FUTURE Perspective is a quarterly newsletter written by Elaine Cameron, head of Strategic Research & Trend Analysis at Burson-Marsteller EMEA. The newsletter focuses on trends that have concrete communication takeouts.
Companies Now Weighing into the Debate
HEALTHCARE: ➔ The checklist is growing for what is deemed unhealthy and
Incentivised Wellness increasing numbers of people are being flagged as potential
hazards in regards to health insurance coverage and
Plastic’s not Fantastic
Push may come to shove and soon your employer workplace health. Plastic exists in multiple forms and has become
could be influencing what you eat, whether you ubiquitous in our daily lives. However, a growing
➔ This is just the beginning. Employers started with smokers.
smoke and how much you exercise. Now if you like doughnuts or have a guilty pleasure for movement against plastic will unite a large
a Big Mac you will most likely find yourself in the future segment of values-based consumers concerned
Obesity = Public Health Enemy Number One battling high levels of scrutiny from your employer and about the impact on the environment and the
health insurance company. health of their families. Are we moving towards
➔ Globally, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults; ➔ The trend of paying employees to lose weight or quit a Post-Plastic Society?
at least 300 million of them are obese.
smoking is growing fast. According to one source, 80% of
big companies now offer financial incentives for participating Drowning in an Ocean of Bags
➔ Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic in wellness programmes, up from 40% three years ago.
diseases, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease,
hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. ➔ Some US companies have been rewarding employees ➔ In spite of a trend towards encouraging recycling and
for losing weight for about five years already and saving reusable canvas bags, plastic bags are still omnipresent in
➔ The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense themselves an average 10% of health care costs year on year. our daily lives and have a harsh environmental impact on
foods high in saturated fats and sugars, and reduced our ecosystems.
physical activity. COMMUNICATIONS TAKEOUT ➔ Every year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used
➔ A recent study estimated that 63% of heart attacks in worldwide and billions of those are dumped into the oceans.
Western Europe and 28% of heart attacks in Central and Countless wildlife, including sea-lions, whales, birds and
Eastern Europe are due to abdominal obesity (a high waist turtles ingest the plastic bags and die every year. Graphic
to hip ratio), and those with abdominal obesity are at over images of polluted oceans and affected wildlife arouse
twice the risk of a heart attack compared to those without. strong emotions & allow activists to put their arguments
across in powerful fashion.
➔ In the UK alone, it is claimed that seven million people have
pre-diabetes, an under-diagnosed condition that makes ➔ From Australia to the UK & across the USA, politicians
them up to 15 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. and corporations are actively pondering banning or taxing
But pre-diabetes can often be reversed by losing a moderate plastic bags. One of the most profound signals of this shift
amount of weight, adopting a healthy, balanced diet and is the decision by the Chinese government to ban plastic
increasing physical activity levels. bags in China, shutting down a $300 million dollar
plastic-bag manufacturer overnight.
➔ It is such a huge problem that governments fear they
will no longer have the funds to deal with it.
Consumer Shifts Technology at the Forefront
➔ Despite the numerous negative consequences of the ➔ This is not science fiction - by 2013 a supercomputer will
global economic downturn, recession makes everybody – be built that exceeds the computational capabilities of
consumers included – more efficient and it is this necessity the human brain. Google already claims "automatic and
that can boost green behaviour and lead to less waste. correct" translation in 10,664 language pairs. Microsoft
While sustainable packaging is not yet the main reason allows you to integrate its translation technology into
for purchasing a product, it is increasingly becoming a Office 2007 to translate whole documents.
➔ The value of the language industry within the EU was
➔ Sustainability is one of a growing number of issues - recently estimated at 8.4 billion € for 2008. This comprises
including ethics, economics and environmentalism - the industry sectors of translation, interpreting, software
that is driving consumer choice. localisation & website globalisation, language technology
tool development, language teaching, consultancy in
➔ Many consumers claim to have altered purchasing patterns linguistic issues and organisation of international
in response to packaging concerns. Boycotting products
conferences with multilingual requirements. This entire
could be the next – more successful – tactic deployed.
industry is, however, at risk from technological progress.
The Human Cost ➔ Although a British keypad cannot transform into a Russian
one, a touch screen keypad can, rendering the process of
➔ Plastic bags are more of a danger to wildlife than humans switching from one language to another all the more easy.
but a ubiquitous compound in plastics - Bisphenol A (BPA) -
is of increasing concern to consumers. This chemical has ➔ Voice recognition software is advancing in leaps and
become a key building block of plastics from polycarbonate bounds and there is the real possibility of a scenario where
to polyester. To give an idea of scale, the U.S. alone we will no longer need to take language classes or employ
manufactures more than 2.3 billion pounds (1.04 million translators. There are already multilingual Text-to-Speech
metric tonnes) annually. translators on the market.
➔ BPA is routinely used to line cans to prevent corrosion and http://bit.ly/LfhOZ ➔ The polyglot internet is a rapidly developing animal and -
food contamination; it also makes plastic cups and baby as more and more tools and systems are built to bridge
and other bottles transparent and shatterproof. the gap between languages - we can expect to see a
➔ BPA has been linked to human health impacts, such as heart TECHNOLOGY: massive change in the function of language on the net.
disease, as well as developmental and reproductive
disorders in animals. Polyglot Internet ➔ That in itself will probably also have a pervasive effect of
changing language itself (as has already happened with SMS).
