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Exclusive: Roe v. Wade's demise forces companies to grapple with health care plans, employee privacy and more – TalkOfNews.com

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Roe v. Wade's demise forces companies to grapple with health care plans, employee privacy and more

#Roe #Wade039s #demise #forces #companies #grapple #health #care #plans #employee #privacy

Pro-choice activists are seen outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 15, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The challenges posed by the end of Roe v. Wade are only just beginning for corporate America.

By overturning the abortion precedent Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court set off a series of fresh difficulties for companies that must now navigate a country divided between states that will permit the procedure and others that will outlaw it.

One of those issues for companies is deciding if — and how — to provide abortion access to millions of employees who live in states where the procedures are no longer legal.

“Every major organization has health coverage,” said Maurice Schweitzer, a professor for the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is going to be what’s covered? Is travel for an abortion out of state covered if you’re operating in a state that prohibits abortion?”

Some of the country’s large employers, including Apple, CVS Health, and Disney, reiterated that the companies cover travel to states that allow abortions. Others, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, rushed to update their medical benefits. Several prominent business leaders went a step further, condemning the end of 50 years of federal abortion rights.

Still many others declined to comment or said they are still reviewing plans.

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The Supreme Court decision will have implications in the corporate world that stretch far beyond employers’ health benefits and influence where companies locate headquarters and offices, which lawmakers and political action committees they donate to and how they communicate with employees, customers and investors.

Over the years, certain companies have chosen to take a stand on polarizing issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a police officer and Florida’s HB 1557 law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The Supreme Court decision will likely force companies’ hand and make it hard for business leaders to stay silent, Schweitzer said. With those decisions, he said, companies could risk a lawsuit, run afoul of politicians and draw backlash from customers or employees.

“This is going to be an additional challenge for executives,” he said.

For companies that decide to cover abortion care in other states, it will raise new questions including how to reimburse travel expenses and protect employee privacy.

Expanding employee benefits

Some companies such as Netflix, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet already have health care policies that include abortion and travel benefits, but others are catching up.

JPMorgan Chase told employees in a memo that it will expand its medical benefits to include travel coverage starting in July. Under Armour said it will add a travel benefit to its medical plans. Dick’s CEO, Lauren Hobart, shared on LinkedIn that employees, their spouses and dependents will get up to $4,000 in travel reimbursement if they live in an area that restricts access.

Warner Bros. Discovery also reached out to its employees after the ruling was announced Friday.

“We recognize that the issue of abortion can evoke a variety of emotions and responses which are different for each of us based on our experiences and beliefs,” Adria Alpert Romm, chief people and culture officer, wrote in a memo to employees obtained by CNBC. “We are here to support you.”

Romm said the company is expanding its health care benefits to include expenses for employees and their covered family who need to travel to access a range of medical procedures, including care for abortions, family planning and reproductive health.

Amazon and other companies added travel reimbursement earlier this year as state governments in the Sunbelt passed laws that shuttered abortion clinics or limited access in other ways.

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But how companies react over time will vary and could include removing abortion coverage from health plans, or offering indirect assistance such as paid time off or contributions to a health savings account that could be used for travel-related expenses to receive care in another state.

Nearly 30% of organizations said they would increase support within an employee assistance program for reproductive care in a post-Roe world, according to a survey of more than 1,000 human resources professionals for the Society for Human Resource Management. The survey was conducted from May 24 to June 7.

About a third cited paid time off as the top resource provided to support reproductive care, and 14% said they would include the topic of reproductive rights in their diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Nearly a quarter of organizations said that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will enhance their ability to compete for talent. 

Businesses taking a stand

Even before the Supreme Court decision, companies were under pressure to step into the abortion debate — or at least articulate how abortion limits and bans could affect their businesses.

Companies have long used their economic power to influence political policy. In 2019, when Georgia legislators sought to ban almost all abortions, Hollywood used the threat of production boycotts in the state to make clear its opinions about politics.

Still, in the wake of the pandemic, studios have been slower to react to new laws that traditionally they might have opposed. Production shutdowns are no longer a luxury the Hollywood can afford, especially as it seeks to keep up with demand for new content.

Disney is coming off a recent battle over a hot-button cultural issue. The company publicly opposed Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, after its employees demanded the company take action. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Florida’s Republican-led legislature revoked the company’s special district in the state, which is home to Walt Disney World and other resorts, in a move it said was not retaliatory.

In a memo to employees Friday, Disney said it “remains committed to removing barriers and providing comprehensive access to quality and affordable care for all” employees. Disney, which already has pre-existing travel benefits that allow its employees who are unable to access care in their current location to seek out medical care for cancer treatments, transplants, rare disease treatment and family planning, which includes pregnancy-related decisions.

As individual states decide whether to maintain abortion rights or block them, legislatures may be faced with backlash from companies and influential business leaders. This could include boycotts, a loss of political donations or inform decisions about where to place headquarters, distribution centers or new facilities.

