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Blog post
December 9, 2020

The regional comprehensive economic partnership through the eyes of AI

The media coverage of the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP), a monumental deal among 15 Asia Pacific countries, has been interesting.

As media analysts, we looked into more than 800 articles and videos from the prominent news outlets across the 15 countries that signed the deal within the time period of 8 November to 20 November 2020.

Natural language processing uncovering the power dynamics in the region

We employed state of the art AI models specialising in natural language processing (NLP), and contextualised them with our strategic viewpoint.

Sharing more about the AI analysis, Joseff Ymanuel Tan, Jr, data scientist at Isentia, noted: “NLP models work well for key information retrieval, specifically identifying proper nouns (entities). The entities are classified into several categories by the AI/NLP model.”

The first category we were interested in was the most frequently mentioned location names (country names, city names, etc). The image below provides a glimpse of the NLP model identifying the entities from an excerpt of an article.
The word cloud here shows the countries identified by the AI/NLP model. The bigger the country name is, the more number of articles covered it. The US (appeared in 843 articles) & China (749 articles) were the top countries mentioned.

Sharing insights from the NLP analysis, Arisa Otsuka, Analyst at Isentia, said, “This deal was seen as a significant victory for China as it reduces the impact of the ensuing trade war between the US and China by reducing China’s reliance on US trade [1]. The articles also mentioned the waning influence of the US as many allies rethinking their economic ties with the US [2].”

One of those US allies being Japan (584) which was also the third most mentioned country. Some of the reasons why Japan was mentioned where their plan to sign military ties with Australia [3]; also Japan was covered as the one ensuring the protection of their local farmers by retaining tariffs on essential products like rice, wheat, dairy etc.[4]

Arun Elangovan, Regional Analytics Manager of Isentia Asia said, “At first glance of the country names, the AI is merely confirming the hypothesis that everyone would have regarding this deal, the 15 countries who signed the agreement are covered equally. But when we look at the results of the AI through a different lens, the message changes.”

While the previous word cloud shows how many articles the countries appeared in, the following word cloud demonstrates how many times the countries were mentioned across articles. This word cloud not only captures the essence of how prominently a country is covered but also uncovers subliminal messages or in other words, the unsaid.

The articles more prominently mentioned China (4324 times) than any other country. US (2171 times), Japan (1483) and Australia (1246) were some of the other countries also prominently mentioned. This could seed the idea that some countries are more influential than others, portraying the power dynamics in the region.

The media also extensively covered some countries that were not part of the deal. The first one being India (296 articles), as India was initially part of the RCEP and withdrew towards the end of last year. The coverage on India was mostly about how the countries (esp. Australia, Singapore & Vietnam) [5][6] are hopeful & keeping the door open for India to join the partnership in the future. Japan considers India’s presence necessary to counter China’s economic weight [7]. The other country was Taiwan (66 articles). Taiwan was reportedly underplaying the significance of RCEP by pointing out that 70% of it’s exports to RCEP is already tariff-free; instead, they were hopeful of joining the Trans-pacific Partnership (CPTPP).[8]

Video AI hints towards a hopeful & prosperous future

The subliminal messaging in video coverage are less subtle as compared to articles. This is due to a video having 2 components, the visuals and the audio/speech.

“Most of the news reporting on mainstream media state the facts through the audio/speech and show accompanying visuals. When we analysed the audio/speech, the narratives were very similar to the one we uncovered through the articles,” said Ma. Angelica Tatad, Data Scientist at Isentia.

But while analysing the visuals we found different narratives. Francis De Leon, Jr. Data Scientist at Isentia said the analysis of the video was “done through a state of the art neural network (AI) which can identify the objects shown in a video. Our analysts then group these object labels into relevant categories.”

Apart from the usual suspects with groups of objects detected like people (incl. audience, speaker, journalist etc.) & event-related labels (incl. conference, auditorium etc.).

The above image shows the AI (Google Video AI) identifying various objects shown in a video.

There were some interesting group of objects detected such as Buildings & Cityscape.

The above graph shows the various labels and the number of times they appeared in the videos.
The other group was Transport & Vehicles (as shown in above graph)

These groups of labels seem to indicate that the media is visually portraying this partnership as future-looking and opportunity for progress.

The other group of labels that were informative was the Food group (as shown in above graph)

The media also showed various parts of the food supply chain, touching on one of the top priorities for countries especially in the Southeast Asia region, food security. This deal brings could potentially ease the tariffs on food import and export amongst the countries that are part of the deal.

Analysing the coverage around RCEP through the eyes of the AI revealed that the media while largely emphasising the impact on the on-going power dynamics be it the dynamics between the US & its allies and China, also portrayed this deal as bringing a bright and prosperous future to the countries in the region. It also revealed that there are some subtle/subliminal messages that lie underneath the obvious.

