Transforming Business poll shows that talent is a driver, and a product, of innovation

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  • Talent recruitment was cited as a top priority for innovation investment among companies polled for the Transforming Business series.
  • Companies are assimilating new approaches to talent in the pandemic.
  • Focus on social injustice and racial inequity have driven new commitments to DEI.
  • Visit Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Innovation depends on talent, and also attracts it. Business decision-makers polled by Insider report that talent is a top investment priority, and also that a major benefit of digital transformation is recruiting top talent.

Digital transformation has also made the talent picture in companies more complex. AI and other applications change the nature of some roles, and creates uncertainty in individuals unsure about how automation might impact them.

A new sense of urgency around DEI is also redefining priorities for many companies.

Culture of innovation

To drive transformation, business leaders have to source and keep the right talent, and to create a culture of innovation. The global pandemic changed, possibly for good, the way companies viewed remote work, and potential hires who might not be local. Chris Greenough, chief marketing officer at Everise, a Singapore-based company, said in an Insider interview that the pandemic had given the company access to a new range of talent.

“As work shifted to at-home, we were able to attract a different kind of worker,” he said. “We gained access to people who wanted a lifestyle change that didn’t involve office politics; older people who wanted a secondary income; people who wanted flexible hours; and disabled people who couldn’t commute and had previously been marginalized.”

A greater desier for flexibility has also driven hiring policy. “Talent, and in particular innovators, wants to shape their work environment around their life; offering a compelling place to work sometimes requires new strategies and added flexibility to respond to the needs of our employees,” said Karin Raguin, VP of talent management and corporate responsibility at LVMH. “This is what creates a genuine sense of safety and belonging where innovation and creativity can flourish.”

Raguin also says transformational talent needs to feel they can try new things without fearing dire consequences for failure. “Trial, testing, and sometimes failure are all key to developing innovative ideas,” she said, “so it must be clear to employees that they should aim for excellence, rather than perfection.”

Automation and upskilling

The global pandemic has increased the pace of automation, which creates uncertainty for some workers who might not see their skills translating to this new future. James Smith, UK managing director of AutoStore, a robotics company whose CEO, Karl Johan Lier was featured as a Transformer, told Insider that companies have a huge opportunity to upskill more traditional workers to keep the jobs, and maintain their company culture.

“Whether we like it or not, demand for businesses to be able to operate on multiple channels and platforms is increasing dramatically, and traditional ways of working and fulfilling demand can no longer keep up with this growth,” he said, adding that upskilling is central to this. “You can either follow the inevitable growth and evolution of technology or you risk becoming redundant as a business and as a professional.”

Increased urgency around DEI

The global focus on social justice and racial inequity has sparked a sense of increased urgency and focus around DEI practices and leadership. Kara Helander is the chief inclusion and diversity officer at the Carlyle Group, and one of this year’s Transformers, told Insider that the focus on these issues right now presents companies with an opportunity to drive meaningful change.

One of the initiatives rolled out by the Carlyle Group focuses on hwlping employees mitigage unconscous bias. “It’s not so much where you start, but are you taking concerted, tangible action to make change around it? That applies to us and it applies to the companies in our portfolio,” Helander said. “You don’t want people to not take action because they aren’t where they should be.”

With global vaccinations increasing, companies are beginning to look ahead and figure out their new normal, and ensure they have the right talent to drive growth in a changed world. “In the year ahead,” Ranguin said. “Whether businesses recover will be dependent on their talent and that talent’s ability to navigate uncertainty and drive innovation needed to rise beyond incremental challenges.”

This SurveyMonkey Audience poll targeted individuals who work in a management capacity at their company according to the Audience panel. They included respondents from Hong Kong (n=50), Singapore (n=50), The United States (n=207), Canada (n=104), France (n=52), the United Kingdom (n=51), Germany (n=50) and India (n=50), with local translations in Germany and France. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected total of 614 respondents March 3-4, 2021.

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Companies continue to prioritize AI and cloud for innovation investment, according to the latest Transforming Business poll

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Contactless payment with facial recognition technology.

  • Cloud and AI top the list of innovation investments by companies according to the latest Transforming Business poll.
  • Companies are still figuring out all the applications of these technologies.
  • Racial and gender biases in AI applications are issues no company can ignore.
  • Visit Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Companies continue to prioritize AI and cloud as key investment targets as they strive to innovate and drive growth into the future, according to the most recent Transforming Business poll.

Actionable data insights are a key outcome for these applications. “Many businesses are looking to streamline their operations and make them more efficient, as well as find new insights and connections in their data,” said Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at eMarketer. “They are turning to AI to help them achieve competitive advantage.”

While it might seem like AI and cloud are ubiquitous and widely utilized, companies are still figuring out all the ways it can change their business. Laura Urquizu, CEO of Red Points and one of the 100 People Transforming Business in Europe, wrote in an article for Insider that AI and machine learning had vastly improved customer experience by creating more personalized shopping experiences and increasing brand loyalty.

But the insights available via tools like AI and the cloud can do much more than some companies have figured out. “No matter how important customer experience is, however, it is a mistake to believe it is the only operational area that can (and should) be transformed using technologies like these,” Urquizu wrote. “The efficiency of your internal operations – your support team, supply chain, production, inventory, quality control, human resources, and so on – can all benefit from applying AI and ML technologies.”

