI can boost productivity in the legal and insurance industries as part of the Industrial Strategy’s AI and Data grand challenge. The money is being put towards three new research projects at Loughborough, Oxford and Sheffield universities.
Margot James highlights the importance of garnering public trust in the use of their data
Speaking at the Government Innovation Conference, Digital Minister Margot James underlined the importance of the Centre for Data Innovation & Ethics in building public trust in AI applications that rely on citizens’ data. “There’s a great danger – if we get ahead of ourselves in government and industry, and allow public debate to fall behind, we fail to build the trust that is absolutely vital for the success of this endeavour,” she said.
Speaking at the British Science Association’s Huxley Summit, Jo Swinson said that algorithms used in recruitment or personalising content needed to be more closely controlled to prevent racist and sexist bias:
Ten years ago this week the 2008 Climate Change Act became law. This landmark piece of legislation set binding targets for reducing emissions and created the Committee on Climate Change to monitor progress.
The legislation was the culmination of many years of campaigning by activists. However, in many ways the real work began only after its passage – the work of decarbonising the UK economy.
The Climate Change Act at 10: policy-driven progress?
So what is the record of the last ten years? In many respects, substantial progress has been made. The power sector is the clearest success story. When the Act became law, only five per cent of generation was renewable. Today it stands at 30 per cent. This has driven a substantial reduction in carbon reductions – down over a fifth in total.
However, there are significant differences between sectors. Emissions from the power sector are 58 per cent lower than they were in 2008, but only four per cent lower in transport. 
Why the difference? Government action accounts for much of it. Successive legislation prioritized policies to incentivize renewable energy sources and investors responded. This was not mirrored in the transport sector. In short, Government took steps to create the conditions to drive increased supply of renewables, rather than focus on stimulating demand for low carbon transport.
This supply-side approach shaped the communications challenge for new technologies and market entrants to the low carbon economy over the past decade. Making the case direct to policymakers for particular technologies has been central to business’ success or failure, with messaging designed to suit the goals of policymakers.
The communications challenge of the next 10 years
To drive a rapid increase in decarbonisation over the next 10 years and meet UK emissions reductions targets will require more than just new policies and investment from Government – consumer behaviour change will be vital.
Surveys consistently find that the reality of climate change and need for action are accepted by a majority of the public. However, this has not translated into action to change behaviours. For example, only 38 per cent of the public have considered switching to a green energy tariff, according to an August 2018 poll.
 Table 1, Special feature – Renewable energy in 2013, Department for Energy and Climate Change, available here.
 Calculated from Energy Trends: September 2018 data available here.
 Calculated from Trends in Sectoral GHG emissions data included in the 2018 Committee on Climate Change Progress Report, available here.
 Calculated from Trends in Sectoral GHG emissions data included in the 2018 Committee on Climate Change Progress Report, available here.
 Survey of 2,007 bill payers, conducted by Opinium on behalf of uSwitch.com, published on 22 August, available here.
The carbon emissions and renewables data in the infographic is taken from the same sources as cited in the article. The 74% figure is taken from data on Q21, in the Energy and Climate Change Public Attitudes Tracker: Wave 25, available here.
MONTREAL and LONDON, U.K. November 26, 2018 – AVENIR GLOBAL, a Montreal-based holding and management company of public relations and communication firms, today announced that it has acquired Cherry, a large independent healthcare creative agency in the U.K.
This marks a sustained European expansion for AVENIR GLOBAL, whose operating companies in the region already include AXON Communications and Madano. London-based AXON has been providing public relations, medical communications and clinical trial support services to a wide range of leading pharmaceutical and medical devices companies since 2003, and has expanded in recent years to New York, Copenhagen, Zug and Brighton. Its sister communications consultancy Madano joined AVENIR GLOBAL in 2013 and operates in complex, highly regulated sectors, with a specialist focus on energy, healthcare, technology, and investment, development and regeneration. Both entities were recently named Best Places to Work in the U.K.
“We are delighted to welcome Cherry to the AVENIR GLOBAL family. From brand strategy to social and interactive, our teams will be able to draw on Cherry’s award-winning creative and digital expertise to help brands engage with the right people, at the right time,” said Ralph Sutton, international managing partner of AVENIR GLOBAL. “With the transaction, AVENIR GLOBAL’s combined operations in the U.K. place us among the country’s top 20 PR consultancies, and a global leader in healthcare communications. We are very excited about the opportunities we now have to provide new thinking and the highest quality innovative service to our clients across the group.”
Founded in 2005, Cherry has annual revenue of £9.2 million and 80 employees. Cherry seamlessly integrates creativity, strategy and the latest technology to better connect brands with healthcare professionals and patients. Its client listing includes Baxter, Biomarin, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eisai, Reckitt Benckiser, Shire, SOBI and Vifor. The agency’s leadership team, led by John Goundry, managing director, will remain in place following the transaction.
“AVENIR GLOBAL is exactly who we were looking for in a partner”, said Goundry. “Both companies share common values and a complimentary expertise. Madano’s bespoke data science techniques and innovative qualitative insights, for example, will further help our clients obtain measurable communications impact. At the same time, we see exciting synergies with AXON to expand the services we offer clients. AVENIR GLOBAL has a proven record of helping businesses grow, with the organizational reach to propel our client offering and growth in the E.U., U.S. and Canada.”