Written by: Arun Elangovan, Regional Manager, Advance Analytics – Insights, Asia

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published anti-greenwashing guidelines for businesses making environmental and sustainability claims. Despite these efforts, media coverage of greenwashing, particularly focusing on senate inquiries and regulatory court cases against major offenders, continues to expose brands and industries stretching the truth in their sustainability messaging. This exposure is causing a growing disconnect between consumers and corporations, as audiences increasingly call out misleading practices and question the authenticity of corporate sustainability claims.Isentia’s sister brand, Pulsar conducted recent research exploring media and public discourse around sustainability. Part of this report examines how greenwashing is covered in the news and on social media, particularly in relation to the broader sustainability discourse. Let’s investigate those themes in more depth here.

Social media data is decreasing while online news activity re-engages, indicating incident-led conversations. Regulatory bodies like the ACCC, and state and federal governments are tackling greenwashing by identifying major corporate offenders and their misleading actions, such as 'recyclable' packaging, carbon credit misuse, lack of transparency in fossil fuel investments, and exploitation of government climate programs. Audience conversations often align with news coverage on these matters.
The term in Australia particularly gained traction among social audiences around November 2022 when the UN called out the Australian government for allowing the use of carbon offsets in corporate emissions reduction strategies. News of the apparent collusion between the government and large corporations has caused public faith and trust in both to dwindle. As these stories emerge, Australia's positive sustainability impact on the international stage is significantly undermined.

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When we look at which sectors are most discussed within the greenwashing topic, energy, finance, and food take the lead.

Much of the discussion regarding the energy and finance sectors emphasises their interconnectedness, particularly the investment by financial institutions, including super funds, in environmentally harmful industries. Despite some super funds claiming to offer options that avoid unsustainable investments, reports have revealed that they collectively hold millions of shares in the fossil fuel industry. 

Many industries are being criticised for using carbon credits, such as REDD+ offsets, to appear more sustainable. Advertising, marketing, and public relations also play a significant role in promoting misleading sustainability initiatives, thereby contributing to greenwashing. However, stakeholders are aware that the advertising and communications industries have a huge impact on the profitability and success of an industry or product. The European Union’s Product Environmental Footprint classification system, for example, has been criticised by Australia’s wool industry for being unfair to wool products and for greenwashing. This, they argue, not only undermines the pursuit of a green transition within fashion but also damages a vital industry.

Mercer stands out as a most mentioned brand within the topic of greenwashing. This is due to ASIC pursuing a civic penalty case against them which alleged they misled members about its sustainability investments. This is groundbreaking for audiences to witness as it would be the first time the consumer watchdog has taken a company to court for alleged greenwashing.

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Much of the conversation focuses on misinformation and lack of transparency in communication and marketing. Certifications like Fair Trade are being questioned, particularly for products like chocolate, and eco-certification for farmed salmon. It particularly muddies the waters for political figures when they get entangled with brands coming under scrutiny for such greenwashing.

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Furthermore, some companies feature in the media conversation due to their involvement in a senate enquiry initiated in March 2023, with a report expected by June 28th this year. 

Analysis of the ANZ reveals a shift in mindset, with consumers emphasising individual actions for solutions like composting or guerilla campaigns on mislabelled environmentally friendly salmon products. Grassroots and individual activism leading to actions like divestment from conflicting companies. Community groups like uni student clubs showcase how groups with shared values and experiences can make noise and incite change with how universities invest. However, there are ongoing debates as to whether it’s the role of sectors like higher education or Super Funds to prioritise the environmental implications of their decisions.

The rise in curiosity around greenwashing highlights the growing consumer demand for transparency and genuine sustainability from brands. As regulatory scrutiny and public awareness increase, brands must ensure their sustainability claims are genuine or face reputation damage.

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The Eco-Spin Cycle: how brand’s sustainability claims come out in the wash

Regulators are cracking down on corporate greenwashing, but what does media discussion reveal about its impact on brand-consumer relations?

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As the spotlight on sustainability intensifies year by year, it has become a focal point for legislators, media entities, and audiences worldwide.

This dynamic environment demands that brands and institutions elevate their standards in messaging and actions, holding them accountable like never before. For professionals in the PR & Comms realm, it is imperative to grasp not only how sustainability is being discussed but also the potential pitfalls, such as greenwashing, and gain a profound understanding of the diverse audiences receiving these messages.

Explore over 20 beautifully crafted pages of data visualisation that illuminate audience insights sourced from social media, news outlets, and search engines. Gain valuable perspectives on how one of the defining issues of our time is being discussed and understood.

Our exploration of this crucial topic delves deep into uncovering insights that are indispensable for crafting effective strategies, both tactical and long-term:

-Unraveling trends in the sustainability conversation

-Assessing brand & industry reputations

-Navigating greenwashing & misinformation

-Understanding the diverse audiences of sustainability

To access these insights, simply fill in the form

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Blog
Sustainability: Mapping the Media & Public Conversations

From accusations of greenwashing to the role of misinformation, we explore the comms landscape around sustainability.

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