The opportunities vary by industry, of course, and the global pandemic has created opportunities to put AI to the test as never before. BenevolentAI, whose CEO Joanna Shields is one of this year’s Transformers, used its technology to analyze vast quantities of scientific research, ultimately surfacing a drug treatment that has been used to treat moderate-to-severe COVID patients.

“One positive outcome of COVID-19 is that it has united science and tech for good, accelerating data-sharing agreements and encouraging the open publication of research results.” Shields told Insider. “This new environment of collaboration has provided a glimpse of the beginnings of a more open and adaptable R&D model that can accelerate the delivery of innovative and life-changing outcomes for patients.”

Innovation has not come without problems, however. AI applications have come under fire, demonstrably shown in some cases to reflect racial and gender bias in hiring tools, and voice and facial recognition.

Tech companies and their customers are under pressure to address these injustices with a appropriate urgency.

“[Businesses] must find a way to provide AI with the right data inputs, and give it instructions to behave in the most ethical way possible, ignoring and unfolding historical biases and to be confident in leaving the business’ past behaviors behind,” Michael Feindt, a 2020 Transformer and strategic advisor at Blue Yonder, a digital fulfillment and supply chain solutions provider, wrote for Insider.

It is possible, Feindt said, to apply these tools to actually combatting discrimination and inequity.

“Simply put, it’s down to us whether AI is a force for good or a force for bad. If you can provide it with data and instructions that are designed to shape the world in a certain way, AI will do that,” Feindt wrote. “So if businesses are willing to put in the time and effort to set things on a fairer course, AI can set about fighting discrimination and injustice.

This SurveyMonkey Audience poll targeted individuals who work in a management capacity at their company according to the Audience panel. They included respondents from Hong Kong (n=50), Singapore (n=50), The United States (n=207), Canada (n=104), France (n=52), the United Kingdom (n=51), Germany (n=50) and India (n=50), with local translations in Germany and France. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected total of 614 respondents March 3-4, 2021.

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Dow tumbles 257 points as spike in COVID-19 cases spurs economic-recovery concern

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

  • The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered their second straight losses on Tuesday.
  • COVID-19 cases worldwide have risen by more than 10% over the past week.
  • Nike dropped on the Dow but IBM was a winner.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US stocks dropped Tuesday, with their grip on record highs further loosening as investors worry about the prospects for global economic growth as COVID-19 cases worldwide increase.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average each fell for a second consecutive session, pulling back from last week’s strongest finishes on record.

As “stocks fall on back-to-back days for the first time this month, you can probably blame an old culprit: COVID,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, in comments sent to Insider.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 4 p.m. on Tuesday:

Cumulative coronavirus cases worldwide have risen by more than 10% over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and cases topped 142.3 million on Tuesday. Officials in Japan were considering declaring a virus state of emergency, and the UK imposed a travel ban for visitors from India as that country becomes the new epicenter of the outbreak behind the US. Argentina, meanwhile, is battling another wave of cases.

“Higher-than-expected earnings might not be packing as big a punch as normal, partly because analysts had been raising their earnings estimates before earnings season began,” Kinahan said. “At this point, it’s really more about what companies forecast and less about what happened in Q1.”

IBM shares rose and performed the best among the Dow industrials after the technology company’s first-quarter earnings and revenue beat Wall Street’s targets. But fellow Dow component Nike dropped sharply following a Citi downgrade to neutral from buy on concerns that recent boycotts in China will hurt sales at the athletic wear maker.

Apple shares were lower. The company at its virtual event on Tuesday unveiled, among other products, its AirTags tracking accessory.

Around the markets, Johnson & Johnson shares rose after the company planned to resume COVID-19 vaccine shipments to the European Union.

GameStop stake held by Alaska’s revenue department soared by more than 700% last quarter. Alaska also said its Tesla bet had grown to $85 million in 18 months.

Bitfarms, a Canadian bitcoin-mining company, is planning a new mining site in Argentina that it said would be its largest yet.

Gold rose 0.3%, to $1,776 per ounce. Long-dated US Treasury yields fell, with the 10-year yield down to 1.56%.

Oil prices rose. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 1.2% to $62.61 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, fell 1%, to $66.51 per barrel.

Bitcoin rose to $56,524.

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US stocks slump as global COVID-19 cases increase

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  • The S&P 500 and the Dow on Tuesday continued their slide from last week’s record highs.
  • Global COVID-19 cases are rising, and the US State Department is set to issue a travel advisory.
  • The VIX, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” was advancing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Stocks moved lower on Tuesday, edging further from their strongest levels on record over concerns about rising COVID-19 cases worldwide.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average were in the red for the second straight session after notching record closing highs at the end of last week.

But on the rise was the VIX, Wall Street’s so-called fear gauge. It climbed by the most in three weeks, indicating that investors expect increased volatility over the next 30 days. A recent survey by Allianz found that many Americans want to stay on the sidelines of the stock market this year, worried that volatility will accelerate and hurt their investments.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 9:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday:

The S&P 500’s consumer-discretionary sector was losing the most ground, with airline stocks down after the US State Department said on Monday that it planned to issue a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for nearly 80% of countries as the coronavirus continues to spread. Shares of United Airlines were lower after the carrier indicated that quarterly losses would continue until air travel recovers to 65% of 2019 levels.

