EU Influence: ‘Nose dive’ for corporate reputations — Ryanair revolving door — Missed deadlines

EU Influence: ‘Nose dive’ for corporate reputations — Ryanair revolving door — Missed deadlines
Опубликовано: Thursday, 30 March 2023 14:12

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HOWDY. Welcome to EU Influence, where we bring you yet another update from the FOMO Files, aka the psychological perils of a professional party-hopper. Once again, this American journalist regrets to report that her efforts to get invited to a reception at her own country’s embassy — after six years as an expat in Brussels — remain unsuccessful. A request to transfer a (British!) colleague’s invitation to my name to “a cocktail reception to celebrate the robust U.S.- EU trade relationship in spirits” on Wednesday at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, co-hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., was rejected. Supposedly, we didn’t give enough time for security to update the list. We’re taking this as a sign that we will be invited with enough notice to the next soiree — right, USEU?

We received another reminder of where we stand in this town last week, at the belated Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) St. Patrick’s Day party in the Parliament’s Mickey Mouse bar. As we awaited speeches by Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness and (an orange-clad) Parliament President Roberta Metsola, we had to tell a press rep that no, we didn’t inherit the invitation sent to our (fabulous, Irish) colleague Suzanne Lynch — we finagled our own, thankyouverymuch. Such are the indignities EU Influence suffers in her relentless pursuit of after-hours booze (free) and your business cards (priceless).


HOLOLEI RESHUFFLED: Henrik Hololei, the director general of the European Commission’s transport department who gave himself clearance to accept free business class flights on Qatar Airways, will leave his aviation post, my colleagues report.

Over, not out: Hololei will become a political adviser with no management responsibility in DG INTPA, the Commission’s department in charge of international partnerships.

If it’s any comfort: That job sounds to us like one that will involve many more opportunities for long-haul travel.

Next MOVE: Croatian national Maja Bakran Marcich will replace Hololei as chief of DG MOVE, in an acting capacity, starting Friday.

RYANAIR REVOLVING DOOR: Eamonn Brennan, who stepped down as head of Europe’s air traffic control agency (Eurocontrol) in December, will start as a nonexecutive director of Ryanair’s board on April 1. That’s raising eyebrows in the (already quite piqued) aviation sector.

Irish connection: Brennan, who spent 15 years at the Irish Aviation Authority before joining Eurocontrol in 2018, drew complaints from Eurocontrol’s unions in November. According to a letter seen by Euractiv, Brennan offered Michael O’Leary and Ryanair staff special access to Eurocontrol’s Brussels headquarters. (Both Eurocontrol and Ryanair rejected the suggestion that the Irish budget airline was getting special treatment.)

No regrets for O’Leary: Conveniently, my colleague Mari Eccles was able to catch up with O’Leary at an aviation event in Brussels on Wednesday. (Hololei, incidentally, was on the agenda too — but was a no-show.)

“I’m sure he’s been approached by a lot of airlines who would want to invite him to the board, and we’re very honored and pleased that he accepted our invitation,” O’Leary said of Brennan. Invoking his work at both the Irish authority and Eurocontrol, O’Leary added, “He’s had four months of garden leave or whatever it is … We think he can play a significant role in improving the strategy and performance of Ryanair’s business.”

And then some: The Ryanair chief said he’d like to recruit other Irish power players for the discount carrier’s board, including former International Airlines Group chief Willie Walsh. “But he’s DG of [international air lobby] IATA, so he’s somewhat compromised.”


‘NOSE DIVE’ ON ESG PERCEPTIONS: Companies did not do a great job riding out last year’s cost-of-living and Ukraine crises — at least when it comes to their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) reputations. That’s the sobering message from a sweeping analysis out Wednesday from BOLDT, which tracked how companies are being discussed in troves of publicly available online data — from newspaper articles to Twitter and Reddit chatter.

Big losers: Of the 1,080 companies analyzed, 600 saw their ESG sentiment ratings drop in 2022 compared to 2021. That includes 19 of the 20 European companies who performed the best in 2021, with names like De’Longhi, Deutsche Bourse, Ericsson, Logitech, SAP and (Italian utility) Hera taking hits.

Biggest losers: Two-thirds of infrastructure companies saw their ESG reputations drop. “If you lost out, you lost out big — with an average deterioration of -15%,” the report noted. The tech, financial services and transportation sectors also saw their overall ratings drop.