“Overturning Roe v Wade is a devastating decision by the U.S. Supreme Court,” billionaire and business mogul Richard Branson wrote in a statement. “This will not reduce abortions, it will just make them unsafe. Reproductive rights are human rights. We must all stand up for choice.”

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Branson was among the companies and business leaders who slammed Supreme Court’s decision.

“This ruling puts women’s health in jeopardy, denies them their human rights, and threatens to dismantle the progress we’ve made toward gender equality in the workplaces since Roe,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder and CEO of Yelp. “Business leaders must step up to support the health and safety of their employees by speaking out against the wave of abortion bans that will be triggered as a result of this decision, and call on Congress to codify Roe into law.”

Investors in publicly held companies could have a major influence on how responses to the new ruling are crafted.

At a Walmart shareholders meeting earlier this month, an investor called on the country’s largest private employer to publish a report on the potential risks and costs to the company of state policies that restrict reproductive health care, and any plans the company has to mitigate those risks. The proposal, which is nonbinding, was opposed by the retailer and did not receive support from the majority of shareholders.

Similar proposals could come up at other companies’ shareholder meetings in the near future. Analysts could also probe executives during upcoming earnings calls.

Walmart is based in Arkansas, a state that already has a law on the books to trigger a ban. The company declined to comment on Friday when asked if it will cover travel expenses to states that allow abortions. It already pays for travel to hospitals and medical centers for other kinds of medical procedures, such as spine surgery and certain heart procedures.

Wharton’s Schweitzer said employees and customers increasingly expect more from companies and want to join or spend money with those that mirror their values.

The corporate world has led the way in some cases, with companies turning Juneteeth into a company holiday before it became a federal one. Some companies, such as Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s and CEOs, such as Levi Strauss & Co.’s Chip Bergh have become known for speaking out.

“There’s been a growing trend for executives to become more involved, more engaged in social and political issues,” he said. “This is going to increase that trend where we’re going to see many executives speak out, many executives lead on this issue, and it’s going to normalize the idea that executives are part of the political process.”

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Exclusive: Sweetgreen's stock plummets after salad chain lowers forecast, announces layoffs and office downsizing – TalkOfNews.com

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Sweetgreen's stock plummets after salad chain lowers forecast, announces layoffs and office downsizing

#Sweetgreen039s #stock #plummets #salad #chain #lowers #forecast #announces #layoffs #office #downsizing

A worker wears a Sweetgreen Inc. hat while preparing food inside the company’s restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts.

Adam Glanzman | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of Sweetgreen plunged more than 20% in extended trading Tuesday after the salad chain lowered its 2022 forecast.

The restaurant company also said it laid off 5% of its support center workforce and will downsize to a smaller office building to lower its operating expenses.

As of Tuesday’s close, Sweetgreen’s stock has fallen 37% since its initial public offering in November.

Here’s what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Loss per share: 36 cents, in line with estimates
  • Revenue: $124.9 million vs. $130.2 million expected

Sweetgreen sales softened around Memorial Day, leading the company to revise its forecast lower, CFO Mitch Reback said in a statement.

On the company’s conference call, executives attributed the slowdown to a number of factors, including “unprecedented levels of summer travel,” a slow return to the office and another wave of new Covid-19 cases.

In the quarter, ended June 26, Sweetgreen’s net sales rose 45% to $124.9 million. Its same-store sales climbed 16%, boosted by 6% menu price hikes.

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For the year, Sweetgreen now expects annual revenue of $480 million to $500 million, down from its prior forecast of $515 million to $535 million. The chain also revised its outlook for same-store sales, predicting growth of 13% to 19%, down from the previous projection of 20% to 26%.

“We think that it’s a conservative estimate, but looking back, we’ve just been wrong on so many of these calls,” Reback said on the call.

Moreover, Sweetgreen also changed its outlook for adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to a range of $45 million to $35 million, wider than its previous range of $40 million to $33 million.

But the chain explained the steps it’s taking to achieve profitability, including layoffs and reducing its real estate footprint by moving to a smaller office. Severance packages and related benefits are expected to cost the company between $500,000 to $800,000, while the office move will cost $8.4 million to $9.9 million. The charges are expected to impact its third-quarter results.

Sweetgreen reported a second-quarter net loss of $40 million, or 36 cents per share, wider than a net loss of $26 million, or $1.55 per share, a year earlier. The company blamed an increase in stock-based compensation for its increasing losses.

Read the full earnings report here.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Sweetgreen’s previous forecast for its same-store sales growth.

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Exclusive: Egyptian startup Convertedin raises $3M, caters to e-commerce brands in MENA and Latin America – TalkOfNews.com

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Egyptian startup Convertedin raises $3M, caters to e-commerce brands in MENA and Latin America

#Egyptian #startup #Convertedin #raises #caters #ecommerce #brandsin #MENA #Latin #America

Convertedin, an Egyptian startup that operates a marketing operating system for e-commerce brands, has raised $3 million in a seed round led by Saudi Arabia-headquartered Merak Capital.