Officials in Japan are weighing a virus state of emergency, and the UK imposed a travel ban for visitors from India because of high case counts there. Argentina is battling another wave of cases.

Elsewhere, Apple will be in focus as it hosts a “Spring Loaded” virtual event at 1 p.m. ET during which it is expected to introduce two iPad Pro models.

Around the markets, a GameStop stake held by Alaska’s revenue department soared by more than 700% last quarter. Alaska also said its Tesla bet had grown to $85 million in 18 months.

Bitfarms, a Canadian bitcoin-mining company, is planning a new mining site in Argentina that it said would be its largest yet.

Gold fell 0.1%, to $1,767 per ounce. Long-dated US Treasury yields rose, with the 10-year yield at 1.61%.

Oil prices rose. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 0.4%, to $63.60 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, gained 0.8%, to $67.57 per barrel.

Bitcoin rose to $56,079.

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The Master Your Money Bootcamp will help you take control of your finances, no matter how messy they are

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Ask just about any personal finance expert how to start taking control of your money and they’ll give you the same advice: Figure out where your money goes.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Have you ever left a bill unopened, to deal with it later? Are you 100% sure which subscriptions are charging you every month? Which of your debts has the highest interest rate? Quick, off the top of your head: How much money do you have in cash savings?

Chances are, you can’t answer some of these questions without a good deal of password-finding, terms-reading, and note-taking. And that’s normal! But being aware of your money (all of it) is a crucial step on the path to building long-term wealth.

Welcome to the Master Your Money Bootcamp

Master Your Money Bootcamps are month-long challenges broken into simple one-week exercises to help you take control of your money.

Over the course of 2021, we’ll conduct four of these Bootcamps, each culminating in a free, live, virtual discussion among experts about how to make the most of the tasks you’ve already accomplished. You can take all four Bootcamps this year, or pick and choose the ones that give the guidance you need most.

For each exercise, you’ll get a detailed explanation of how to complete it and why it’s important. Use the hashtags #MasterYourMoney and #MasterYourMoneyBootcamp to share your thoughts, progress, and connect with others across our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram as you make your way through each exercise, then join us for the live events.

Our first Bootcamp exercise launches Monday, April 19, 2021. You don’t have to sign up – just dive in! Here’s what you’ll accomplish in just one month (we’ll link to each exercise as it goes live):

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A guide to two-factor authentication, the two-part security test for your online accounts and devices

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Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, uses multiple tests or devices to keep your accounts secure.

  • Two-factor authentication is a security measure that makes you pass two security tests before gaining access to your account or device.
  • As hackers and hacking systems become more advanced, experts say passwords alone are not enough to keep your data secure.
  • Many apps and websites give users the option to use two-factor authentication, but it’s also something users can set up for themselves.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

You can never be too careful with your information online.

Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, and while developers continually come up with new methods to make sites and devices more secure, hackers can still find ways around them. As a result, a password alone may not be enough to protect your important accounts from cybercriminals.

Lately, more businesses and services have been adding two-factor authentication as an optional feature for their online logins. Certain industries require two-factor authentication as a security practice, and most internet security experts would tell you that adding two-factor authentication is not only a good idea but an increasingly necessary step for ensuring your online security.

What to know about two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication, also referred to as 2FA or two-step verification, is a method of confirming your identity by asking you to pass two security tests. It’s a way for a site or a system to ensure that it’s really you logging in and not a sophisticated robot or a hacker.

After you enter your password, you’ll be asked to pass a second test, which will vary depending on the site you’re using.

2FA forces hackers to come up with solutions to two unique problems, rather than one. It’s also constantly evolving because hackers seem to eventually come up with solutions to said problems. One early form of 2FA was the security question, but years of predictable questions and answers left that method vulnerable to hackers.

Types of two-factor authentication

Things have gotten more complex since the days of the security question – hackers and robots have gotten more advanced, so security challenges have, too. There are now five common types of 2FA.

Text or voice-based 2FA

This type of two-factor authentication will usually prompt you to enter your phone number and choose whether you would like to receive a text message or a phone call to have your identity verified.

If you’re logging in to a multi-use account, once you have done this once, your preferences will usually be remembered for next time, with your permission.

If you choose a phone call, an automated system will call your number and ask you to verbally confirm that you are logging in.

If you choose text, you will most likely be sent a text message with a link that will automatically log you in and redirect to the site or app’s landing page. However, some older forms of this feature may simply send you a text asking you to send a reply text confirming that you logged in.

It’s important to note that, even if you know a site utilizes this form of authentication, they will never ask you for information like your username or password over SMS or a voice call. If you are ever asked for this info, you should block the number immediately – this is a common phishing scam.

Additionally, if a site you use has an option to set up this feature and you haven’t done so yet, you should do it as soon as possible, or set up some form of 2FA for that account immediately. If you don’t, a hacker who was able to get in using only your password might be able to set it up with their own number.

Hardware tokens

Hardware tokens are the oldest form of 2FA out there and they are relatively uncommon today, mostly because they’re expensive, easy to lose, and are, while still incredibly secure, not entirely invulnerable to hacking.