Winners: The food and beverage sector’s ratings went up. So did health care: While 40 percent of that industry’s companies began 2022 with a below-zero ESG sentiment rating, only 10 percent were in negative territory by the end of the year.

Drivers: For all the buzz about environmental topics, business ethics remains one of the most important factors in ESG reputation, along with human rights, community relations, and product quality and safety, the report found.

ABOUT THE ANALYSIS: BOLDT teamed up with Mettle Capital to put together the analysis. The dataset behind it has historically been valued by hedge funds, which want to track ESG opportunities and risks in real time said Steve Earl, a BOLDT partner.

Slowing it down: For its corporate clients, BOLDT looks at changes over time, helping marketing execs understand why sentiment about, say, a company’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions have changed over a quarter or a year, Earl said. A BBC article on one topic could cause a “ripple effect,” fueling a tangential set of Twitter conversations and follow-up coverage that go in a different direction elsewhere.

Backing up the gut feeling: Companies might be investing heavily in reducing their carbon footprint or hiring a more diverse set of staff; Earl said BOLDT’s analysis can help them understand if any of that is actually resonating with an external audience.

Doing good vs. looking good: There could certainly be corporate ESG initiatives that are important in a “material” sense, Earl said, “but nobody engages with it.”

EU Influence thought bubble: It would, indeed, be quite a shame if companies dropped a sincere and substantial green initiative because they’re not winning PR points.

FIRST IN EUROPE: BOLDT’s report in previous years focused on U.K. companies. This time, it’s broadened its look to businesses around the Continent, while zeroing in on ESG sentiment.

BOTTOM LINE: Companies were able to project their do-gooder vibes well in 2021. We were all coming out of the worst of the lockdowns; companies were recommitting to staff and showing they were ready to reset.

That was then: Expectations are changing fast. Beyond inflation and war, “the concept of ESG has come under increasing interrogation in the West, politicised and critiqued across the political spectrum be it as a ‘greenwash’ or ‘woke’ agenda,” the report says. “European businesses in 2022 have not so much failed to deliver on ESG goals as they have simply been unprepared for the drastic changes in expectations from stakeholders as to what an ESG agenda entails.” Naturally, the fine folks at BOLDT would be happy to help you improve.


ETHICS BODY PROPOSAL TAKES SHAPE: The Commission is not going to deliver the long-awaited proposal for an interinstitutional ethics body in March, as Parliament had called for and Vice President Věra Jourová had predicted. But we are getting a better sense of what that proposal might look like.

Common standards, bespoke implementation: The ethics body would set standards for all the EU institutions on a range of matters like accepting gifts (or, ahem, flights) from third parties, according to a Commission official granted anonymity to discuss a proposal not formally published. The body would also issue recommendations for how each institution could implement those standards — and then the ethics body would later publish findings on whether the new standards are implemented in each institution.

Coming soon: The proposal will come “in the next weeks,” said Christian Wigand, a Commission spokesperson. Jourová is working on getting maximum buy-in before the draft lands.

‘MALADMINISTRATION’ ON DOCUMENT ACCESS: “Systemic and significant delays” in the European Commission’s responses to requests for access to document amount to “maladministration,” European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly determined. In a recommendation published Tuesday, she urged the Commission to devote more resources to so-called confirmatory requests, or appeals when the Commission has rejected the initial request. The EU executive misses deadlines for responding to these appeals 85 percent of the time, O’Reilly’s inquiry found.

Political perception: “The gravity” is increased, the recommendation says, by the fact that “significant delays occur in cases of great public importance … there is a risk that this is perceived as deliberate, so as to avoid timely public scrutiny.”


ACTIVISTS DISRUPT AGRI FORUM: Around 60 activists from the No Future for Agrobusiness group on Tuesday blocked the entrance to the Square convention center in Brussels, where the Forum for the Future of Agriculture was supposed to take place. The activists accused participants of greenwashing and delaying EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork regulations. Pics here.

HUAWEI — SPINNERS OR SPOOKS? Belgium’s State Security Service has requested interviews with former employees of Huawei’s Brussels lobbying operation as they scrutinize how China may be using nonstate actors — including senior lobbyists in Huawei’s Brussels office — to advance the interests of the Chinese state and its Communist party in Europe. Read more.


