Top Stories

December 17, 2012


Executives launch campaign to end slavery

A group of corporate executives have launched a campaign to urge top global companies and governments to sign up to a voluntary regime aimed at eradicating the use of forced labour. The group includes Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, and Andrew Forrest, chairman of Australia-based Fortescue Metals, the world’s fourth biggest iron ore producer. The pair jointly launched the campaign, which is urging 25 top companies, including Apple, GE, Microsoft, Chevron, IBM and Walmart, to pledge by March 31 to “end modern slavery” by identifying, eradicating and preventing forced labour in their operations and supply chains. Alongside securing corporate pledges, the campaign will publish a global “slavery index” next August on conditions in 160 countries. It is also seeking contributions from companies, governments and charities for a global fund to implement anti-slavery strategies. (Financial Times*)

Credit Suisse to face age bias case

A former retail analyst at Credit Suisse is pursuing an age discrimination case against the company, in a case that is set to illuminate allegedly widespread age discrimination in the City of London. Tony Shiret, a highly experienced and well regarded analyst covering the retail sector, was made redundant in June 2011 after 18 years with the bank, as part of job cuts in Credit Suisse’s equities department. Mr Shiret will allege, at an employment tribunal in east London, that the procedure for making him redundant was defective, rendering it unfair. He will also allege that the true reason for his being made redundant was that he was 55.  The bank said it would “vigorously” fight his allegations.  The total number of claims brought to employment tribunal on grounds of age discrimination has been rising in recent years. The 2006 regulations added age discrimination to the possible grounds for claims to be made to employment tribunals, joining a long list including unfair dismissal, disability, sex and race discrimination. In 2008-9, there were 3,800 claims brought on age grounds, which by 2010-2011 rose to 6,800 claims. (Financial Times*)

Corporate Reputation

Bechtel sparks row with bid for UK nuclear clean up contract

Union leaders are calling on the UK Government to block US engineering giant, Bechtel, from bidding for a £6.1bn nuclear contract after alleged ‘lapses’ on security and safety in America. Bechtel suffered two high-profile embarrassments on nuclear projects this summer; in July protestors infiltrated the ‘Y-12 security complex’ co-managed by Bechtel, and at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation where Bechtel is clean-up contractor, the group was accused of 34 failings in a leaked memo from a project by the engineering director at the Department of Energy. Gary Smith the GMB union’s national secretary for energy and utilities said “It’s absolutely inconceivable that the Government can award Magnox contracts to Bechtel after these incidents in the US. The most important things are safety and security and these look like very serious lapses by Bechtel.” (Independent)

Social Business

Legacy giving partnership produces £7m in first six months

An innovative partnership between Remember A Charity and the Co-operative Legal Services to promote legacy giving has produced commitments of £7m to charities since its launch six months ago. The scheme involves will writers from Co-operative Legal Services talking to customers about leaving a gift to charity in their will. The new figures, published by the partnership, predict legacy giving through the scheme will raise nearly £20m in 2013. Based on figures since it began in June, the joint initiative is projected to raise £65m a year for charities by 2015. Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said: "This is a fantastic example of how we are achieving results that no single charity can do on its own.” (Third Sector)


China drives growth in environmental certification

The number of businesses certified under the global environmental management standard, ISO14001, rose six percent last year with Chinese companies leading the growth. More than 267,000 organisations across 158 countries are now accredited, according to figures published last week. Almost 82,000 Chinese companies have qualified for the standard, of which over 12,200 were accredited during 2011. Italy saw the second highest growth, adding 3,945 companies during 2011, followed by France on 2,520, Romania on 2,139, South Korea on 1,244, and the UK with 885 companies. Overall, the UK has 15,231 companies accredited, placing it fifth worldwide behind China, Japan, Italy, and Spain. The number of companies signing up expanded in every region except the Middle East, where it fell by four percent. Despite this blip, Martin Baxter, executive director of policy at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), said companies are increasingly realising the standard can help them reduce their environmental impact, but also maintain competitive advantage, cut costs, enhance their reputation, and win new business. (Business Green)

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