A hardware token is a device that generates a new, randomized code every 30 seconds. When you want to log into the associated account, you simply look at the device and enter the code displayed on it. With newer versions, you plug the device into your USB port and it enters the code for you.

Other tokens seek to authenticate your identity, but hardware tokens sidestep that issue entirely, operating under the assumption that whoever has it is already qualified to get into the system.

Software tokens

These tokens combine the best factors of SMS and hardware-based 2FA, while eliminating some significant issues each of the other methods face.

Software tokens work exactly like hardware tokens, as described above, but rather than using a physical device to generate a password, they’re an application that you install to generate a password automatically.

These tokens are sometimes attached to specific websites; CAPTCHA is one method employed by many sites in order to confuse robot password hackers with a visual question. However, you can also download and set up your own software token application – they’re an excellent and reliable way to stay secure online, and they work whether you’re using a desktop computer, a smartwatch, or anything in between.

Push notifications

When you’re logging into a website, chances are you’re using what’s called a secure connection. Basically, this means that, during the time your device and the site are communicating, the site is masking all of the communications involved to make them difficult for hackers to penetrate.

Push-notification 2FA merely takes advantage of this secure connection while you’re using it. Essentially, when you log in, it sends a signal to the server to send a push notification with a unique one-time code that completes your login.

This is basically an improved form of the SMS-based 2FA outlined earlier – the difference is that this one eliminates opportunities for phishing scams to take advantage of unsuspecting users, and, more importantly, stops man-in-the-middle attackers from intercepting login links.

The only drawback to this method is that it doesn’t work very well in areas with spotty internet service.

Biometrics

There’s an even more secure way to confirm your identity than any of these 2FA methods though, and people have been using it since even before there were computers – we just didn’t figure out how to implement it digitally until recently.

Once used as a sci-fi trope and associated with top-secret access, fingerprint scanners can be found on a number of devices people use every day, like phones and laptops. Other forms of biometric identification – methods of confirming your identity using factors unique to your biology – are also on the rise, most notably facial recognition.

Some organizations, especially apps on your phone that deal with money, like PayPal or whatever virtual banking app you may use, already use two-factor authentication, in a sense. If you have a phone that allows for fingerprint or facial recognition, these apps work with its software to allow you to store your username and password in your device, and have the device fill it in for you as long as it recognizes you.

Currently, the only issues with this technology are that not all devices have a fingerprint scanner or facial-recognition technology, and facial recognition is relatively in its infancy.

Why two-factor authentication is important

Two-factor authentication has become an increasingly important security measure as hackers and hacking systems have become more sophisticated over time. In fact, advanced hackers can easily use one unlocked account to unlock dozens, if not hundreds, of others.

These days, hackers aren’t just sitting at the computer typing away, hoping and guessing at random numbers and letters. They have algorithmic programs that test hundreds of common patterns and combinations in seconds. If your specific username or password hasn’t been guessed by these machines already, it’s most likely sheer luck. Once one password has been guessed, chances are they’ll be able to use that combo to hack into other common sites as well.

Related Article Module: What is cybersecurity? A guide to the methods used to protect computer systems and data

Even if you’re taking all the proper precautions and using the smartest, most obscure usernames and passwords you can think of, making them unique every time, you’re still vulnerable. You’re just a little less vulnerable than other people with simpler ones – and even then, you’re making way more work for yourself than you need to.

Human memory is faulty, and the more we get comfortable online, the more passwords we’ll have to create and remember to stay secure. Setting up two-factor authentication frees you from that burden, while still giving you the peace of mind of knowing you’re much more secure against cyberattacks.

How to enable two-factor authentication

If you’re not looking to buy a hardware token or download and install a separate software token in order to protect your accounts, there’s still good news for you. Most major websites, apps, and devices already have 2FA capability that you have the option to set up with your account.

Here’s a brief list of guides on how to set up two-factor authentication on some of the most popular sites, apps, and devices:

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Cruise’s head of artificial intelligence wants the autonomous-car startup to be defined by its AI innovation

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A Cruise AV in the Bay Area.

For autonomous vehicle startup Cruise, the future isn’t just about artificial intelligence. It’s about machine learning, and that’s why Cruise is teaching its electric vehicles to drive themselves in San Francisco – one of the most complicated urban environments for self-driving cars to operate in.

“Learning how to drive in San Francisco is amazing for AI,” said Hussein Mehanna, the company’s head of AI, noting that the dense and unpredictable streets are ultimately an advantage. “The more interesting the data, the more the machine can learn.”

Mehanna hopes that learning will not only revolutionize autonomous driving, but also plant Cruise at the forefront of the next big thing: AI-based companies.

Taking machine learning to a new level

General Motors bought Cruise back in 2016 for around $1 billion, and through subsequent investment rounds, it’s grown to a nearly $30 billion valuation. The company’s goals are spectacularly ambitious, with CEO Dan Ammann effectively calling for the end of personal-car ownership and spurring Cruise to go after a multi-trillion-dollar future global ride-hailing opportunity.

In order to get there, Cruise needs game-changing hardware and software – a quest overseen by Kyle Vogt, its cofounder and chief technology officer – and high-profile partners, including ones it already has like GM and Honda. But Cruise also needs artificial intelligence and machine learning at a level that, frankly, nobody has seen before.

