Transatlantic rift opens on Bangladesh factory safety
US retailers have launched an alternative reform plan to European retailers for factory safety in Bangladesh following the deaths of 1,129 people in April 2013 when a Bangladeshi garment factory collapsed. The US plan is said to avoid accountability mechanisms which are accepted in Europe, following concerns from US retailers that the European accord would subject them to potentially unlimited legal liability and litigation. The European plan, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, is cosigned by unions and non-governmental organisations and enables them to file complaints against companies and take them to arbitration.
The 70 corporate signatories of the European plan include Swedish company Hennes & Mauritz, UK company Tesco, and the Spanish retailer Zara, as well as two US companies, Abercrombie & Fitch and PVH. Jay Jorgenson, chief compliance officer at Walmart, stated that there were more similarities than differences between the US plan – signed by 17 groups including Gap, Target, Macy’s and JC Penney – and the European plan. Both include five year commitments to factory inspections, common safety standards, information sharing and better worker training, all underpinned by financial support. However the UNI Global Union, which cosigned the European accord, has expressed concern about who would enforce the US plan, stating that the US concern over legal risks had no legitimacy. (FT* and The Guardian)
Fishing quota: big producers lose reallocation battle
The English High Court has ruled in favour of redistributing fishing rights from big producers to small-scale fishermen. The UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations had challenged a decision to reallocate unused quota, essentially a licence to fish, worth more than £1 million. The Association argued that the move was unlawful under both EU and UK domestic law, but the judge ruled there was no discrimination. Members of the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations (UKAFPO), mainly large-scale fishermen, currently control more than 90 percent of the overall fishing quota for England and Wales. The decline of small-scale inshore fishing around the UK’s traditional ports has been in part attributed to crews being unable to negotiate control of enough of the quota to stay in business. However large fleets have been leaving quotas totalling 791 tonnes unused, which has led to the UK Government’s decision decided to redistribute the quotas amongst small-scale fishermen. (BBC and The Times*)
Clean energy investment increases 22 percent
Investment in clean energy has risen by 22 percent in the second quarter as increased spending in the US, China and South Africa countered a slump in Europe. The $53.1 billion invested in the industry was still less than the $63.1 billion spent in the same period in the previous year as Europe’s spending fell to the lowest in more than six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In the US, the industry benefitted from a rise in fundraising for companies such as the electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors. There was also a $1.4 billion investment from New Zealand-based geothermal developer Mighty River Power Ltd, which boosted public-market investment in clean energy companies to $3.8 billion in the second quarter, the highest quarterly figure in two years. (Eco-Business)
Technology and Innovation
Could new technology improve the quality of the meat we eat?
A series of Hack//Meat events in Silicon Valley, based on the “hackathon” model popularised by the software industry, has been started by Danielle Gould, whose US company Food + Tech Connect is examining ways that technology can impact the environment, the economy and public health through food. Centralised technology networks work with small food producers to boost the producers’ efficiency. “This approach retains credibility with the food movement while allowing the sustainable food industry to scale up,” says Gould, pointing to aggregating US food producers such as Applegate Farms, Panera and Niman Ranch. An estimated 98 percent of the meat consumed in the US comes from a highly consolidated, confinement-based model that is often criticised for being neither resource efficient nor humane. The remaining 1-2 percent of commercially available meat fits into the sustainable category, whether organic, grass-fed, or pasture-raised. Amol Deshpande, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (KPCB), agreed to participate in one Hack//Meat event because he sees food innovation as complementing his existing focus on green tech. “The brain power, risk-taking and entrepreneurial mentality in this region can help solve a lot of the problems in agriculture,” he said. (Guardian Sustainable Business)
Policy and Research
Ditching low carbon investment could put the UK back into recession
According to a new report released today by the UK think-tank Green Alliance, infrastructure investment worth £180 billion and equating to 12 percent of the GDP is at risk because of the UK Government’s unclear commitment to a low carbon economy. The report states that a clear low carbon commitment from the Government could unlock the potential of private sector investment. The findings of the report attribute low investor confidence as partly resulting from the perception that the UK Government is not fully committed to funding its low carbon direction. (Edie News)