CANCER PATIENTS RECRUIT OUTSIDE LIFELINE: Malvika Vyas has signed on to help the European Cancer Patients Coalition get back on track after years of infighting and staff struggles. A veteran of the Brussels cancer policy space, Vyas will serve as a “strategic adviser” to the ECPC through the consultancy she founded, Global Cancer Strategies.

Mission: Vyas’ mandate is to work with the ECPC’s board on a “new strategic direction,” she said in an interview this morning, while helping create “resilient” organization on an operational level.

Motivation: “It’s still the only umbrella organization representing hundreds of national patient organizations,” she said, so “its presence is really important at the EU level.”

Mindset: “We need to acknowledge that there was a challenging situation, and we need to create a constructive way forward,” Vyas said. “And that’s exactly what ECPC is doing, one step at a time.”

Horizon: Working with ECPC through her consultancy will help Vyas maintain some “neutrality,” she said. She’ll help manage all parts of the ECPC’s operations as they work toward eventually hiring a director. Her commitment at this point is “at least a year.”

BANKING (LOBBY) BAILOUT: The shotgun marriage of Credit Suisse and UBS almost led to an unexpected casualty in the Brussels bubble, my colleague Hannah Brenton reports. The official-sounding Swiss Finance Council, which until March 17 represented the positions of the “internationally active Swiss financial institutions” — aka the two banking giants — would perhaps have been forced to rebrand itself as merely: “UBS.”

But by a happy twist of fate for the lobby, just days before Credit Suisse’s demise, it expanded its membership to include the Association of Swiss Private Banks (ABPS), the Asset Management Association Switzerland (AMAS), the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) and the Association of Swiss Asset and Wealth Management Banks (VAV). Still, it might need to rethink the spot on its board held by Credit Suisse Chairman Axel Lehmann.

CONGRATS: Rud Pedersen Public Affairs won the PRovoke Media’s 2023 EMEA SABRE award for public affairs agency of the year last week in Frankfurt. Also nominated: Grayling, PLMR, SEC Newgate and WA Communications.


Tommaso Grasso and Nunzio Scalera were recently promoted to account executive on BCW Brussels’ sustainability team, working on chemicals.


— The European Environment Agency’s management board selected Leena Ylä-Mononen to a five-year term as executive director. Currently the director general for environmental protection at Finland’s environment ministry, Ylä-Mononen will succeed Hans Bruyninckx in June.


Publyon (as in, “beyond public affairs”) is the new name of the firm formerly known as Dr2 Consultants.

Qorvis has named its first partner in Brussels, promoting Daniel Rocha.

Fredrik Wesslau, a former deputy head of the EU Advisory Mission to Ukraine, joins Rasmussen Global as a senior adviser.

Simon Dutré has been promoted to account executive in BCW Brussels’ digital and creative practice.


Helen Oberg joins Novo Nordisk as associate director for EU government relations. She previously worked for Abbott.

— Also at Novo Nordisk, Alexander von Wildenrath Løvgreen has been promoted to policy lead.

Marek Kortus is now an account executive, health care and food, at BCW Brussels.


Simon Albers is a new account executive working on financial services at FleishmanHillard EU.


Ourania Georgoutsakou, previously of Lighting Europe, is the new managing director of Airlines for Europe.

KLM’s Jeroen Hardenbol is leaving Brussels for the airline’s headquarters in Amstelveen, The Netherlands, where he’ll focus on national politics as director of public affairs. That makes Luuk Bobbink manager European affairs, KLM’s main rep in the EU seat.


Tom Vöge, previously of the Cadmus Group, will join Eucobat, the European association of national battery collection schemes, as executive director.

Darius Movaghar joined BCW Brussels’ sustainability practice as an account director, via NOVE Public Affairs.

— Spearheaded by CEPI, 14 associations from the paper, packaging and other wood-based industries have formed the Cross-sectoral Coalition for Circular Choices for the EU’s Bioeconomy, with support from some forestry groups. They’re aiming to “collectively reach climate change migration equivalent to 30 percent of EU annual CO2 emissions.”


Taso Advisory, a U.K.-based tech consultancy, opened offices in Brussels and Dublin this week. Simone Casadei Pastorino, formerly of the consultancy Press Shift, is heading up the Brussels operation.

THANKS TO: Jakob Hanke Vela, Hannah Brenton, Mari Eccles, Aoife White and Louise Guillot; web producer Giulia Poloni and my editor, Sonya Diehn.

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