Hussein Mehanna Headshot
Hussein Mehanna.

As powerful as 21st-century AI sounds, Mehanna said it’s only recently that its full capabilities have been unleashed. Advancements in robotics and machine learning have made that possible.

“I always had a fascination with AI,” Mehanna, whose career path to Cruise included stints at Facebook and Google, told Insider in an interview. But where are all the robots we might have expected to see by now?

Mehanna said the kind of AI we see in demonstrations – dancing humanoids robots on YouTube, for example – doesn’t scale.

“They’re scripted to handle a certain number of use cases,” he said.

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A Cruise vehicle in San Francisco in May 2019.

Enter machine learning, which he said has the critical power to generalize.

This is, to put it mildly, huge. At Cruise, Mehnna’s team is tackling a whole new way of undertaking computer science, led by those autonomous EVs cruising through San Francisco.

If it all comes together and Cruise is able to successfully commercialize its service, then Mehanna said that the company could notch an unprecedented achievement: becoming what he termed the first “AI-native company.”

Dreaming of robots that can do much, much more

“It’s a new concept, and we’re inventing it,” he said. The analogy that leaped to mind for him was being able to handle HTML coding for the internet of the late 1990s.

“If you knew HTML, you were a rocket scientist,” he said. The skillset led to internet-native companies such as Google. That history is now staged to repeat with Cruise.

“In five to 10 years, AI natives will be the status quo,” he said.

The endgame of this process should be what he called a “general-purpose robot,” able to learn as humans now learn. It could drive a car, fly a plane, or attend to more mundane tasks.

“My dream,” he said, “is to get my laundry folded by a robot.”

Walmart Cruise self driving car

Talking to Mehanna, one gets that sense that we’re just at the beginning of something radical in changing how the world operates. Cruise has already made huge leaps in teaching a car to drive itself, once the stuff of science-fiction movies. But for Mehanna, those apparent leaps are but small steps toward robotic applications and machine learning remaking numerous aspects of everyday life – aspects that we take for granted or have long assumed would always have to involve natural, rather than artificial intelligence.

In the short term, however, he’s simply contemplating machine learning as a prerequisite to Cruise accomplishing what it set out to do five years ago.

“At Cruise, you can’t have a company without AI,” he said.

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How Honolulu, Hawaii is working toward sustainability and supporting its residents in the process

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Solar panels on top of homes in a Honolulu neighborhood.

  • Honolulu has been focused on sustainability and climate change since receiving a grant in 2016.
  • Its resilience plan has promoted access to renewable energy and expanded clean transportation.
  • Other initiatives include reducing energy bills and addressing hunger by supporting local farmers.
  • This article is part of a series focused on American cities building a better tomorrow called “Advancing Cities.”

In his first state-of-the-city speech in mid-March, Rick Blangiardi, mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii, emphasized the city’s commitment to “climate resilience.”

“From sea level rise, rain bombs, and increasing temperatures, we’re taking steps toward a climate-ready Oahu,” said the mayor, who was sworn in at the start of 2021. The island of Oahu is home to the city and county of Honolulu.

“We’re shifting from talking about policy to doing something about it,” Blangiardi added.

Sustainability and climate change are issues that Honolulu’s leaders have been working to address for years. In 2016, the city was awarded a 100 Resilient Cities Initiative Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to help fund the hiring of a chief resilience officer to work with the city on crafting climate change and resilience plans.

Since then, Honolulu has debuted a Resilience Strategy and a Climate Action Plan, which have helped inspire citywide legislation to reduce the energy burden on residents, promote access to renewable energy, expand clean transportation, and support locally grown food producers.

Here’s a look at some of Honolulu’s sustainability initiatives.

Codifying the Resilience Office’s responsibilities will help Honolulu meet its sustainability goals

Oʻahu Resilience Strategy Steering Committee members meeting during development phase of the strategy, which includes Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
Oahu Resilience Strategy Steering Committee members meeting during the development phase of the strategy, which includes Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

The Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency was created by a city charter amendment that was approved by the public in 2016. A new bill signed into law in December 2020 “codifies the duties, responsibilities, and reporting requirements” of the office to ensure Honolulu meets its climate change and sustainability goals. 

Bill 65 establishes an energy benchmarking system, requiring Honolulu to create and report energy and water use benchmarks for city-owned buildings. The rule is estimated to save the city $7 million over the next decade. The bill also specifies that the city will transition to 100% renewable energy and become carbon neutral by 2045.  

It also addresses many other climate change and sustainability measures, including a One Water policy, examining efficiencies across the city’s water system. 

The Resilience Strategy addresses affordability and climate change

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The Resilience Office engaging community members on their perspectives of “Resilience.”

One of the central initiatives of the Resilience Office is the Oahu Resilience Strategy, which aims to address “long-term affordability and the impacts of a climate crisis that is already driving islanders from their homes,” according to the office’s website. 

Planning began in 2017 when the office met with Oahu’s 33 neighborhood boards to survey residents about what concerned them most about climate change and how they thought it could be addressed, Matthew Gonser, chief resilience officer and executive director of Honolulu’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, told Insider. 