AVENIR GLOBAL’s long-term growth strategy is focused on diversifying its geographic reach, deepening its talent pool and expanding its service offering. With today’s announcement, AVENIR GLOBAL solidifies its global leadership position in the industry, moving from 22nd to the top 20 in worldwide PR agency ranking.
Bank of Montreal provided the cross border acquisition financing for the transaction.
About AVENIR GLOBAL
AVENIR GLOBAL is a Montreal-based holding and management company with an active operations mindset and a hands-on approach to all its investments. With 850 staff and offices in 21 locations across Canada, the U.S. and in Europe, it is among the top 20 largest communication firms in the world. In Canada, AVENIR GLOBAL owns NATIONAL Public Relations, the country’s leading public relations firm, servicing clients across a wide range of sectors, which includes NATIONAL Capital Markets, the industry’s foremost investor relations and financial services practice. In the United States, AVENIR GLOBAL owns SHIFT Communications, a data-driven integrated communications agency; and the public relations and communication company Padilla, which includes the brand consultancy Joe Smith, the food and nutrition experts at FoodMinds and the research authorities at SMS Research Advisors. The AVENIR GLOBAL network also includes healthcare specialists AXON Communications, with offices in Toronto, the U.S, the U.K. and Europe, healthcare creative agency Cherry and strategic communications consultancy Madano, both based in London.
Cherry is a full-service healthcare creative agency based in London, UK. Founded in 2005 the company has experienced consistent strong growth and is now the UK’s largest independent healthcare creative communications agency. Employing 80 staff across its account handling, creative, studio and digital departments, Cherry delivers integrated marketing campaigns via established communication channels as well as via digital and social media, to a mix of global, regional and national healthcare clients.
Cherry serves clients in all areas of healthcare: primary care, secondary care, medical devices, medical nutrition, OTC, veterinary and dental health. With a blue-chip client base Cherry’s client list includes Baxter, Biomarin, Boehringer Ingelheim, Eisai, Reckitt Benckiser, Shire, SOBI and Vifor with many of the relationships spanning nearly a decade of working together. As the audience and communication channels have evolved, Cherry seamlessly integrates creativity, strategy and the latest technology to better connect brands with healthcare professionals and patients.
Based in central London, near London Bridge and the Shard, the office has excellent transport links via rail, air and underground allowing Cherry to connect with its clients at home and around the world. Cherry is an AVENIR GLOBAL company.
Madano’s research suggests three key areas of focus to making hydrogen in the home a reality
This year we’ve seen media, policy and the public come together to take steps to reduce the amount of plastic we produce and consume. However, messages about environmental issues have not always inspired change. We typically prioritise instant gratification unless a change of behaviour is nudged or forced upon us, like the 5p plastic bag charge.
Research conducted by Madano and published Thursday 22nd November by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) provides further evidence that it is not always straightforward to translate intent into action.
Madano worked with specialist low-carbon energy consultants, Element Energy, on a project commissioned by the CCC, to understand public acceptability of two alternative low-carbon heating technologies for heating homes in the UK – hydrogen for heating and heat pumps.
These technologies have the potential to replace natural gas in many households as part of the government’s effort to decrease carbon emissions. Our research, consisting of a number of focus groups and a nationally representative survey, aimed to understand likely public acceptability of these technologies.
Three key findings are relevant here:
A large majority of the public feel it is important that we switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives to heat homes in the UK
However, the need to switchover and the implications of it are not well understood
Practical implications of a switchover to new ways to heat our homes are a significant barrier to public acceptability for both heating technologies
Over three quarters (76%) of respondents stated that they are concerned about climate change, with the same number (76%) believing it is important for UK homes to switch to alternative low-carbon energy sources for heating their homes. This was felt strongly as a progressive step, perhaps even something that should already have happened.
There is limited awareness about the need to switch over from natural gas, as over half of those surveyed (57%) have never heard of the need to, or know very little about it. Other factors, such as pollution from cars, are more associated with contributing to carbon emissions than heating our homes and therefore feel like more significant challenges to be dealt with. Understanding of switching away from natural gas is further complicated by a lack of knowledge of the alternatives: over half (51%) have never heard of hydrogen fuel boilers – one of the main potential alternatives.
When educating the public on the heating technologies as part of the research, the issue of the level of effort required to switch to new heating technologies became clear. Throughout the research, the number of those who did not view either technology as a suitable alternative generally increased throughout.
Lack of consumer benefit a concern for hydrogen
Ultimately, a lack of obvious consumer benefit from either hydrogen heating or heat pumps was perceived as a concern. Three overarching factors were identified as influencing negative views on the heating technologies:
Negative perceptions of installation burden
The lack of familiarity with a new technology and how it works with current habits and perceptions
How well the technologies would meet modern heating needs (quieter, faster, more concealed technologies).
Therefore, while the public understands the ultimate need to switchover from natural gas, there remain challenges to get them to accept the alternative low-carbon heating technologies. The value-action gap is clearly present here, as we do not always behave in accordance with our beliefs.
Greater emphasis on education about the heating technologies and how the household will benefit from switching heating technology, will be required to secure public acceptability. Only then will intent have a chance of translating into action.
Indeed, as Madano concluded in a recent blog, the future success of the UK’s hydrogen economy depends on communicating beyond industry to those who stand to benefit most from its development – the British public.
In short, the hydrogen story needs to be told in new and interesting ways to gain the public’s acceptability.
We would very much enjoy hearing your views about the report’s findings.
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