Top Stories

July 17, 2012


UK businesses could pay for “ecosystem services”

A committee of MPs says that the UK government is failing in its aim to incorporate the value of “natural capital” into its decision-making. In a new report, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee also argues that businesses must play a more proactive role in protecting ecosystem services, such as clean water and soil, and may in future be required to pay organisations that help to maintain natural habitats. Ecosystems are estimated to be worth billions of pounds to the UK economy – pollination, for example, provides nearly £500 million of benefits per year – but 30% of the services provided by the UK’s natural environment are currently thought to be in decline. “It should not be solely the preserve of the public sector to protect and enhance nature,” committee chair, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, said in a statement. “Significant funding can be harnessed from the private sector, for example to help prevent flooding and to provide clean water supplies.” (BusinessGreen)

Anti-nuclear protests hit Tokyo

More than 100,000 protesters marched through central Tokyo yesterday to voice their opposition to nuclear power following last year’s Fukushima disaster. The Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, argues that Japan needs to restart reactors that were shut down for safety checks to avoid electricity shortages that might hit the economy. Many demonstrators were middle-aged, having lived through the growth years of the post-war era, powered by nuclear energy that many thought was cheap and safe. Japanese people have grown wary of nuclear power since Fukushima, with surveys showing that about 70% want to abandon the energy source even if not immediately. (Reuters)

Social Investments

Innovative companies employing the homeless

Several UK companies are working to tackle homelessness by employing significant numbers of homeless people in their day-to-day business. The infrastructure and construction company Carillion has offered 200 full-time positions and 500 work placements to homeless people in the last five years, making it the single biggest contributor to Business in the Community’s ‘Ready to Work’ scheme. Separately, Pret a Manger, which has been giving away sandwiches to homeless people for 26 years, has been working to extend its involvement. Starting with one apprentice in 2009 and a second in 2010, the Pret scheme expanded to 58 in 2011 and 70 this year. “It does make up part of our sustainability strategy”, said Nicki Fisher, head of sustainability at Pret. “But it also has benefits that we couldn’t have foreseen in terms of the apprentices’ high levels of retention, commitment and loyalty. It also really engages our staff.” (The Guardian)

Corporate Reputation

Protesters force closure of Shell forecourts

Greenpeace activists shut down more than half of Shell’s 118 forecourts in London and Edinburgh yesterday in protest at the company’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. With Shell expected to begin drilling in the Alaskan Arctic in the coming weeks, Greenpeace closed down more than 73 of the oil giant’s forecourts in a day of action that resulted in at least 25 arrests. Protesters were able to close the forecourts by pulling down each station’s emergency “off” switch, and removing the fuse. A Shell spokesman said: “Shell recognises that certain organisations are opposed to our exploration programme Offshore Alaska.” (The Independent)