Hundreds of ideas were gathered from the community. Those concepts were narrowed down into 44 actions, comprising the Resilience Strategy. The strategy focuses on four broad subjects: long-term affordability, natural disaster preparedness and response, climate change, and local community leadership. 

By the end of 2020, significant progress had been made on about half of the 44 resilience actions, Gonser said.

The Climate Action Plan outlines what’s needed to address climate change long term

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The City and County of Honolulu Climate Action Plan open house community engagement session with Hawaii Pacific University and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

Honolulu’s Resilience Office released the city’s Climate Action Plan in December 2020.

The plan was developed based on scientific evidence and community input to fight climate change and reduce fossil fuel emissions on Oahu. It spells out the needed programs, policies, and actions for the city to become carbon neutral by 2045 — and includes nine strategies to focus on over the next five years, including increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

To develop the Climate Action Plan, community meetings with Honolulu City Council members, Hawaii Pacific University, the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii were held, and working groups with stakeholders were set up, Gonser said. 

During the first few months of 2021, the public had the chance to share their opinions and concerns about the plan before it goes to the city council. Gonser said the Climate Action Plan will likely be adopted this year. 

Honolulu updated parking ordinances to promote walkability and the use of clean energy transportation

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Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet, speaking at the signing of Ordinance 20-41, related to off-street parking and loading.

At the end of 2020, former mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 2 to update Honolulu’s mandatory parking requirements for new developments. It gives developers more flexibility in how much parking to build and allows opportunities for the land to be used for other purposes, such as affordable housing. 

“It’s making sure that our rules and regulations don’t force overbuilding of parking, empowering more choice and leaving it to developers to determine what’s needed,” Gonser said. 

The bill supports walkable neighborhoods and cleaner transportation options, such as biking and public transportation, which Honolulu plans to transition to clean fuel. 

It could also make housing more affordable since constructing and maintaining parking is sometimes a hidden cost for renters, according to an analysis by the Ulupono Initiative, a Honolulu-based organization that provides grants, investments, and advocacy to support renewable energy, locally produced food, and other sustainability-minded projects.

For urban Honolulu renters, up to 37% of their rent may go toward parking, which, for decades, has often been built based on city regulation rather than actual need.   

“The bill makes progress in the right direction, better aligning with city climate and community goals, while allowing parking to remain accessible for those who genuinely need it and not requiring it of those who don’t,” Kathleen Rooney, Ulupono Initiative’s director of transportation policy and programs, said when the bill was signed

Making solar power more accessible eases Honolulu’s energy burden

Solar array installation on top of the Board of Water Supply, City and County of Honolulu
Solar array installation on top of the Board of Water Supply.

Hawaii has one of the highest average electricity retail prices in the country, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and the state relies on petroleum for most of its electricity generation. 

Reducing the energy burden is a key focus area of Honolulu’s Resilience Office. In December, the city enacted Bill 58 to streamline the permitting process for residential clean energy products, such as solar power, energy storage, and electric vehicle chargers. The goal is to cut down on the costs and time it takes to install solar systems. 

Creating more equitable access to renewable energy is an important component in making Honolulu an affordable place to live, Gonser said. 

“We have one of the highest energy burdens in the nation,” he said. “It’s updating our energy code and making sure that all new things that are being built are ensuring long-term affordability for residents and that they can benefit from progressive infrastructure so that we can reduce the energy burden over time.”

New performance-based regulations could lower energy bills for residents

Infographic HPUC Timeline with PBR
A timeline of the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission.

As another initiative aimed at reducing energy bills, Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission approved a new Performance-Based Regulation Framework in late 2020. The framework would transform utility company Hawaiian Electric by making its operations more efficient, lowering electricity rates, improving services, and meeting the state’s clean energy goals. 

“That’s really groundbreaking,” Amy Hennessy, senior vice president of communications and external affairs at Ulupono Initiative, which provided research and other information to guide the framework’s adoption, told Insider. “The impacts toward changing the incentives for our utility to transform into a renewable energy future are significant.” 

The new structure provides financial incentives for the electric company to meet certain goals, like creating savings for lower-income customers and reducing greenhouse gases. It also separates the utility’s profits from capital investments, creating a cost-of-service approach. 

Matching grant provides $1 million to fight hunger and support local food producers

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The Hawaii Farm Bureau.

Hunger has been an ongoing problem for many communities, but the pandemic worsened the situation, as unemployment increased and many families have faced new financial struggles. 

To address hunger in Hawaii, Gov. David Ige announced in October 2020 that the state would provide a $500,000 matching donation to the DA BUX Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the amount of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, that are spent on locally grown food. 

Several private-sector organizations raised $500,000 for the program, including the Stupski Foundation and Ulupono Initiative, which each provided $200,000. The state match offers $1 million total for the program. 

Addressing hunger and providing incentives to encourage residents to buy more locally grown and produced food are part of Honolulu’s Resilience Strategy. The DA BUX Double Up Food Bucks program also aims to strengthen the local economy because it keeps residents’ food budgets on the island.

“A million dollars going out into communities for not just those who need access to food, but also our local farmers who needed a market — it’s actually putting dollars in their pockets while they’re growing to help provide healthy options for the community,” Hennessy said. “So it’s really a triple win.”

