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The latest news headlines on issues and developments affecting the internal audit profession.

Jan. 25, 2021

Four Steps Organizations Can Take to Seamlessly Return Employees to the Workplace

As vaccine distribution expands, the time for employers to finally welcome back employees to the office is rapidly approaching — if they have not already done so. In a recent Forbes article, contributing writer Rhett Power highlights four steps employers can take to make the transition back to a filled office as seamless as possible. The steps include letting data drive real estate decisions, resisting the oversimplification of safety measures, preparing for a temporary strike in "presenteeism" (when a worker is on-site but not contributing fully), and crafting and disseminating clear reopening information. "As a leader, your role is to make the homecoming process as smooth as you can by anticipating and removing foreseeable hurdles," Power writes. "In other words, you'd be wise to embrace caution and a dash of patience."

Report Exposes Link Between Forced Labor and Solar Industry

A new report links the global solar industry to forced labor practices in China, according to Greentech Media. In the forthcoming report, U.S. research group Horizon Advisory points to "indicators of forced labor" from Chinese suppliers of polysilicon, a raw material used in the production of most solar panels. More than one-third of the world's supply of polysilicon comes from China, with a significant amount linked to the Xinjiang region where Uighur populations have been used as forced labor. Among solar panel producers, exposure to the polysilicon suppliers in Xinjian may be quite broad, said Xiaojing Sun, a senior solar analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie. "My sense is that up until a few months ago, not a lot of attention was paid to the upstream supply chain, so there is a chance for Xinjiang-based polysilicon to end up in the U.S." Companies mentioned in the report have been linked to projects in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Vietnam, and elsewhere.

Small-business Owners Struggling to Pay Rent

Rent payments were a struggle in January for 33% of U.S. small business owners, according to a poll from Alignable, an online network for small businesses. For the second month in a row, 49% of minority-owned businesses were unable to pay their full rent on time, compared to 35% of women-owned businesses and 31% of nonminority-owned businesses, according to a poll of 10,325 business owners. In 10 different industries, more than 40% of small-business owners were unable to cover their rent, led by restaurants/bars at 57%. That is up from six industries in December, indicating the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small firms. 

Report: Cryptocurrency Trends and Predictions for 2021 has issued a research report (PDF) that reviews the developments of cryptocurrency in 2020 and projects 2021 trends. The report indicates that cryptocurrencies are reaching the tipping point for mass adoption, with institutional brokerages, custodians, and asset managers showing some form of support for Bitcoin. Examples include a Singapore bank's launch of a digital asset exchange and PayPal allowing its users to purchase cryptocurrencies directly. According to the report, in 2021 the crypto trading market will likely see increasing activity in crypto options; global regulatory frameworks will be established; blockchain-based nonfungible tokens will grow; smart contract chain platforms (Ethereum) will become scalable; and decentralized financial applications and services, known as DeFi, will continue to revolutionize digital finance.

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