Other participating investors include 500 Global and MSAS. The company, in a statement, said it plans to utilize the funds for strategic hiring and further development of its platform.

When brands shift to e-commerce sales, they operate with vast amounts of fragmented data that need to be unified to drive informed decisions and growth. As such, platforms like Convertedin become essential because it caters to brands and businesses with one, some, or all of these objectives: drive personalized and scalable campaigns, convert customers, achieve measurable results and grow revenue.

CEO Mohamed Fergany founded the company with Mohamed Atef and Mustafa Raslan in 2019 after working with several brands in companies such as Speakol Ads and Vodafone. His time as an employee opened his eyes to the opportunity of helping offline stores retarget and retain their customers online while finding new ones to shop at their stores offline.

“If you walk into IKEA and they take your phone number down. After that, our engine works to find a similar product you might buy and we retarget you online. If you went back to IKEA for that product, we can calculate the cost of online conversion,” the chief executive said in the interview. “This was the main idea at this time as we saw a huge problem where there was no analytics platform for the offline store or a retargeting mechanism.”

As the pandemic hit and offline stores were forced to close their doors, many of these brands turned to e-commerce, and as a result, Convertedin took its business online too.

Fergany argues that though online brands use CRM software to gather data, they do not utilize most of it. So Convertedin offers a solution where they can use their data best. It plugs into more than 10 major e-commerce platforms and ad networks — and brands, once connected, can place customers into different segments such as high- and low-value and categories like those looking for specific products and use these insights to create personalized multi-channel marketing and drive various campaigns on social media, SMS, email, search and other channels while having the ability to track and attribute revenue conversion.

Convertedin says SMB e-commerce marketers that use its platform increase their return on ad spend (ROAS) by 2x and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) by 40%. So far, the company partners with media buying and advertising agencies and works with over 100 local and multinational brands across Africa, the Middle East and South America in the automotive, healthcare and technology industries. Convertedin’s revenues from these businesses have been growing in “double-digits” month-over-month, Fergany said.

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The three-year-old Egypt-headquartered company also has offices in Saudi Arabia and Brazil; it just recently opened one in the latter. The South American market is enormous, with e-commerce revenues reaching $160 billion by 2025 from over 200 million users. As a result, Convertedin plans to make its services available in Portuguese — in addition to English and Arabic — for brands in Brazil and also Mexico, another South American market. Fergany also said Convertedin is eyeing South Africa and India too.

“We focus on emerging markets and if you look at it from healthy unit economics, we can sell easily in those countries because there is low competition there,” said the CEO on the expansion to five new markets, including Saudi Arabia. “And customer acquisition cost is low compared to the U.S. or Europe markets.” The new investment will help Convertedin with this expansion in addition to R&D and hiring.

In a statement, Ahmed Aljibreen, partner at lead investor Merak Capital, addressing his firm’s investment, said the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing platforms adds a new layer of challenges for e-commerce companies — and that Convertedin solves that. Hence, the reason why Merak Capital backed the firm. “We are excited to back Convertedin, a martech company that has built a state-of-the-art platform to simplify digital marketing, improve customer acquisition and drive growth for its clients. Convertedin is led by a world-class team in which we have tremendous confidence as the company embarks on its next stage of growth in MENA and Latin America.”

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Exclusive: Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis – TalkOfNews.com

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Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis

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Tennis legend Serena Williams announced her retirement in a Vogue article published Tuesday.

“I have never liked the word ‘retirement,’” Williams wrote. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is ‘evolution.’ I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

Williams, who turns 41 next month, has 73 career singles titles, 23 career doubles titles and over $94 million in career winnings.

Williams is widely hailed as one of the greatest athletes of all time. In her Vogue piece, she noted that some of her detractors point out that she hasn’t won the most Grand Slam titles in women’s tennis history, however. 

“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” Williams wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record.”

She said she will retire after the U.S. Open, which will run from late August into September. A victory there would tie her with Court’s Grand Slam record.

“I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try,” Williams wrote about the tournament, which is played in Queens.

She has counted sponsorships from companies including Nike, Audemars Piguet, Away, Beats, Bumble, Gatorade, Gucci, Lincoln, Michelob, Nintendo, Wilson Sporting Goods, and Procter and Gamble.

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“I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” Williams wrote. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family.”

Williams focused on her family in the announcement, writing that her nearly five-year-old daughter wants to be an older sister. Williams is married to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.

“I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks,” Williams wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday.

Professionally, she looks to expand Serena Ventures, a small investment firm of six people that was one of the first investors in MasterClass. Her firm raised $111 million in outside financing this year.

Williams wrote that only 2% of venture capital goes to women and that “in order for us to change that, more people who look like me need to be in that position, giving money back to themselves.”

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