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Experts lay out how the chaos caused by pandemic-era panic buying could revolutionize our global supply chain

Stockpiling toilet paper
In the US, one of the earliest stories of the pandemic was the toilet paper shortage.

A year-long struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more headlines than we as a society – as well as the people writing those headlines – can really handle. There’s been speculation, sadness, chaos, fear, isolation, data, and graphs. So many graphs.

But one of the earliest headlines of the pandemic wasn’t about any of that. It was about supply, and the supply of one product in particular: toilet paper.

When Insider mentioned the great toilet paper crisis of 2020 in a virtual roundtable with Hannah Kain, founder and CEO of California-headquartered supply chain management supplier ALOM Technologies, she laughed.

“Yes, we can talk about the toilet paper,” she said. “I never thought I would be interviewed so much about toilet paper.”

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A shopper at a Target store in Brooklyn reaches for disinfectant wipes in March 2020.

When much of the US shifted to quarantine overnight last March, the world’s supply chain was forced into the spotlight. Suddenly, we were ordering more online: our groceries, our home office setups, our bread ingredients, our puzzles. When we did face this new, mysterious virus to go into a store, we were met with empty shelves and freshly printed signs telling us we couldn’t buy more than two jugs of milk. Sales of toilet paper in the US shot up 845%, demand for Clorox products spiked by 500%, and treadmill sales more than doubled.

As we depended on our supply chain more, we criticized it more. After all, how hard could it be to just make some more toilet paper?

As consumers, we focused on the supply side of the equation. But Kain said for the professionals, supply problems haven’t been the story for much of the pandemic – demand shift has.

“Demand shifted so dramatically, sometimes 50% or 100% compared to forecast,” Kain said. “The supply really got constrained, right? If the demand had not shifted, the supply side would have been difficult, but it would still have been flowing really, really well.

“Many [journalists] say, ‘But why don’t they just make more?’ I’m like, ‘Well, guess what, you need equipment to make more toilet tissue, and where do you get the equipment from?’ A lot of times, from China. But even if you use a local equipment maker, they need spare parts from all over the world and it just takes time to deploy it.”

Toilet paper production
The US saw demand spikes as the pandemic took hold, and toilet paper sales shot up 845%.

Kain said demand changed in two important ways: which products people bought and, as people shifted even more of their purchasing online, which channels they bought them through.

Mei Yee Pang, the Singapore-based head of DHL Asia Pacific Innovation, saw similar patterns, illustrating a common theme of the pandemic: how intertwined supply chains are, for better and for worse.

“Supply chains today are so global, you see pretty much the same phenomena everywhere we go,” Pang told Insider. “We too had our toilet paper issues. There was, at some point in time, a global shortage of glassware because everybody started making jams at home and needed glass jars.

“So we do see very interesting demand shapes, and a lot of them, looking back, are something that we can expect. That’s where big data potentially in the future can come in more, better forecasting some of these effects that we normally wouldn’t have expected.”

costco cart toilet paper kirkland
The production of toilet paper came into the spotlight during the shortages, with many asking why companies couldn’t just make more. Experts told Insider it wasn’t that easy.

Changing demand isn’t the only issue the pandemic highlighted. More online ordering didn’t just mean more convenience for the buyer – it meant more waste, too.

“Every time I receive a parcel, I feel bad about it because I’m contributing to waste,” Pang said. “I think this is something that needs to change. We can’t be sending individual shipments using partially utilized vehicles to send stuff around to individual homes.

“It’s not easy, but I think as we go more and more from a less than 20% e-commerce channel to now, some companies are having that switch around to e-commerce as a major channel, we are going to see a lot of waste coming into play and it’s not sustainable.”

Cargo planes
As many places shifted to quarantine, consumers’ online ordering habits expanded.

Kain thinks the switch to e-commerce is here to stay, but said there’s “no easy solution” to making the change more sustainable from a packaging perspective.

“If we go to things like consumer electronics, everything was packaged for the retail shelves,” Kain said. “Maybe now you have a shippable box, and you don’t have a box inside a box.

“We are a little bit in a tough spot right now because recycling and return packaging is of course a big issue because of the risk of infection. I think this is something that we’ve got to develop over time, but I do think that the big carriers are going to come out with support in this area.”

Mailed packages on front porch
A stack of delivered packages and boxes sit outside a front door.

Pang, whose employer DHL is one of those big carriers with more than 350,000 employees worldwide, said analytics will help.

“In our organization, we start looking at how we can help our customers look at packaging and use data information to optimize the way we pack, the way we pelletize,” Pang said. “Every small bit counts to really reducing our footprint, and at the same time, lowers cost. So what’s not to like about this sort of solution?”

Peter Evans, CEO of the UK-based sustainable supply chain technology company Orderly, told Insider his company’s main product is something called a “scorecard.” Its goals include reducing waste of both products and packaging.

“It rates everyone who manages supply chain operations, from someone in a warehouse to the CEO, on a scale of zero to five,” Evans said. “Zero being ‘You’re wrecking the planet and you’re wrecking your business,’ five being ‘You’re really making some decent change here.’ We use AI against all this data we pull in to give each person two recommendations each week on what they can do to provide the biggest, most sustainable impact to their supply chain.

“For us, it’s changing people’s mindsets on an individual level, showing them what can be done in the world as well – what can create the biggest benefit.”

ups employee packages delivery
A UPS employee delivers packages.