➔ A new E.U. law (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization Will the potential shift from a predominantly
and Restriction of Chemical Substances, or REACH), requires Anglo-Saxon web have a dramatic effect on the way
that chemicals, such as BPA, be proved safe. Currently it global issues are perceived and communicated?
continues to be used in Europe, although certain States And how soon until it becomes unnecessary to learn
in the US have managed to ban it. another language other than your mother tongue?
Anglo-Saxon Dominance May End Soon
COMMUNICATIONS TAKEOUT HR/ORGANISATION:
➔ The globalisation of the Internet has brought connectivity
to almost 1.3 billion people thus rendering it profoundly Work 2.0
polyglot. Wikipedia is now available in more than 210
The working environment is undergoing profound
languages. Weblog search engine Technorati sees at least
as many blog posts in Japanese as in English, and some change, driven both by automation, connectivity
scholars speculate that there may be as much Chinese and also by a shift in personal values away from
content created on sites like Sina and QQ as on all presenteeism towards flexibility and public service.
English-language blogs combined.
Freedom for the Workers
➔ In one of the biggest changes since the internet became
popularized in the early 1990s, the Internet Corporation for ➔ Currently millions of workers freelance around the globe.
Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, has very recently While the recession is driving these numbers ever upwards,
opted to allow 17 other scripts to be used for Web addresses. it is not the only reason for this rise. There is a definite move
The new alphabets include Chinese (both traditional and towards a better work-life balance and the opportunity to
simplified), Hebrew, Tamil and Amharic. freelance allows greater scope to work non-standard hours
than most workplaces have traditionally envisaged.
➔ There is conflicting evidence as to what percentage of the
Internet is in English. Latest research suggest 80% but this
data needs to be updated and made freely available in order ➔ However, smart companies are instituting shorter
to monitor any tipping point from one language to another. working weeks and highly flexible schedules and have
actually seen increases in productivity as a result. This
➔ The Internet is the medium through which information can be explained in part by advances in technology and
is found, communicated and combined into knowledge. a degree of constant connectivity that enables us to be
And if we assume that knowledge feeds policy decisions working even whilst participating in family activities.
and politics, then it is not a stretch to say that the current Significant advances such as cloud computing enable
English dominance on the Internet favours Anglo-Saxon access to data that was historically only available on a
ways of looking at the world, at global politics and at global local server. And less workplace-related stress makes for
culture. But for how much longer and, if it does not stay that a happier, healthier workforce.
way, is there a risk of fragmentation?
➔ Of course, some types of work such as those in the
Do You Speak My Language? manufacturing industry necessitate much more regimented
working hours and worker presence. But it cannot be long
➔ Crucially, 52% of consumers will only buy something from before increasing automation reduces this need too.
a Web site in their own language, according to a survey of
more than 2,400 consumers in eight countries. In France and http://bit.ly/2NC1Al
Japan, that figure increased to more than 60%. Consumers
who did not speak any English were six times more likely
to avoid English Web sites altogether.
Influence of Millennials
➔ The workplace has also started to be highly influenced by those who have been over exposed to information in the
Millennials. This generation is not motivated by the same course of their life and simply can no longer take on any
values as previous ones; they want to be successful but more information. Due to the huge advances being made in
often in ways driven by the chance to make a difference. bio-tissues, robotics and plastics, the creation of body parts -
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In the UK, public sector jobs are the top choice for graduates from organs to limbs - will soon be possible, requiring Body
and there is a notable turning away from some big-money Part Makers, Body Part Stores and Body Part Repair Shops.
sectors. Millennials are also highly interested in a looser,
more flexible attitude to working lifestyles. ➔ And, to regulate all of the above, Virtual Lawyers will be Elaine Cameron
required to resolve legal disputes which could involve
citizens resident in different legal jurisdictions. Strategic Research & Innovation Group, EMEA
Jobs of the Future
➔ A glance into the not-so-distant future throws light on a
totally new set of careers that do not even exist today. It is
not hard to imagine - given the addictive nature of Twitter - And don’t forget to follow on Twitter:
that we might eventually need a Social Network Worker to http://www.twitter.com/FUTUREPersp
help those marginalized or traumatized by social media?
We can equally easily see the need for a Virtual Clutter
Organiser to help us manage our increasingly complex
electronic lives. Waste & privacy are concerns for all and
there is sure to be a pressing need for Waste Data Handlers
who specialise in secure data disposal.
➔ As the threats and impacts of climate change increase, a
new breed of Climate Change Reversal Engineer-Scientists
will be required to help reduce or reverse the effects of
climate change on particular locations. This in turn could
necessitate the role of Weather Modification Police will
need to control and monitor who is allowed to shoot
rockets containing silver iodine into the air - a way to
provoke rainfall from passing clouds.
➔ As the world’s population grows older, Old Age Wellness
Specialists will emerge, drawing on a range of medical,
pharmaceutical, prosthetic, psychiatric, natural and fitness
solutions to help manage the various health and personal
needs of the aging population. Memory Augmentation
Surgeons will be needed to add extra memory to people http://bit.ly/1ZFPb6
who want to increase their memory capacity and to help