Green businesses take the lead at Rio+20
Business leaders are remaining upbeat about last week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, where talks between world leaders were criticised for a lack of ambition by NGOs and politicians. According to UN figures, governments and companies made 692 individual pledges during the summit, totalling £330bn of investment in projects aimed at boosting sustainable resource management. The pledges range from individual company commitments to high-profile partnerships, such as the announcement by the US government that it will partner with more than 400 companies and brands in the Consumer Goods Forum to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. Malcolm Preston, global lead for sustainability and climate change at PwC, said that policymakers had effectively “passed the baton” of responsibility for building the green economy to the business community.
UK investors gather for controversial Africa land summit
Pension fund managers and hedge funds gather in London today for a summit to discuss the next big investment opportunity: buying up swaths of African farmland. An estimated 70m hectares of agricultural land – or 5% of Africa – has been sold or leased to western investors since 2000, according to a public database of international land deals created by the International Land Coalition, a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations. A coalition of 60 international development, environment and farming charities, including ActionAid and Friends of the Earth, will gather outside the summit to demand that pension funds and other investors "stop the land grab", which is claimed to be taking local people's land at the fastest rate since colonial times.
Ground-breaking assurance framework helps fight corruption
Independent review of corporate anti-bribery programmes is an essential next step for companies in the fight against corporate corruption, Transparency International said last week at the launch of its Assurance Framework for Corporate Anti-bribery Programmes, a new practical anti-corruption tool for the private sector. The first tool of its kind, the Assurance Framework defines criteria for independent assurance of corporate anti-bribery programmes, allowing businesses to strengthen their anti-bribery systems and enhance the credibility of their efforts to prevent corruption. Vernon Soare from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales described the Framework as a “move in the right direction”.
Plant-based car parts to be as cheap as metal within a decade, says Ford
Car parts made from plant fibres are likely to be cost competitive with conventional materials within 10 years, auto-maker Ford believes. The company already uses renewable fibres such as kenaf, flax, hemp and wood fibres to make door trim inserts, but sustainable fibres are being used for increasingly complex components such as battery trays and engine junction box covers thanks to pioneering new techniques. Ford is now investigating how it can use sisal, a crop which grows in extremely arid areas and so does not compete with conventional agriculture. According to Maria Magnani, a research engineer working on advanced materials for Ford Europe, the new techniques are more energy efficient, and could add up to weight reductions in cars of up to 10%.