Development banks to invest $175 billion in sustainable transport
The eight largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) in the world, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank, have announced at Rio+20 that they will invest $175 billion in sustainable transportation systems over the coming decade. According to the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) – made up of UN-organisations, MDBs, NGOs and business sector organisations – air pollution, road accidents and transport-related climate change can cost 5-10% of gross domestic product per year. “These unprecedented commitments have the promise to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” said the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Joan Clos. “They will create more efficient passenger and freight transportation, spurring sustainable urban economic growth.”
Virgin bestows ‘Screw Business as Usual’ awards
Virgin Unite, the non-profit arm of the Virgin Group, announced the winners of its ‘Screw Business as Usual’ awards earlier this week at a Rio+20 event. The awards, which seek to identify leaders who put people and planet at the heart of how they conduct business, went to people including Jochen Zeitz of PUMA, which has taken a radical ‘environmental profit and loss’ approach to valuing ecosystem services, and Segun Saxena of Clean Star Mozambique, an ethanol cookstove venture which aims to free poor families from charcoal-dependence. Ray Anderson, the founder of carpet company Interface, was also honoured posthumously as a pioneer of sustainability.
Eighty UK organisations back 'product footprint' action
The environmental and sustainability impact of making and selling everything from dairy products to do-it-yourself items is to be the focus of a major research and communication drive led by the Product Sustainability Forum (PSF), a new initiative backed by more than 80 major retailers, suppliers, charities, academics and UK government representatives, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola and Kelloggs. The PSF, which was set up by the UK non-profit WRAP, aims to identify key products where there is most opportunity to improve environmental performance. "It's pretty unusual, if not unique, to see so many major organisations and brands working alongside one another and sharing best practice in order to find ways of making better use of all our resources," said Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP.
Textiles companies move beyond audits
Ever since activists started accusing the textile industry of running sweatshops in developing countries, leading brands have been working to eradicate child labour, poor conditions and excessive overtime in supplier factories. But since monitoring and training have had limited effect, some are looking deeper, and have found the source of the problem often lies in their own practices. In its recent corporate responsibility report, Nike states that two-thirds of incidents of excessive overtime found by factory audits “were attributable to factors within Nike’s control”, such as poor forecasting and last-minute changes in fabrics and colours. The company is now working to change this, for example by making designers and procurement staff aware of how decisions at one end of the supply chain can affect workers at the other. The Fair Labor Association, a US-based non-profit, is also aiming to encourage this kind of awareness by developing an online tool that allows companies to trace the life cycle of a product, alerting them to risks in the supply chain.
Policy & Research
Electronics giants urge EU to turn up the voltage on Ecodesign
Electronics giants Philips, Electrolux, Bosch and Siemens have urged the European Commission to boost efforts to ensure products are designed sustainably, after a new report found the EU's Ecodesign Directive could potentially save €90bn a year for businesses and consumers. The Directive sets minimum energy requirements for energy-using products in Europe, including televisions, boilers and fridges, but a new report by the energy consultancy Ecofys warns that it may fail to meet its potential due to years of delays and a perceived lack of ambition. Recommendations include setting clear priorities and deadlines for product standards, ensuring good quality data is used, increasing manpower within the European Commission, and improving market surveillance and enforcement for the standards.