Kain said that’s important, both in terms of sustainability and social responsibility, as more people think about their relationships with companies.

“Corporate social responsibility has become way more important for decision makers,” Kain said. “It’s driven by consumers. We want companies to be in sync with our values. We don’t want them to be out of sync.

“For instance, early in the pandemic, there was a survey done in the US showing 87% of consumers did not want to buy product from companies that did not keep their workers safe. We’ve never seen sentiments like this before, and it’s very healthy and good. It’s forcing the corporations to think differently about their supply chain in a very healthy manner. In any crisis, there’s a silver lining, and I think that’s it.”

amazon package logo warehouse
A worker loads a truck with packages at an Amazon packaging center in Germany.

Another silver lining might be that when or if this kind of global crisis happens again, the supply chain will be a bit more prepared for what’s coming – thanks, in part, to how big of a spotlight its struggles received when the pandemic hit.

“I think there’s a newfound respect for the sector, from the boardroom to the individual consumers at home,” Pang said. “There’s a newfound priority placed on the sector to put in more technology, to put in more innovation, to put in more R&D into making it more agile and more prepared for situations like this, so I’m quite optimistic about what we can see from the sector in the next few years.”

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L’Oreal’s chief digital officer explains how the quick adoption of e-commerce saved the company’s 2020 earnings

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Lubomira Rochet speaks onstage during the Youtube session at the Cannes Lions Festival 2018 on June 19, 2018 in Cannes, France.

As vaccination programs across the globe begin to bite into the spread of Covid-19, retail businesses are starting to think about how they’re going to welcome back customers who have saved cash during the last year’s crisis.

One of the sectors looking for a new path out of the crisis is the cosmetics industry. While some sectors – like medicine, household cleaners and soap, and vitamins and supplements all saw increases in purchases during the pandemic, according to JP Morgan, the world cut back on cosmetics.

There are several reasons for this: as nationwide lockdowns have disrupted normal life, many people have been spending less time in front of others, and when they do, masks have made it impracticle to spend the same amount of time on facial cosmetics. Another reason is that the cosmetics industry traditionally relies on tangible, in-person sales. This is why staffed cosmetics counters are a staple of many department stores.

L’Oreal is one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world, and Lubomira Rochet – who made Insider’s list of 100 people transforming business in Europe last year – has been tasked with navigating the firm through the pandemic. Rochet is the firm’s chief digital officer, and based on widespread industry trends, the last 12 months should have been a sure-fire path to decreased profits for the company. Yet L’Oreal’s full-year financial results for 2020, published in late February, saw things staying steady.

“L’Oréal has traversed this crisis in the best possible condition and has even grown stronger,” Jean-Paul Agon, the company’s chairman and CEO, said when revealing the results. The reason? L’Oreal’s forward-looking bet on e-commerce sales. “Thanks to its strength in digital and e-commerce, which has again increased considerably during the crisis, L’Oréal has been able to maintain a close relationship with all its consumers and compensate to a large extent for the closure of points of sale,” added Agon. In all, e-commerce sales rose at L’Oreal by 62% in 2020, and accounted for one dollar in every four spent with the company.

The bumper results are the payoff for a decade of work. “The matter of fact is L’Oreal started its transformation 10 years ago which served us well when covid hit, because we were ready,” Rochet told Insider in mid-2020. The digitialization of the operating model for the company was crucial to making sure the firm managed to weather the crisis, but it was also one that Rochet had seen as a key area long before that.

“We spent a lot adapting our marketing to the digital age,” Rochet said. “Investing new formats and platforms from YouTube to TikTok to Instagram to WeChat, and really completely changing our formats for faster and more interactive formats. That has been quite a journey.”

But it’s the way that people tend to buy their makeup that has seen the most significant transformation. “We have invested in technology such as AR or VR to give [customers] an extra experience when they shop our products,” said Rochet. “Those are things like virtual make-up or hair colour try-ons. It’s about teleconsultations that were big during covid. Those are service we propose to our consumers to enrich the experience.”

Like many things, the coronavirus pandemic simply accelerated existing trends that had been in train for years. Rochet points to the rise of livestreaming sales in China as an example of how the pandemic has amplified what was already there, making it more important and significant for consumers battling the challenges of coronavirus.

And as stores and businesses begin to reopen, Rochet feels L’Oreal is in a position of power. “We’re moving to an interesting moment where more people in a low-touch economy don’t want to touch products in the store,” she explained. “They don’t want physical testers. So we’re introducing services like virtual make-up try on, through a QR code people can experience the colours and the looks, but virtually.”

It’s something her CEO and chairman also agrees with. Setting out 2020’s financial results, Agon looked forward to 2021 with positivity. “Driven by the strength of its strategic choices and a determined dynamic across the year, L’Oréal has adapted to this unprecedented context and terrible pandemic with speed and agility, accelerated all of its transformations and will emerge stronger,” he said.

“At the beginning of this new year, which remains marked by uncertainty regarding the evolution of the pandemic, but also by consumer’s appetite for beauty that remains intact across the world, we are confident in our capacity to outperform the market again this year and, subject to the evolution of the sanitary crisis, achieve a year of growth in sales and profits.”

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