Top Stories

February 24, 2014

Supply Chain

First companies give to fund for victims of Bangladeshi factory collapse

Five global clothing brands and retailers on Sunday became the first contributors to a new fund raising $40 million for victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh. The collapse of the building in April last year killed more than 1,100 workers and focused global attention on the unsafe working conditions in some Bangladeshi factories and lack of oversight in the supply chains for many global brands. The first five contributors to the new Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund have been announced as El Corte Inglés; Inditex, which includes the brand Zara; Loblaw; Mango; and Mascot. Dan Rees, a representative of the International Labor Organization, which is managing the fund, said that it was “a mechanism that the whole industry can support… We haven’t been able to say that before. What we had before was the blame game”. Activist groups are reportedly now pushing for other companies including Walmart, Children’s Place and Benetton — which have been linked to Rana Plaza — to also make donations. (New York Times)


Fairtrade Foundation calls on UK to pay a sustainable price for bananas

The UK’s Fairtrade Foundation kicks off its Fairtrade Fortnight campaign today by asking UK supermarkets to pay a fair price for their bananas, arguing that poor rates are forcing farmers in developing world countries into poverty. The charity is urging the government to investigate retailers’ pricing policies, saying that the price of a banana in the UK has almost halved compared to 10 years ago, while farmers’ costs have increased steadily. It has invited a banana farmer from Colombia, nicknamed Foncho, to represent the industry during events, and has launched a petition entitled Stick with Foncho. Foncho, whose real name is Albeiro Alfonso Cantillo, said that the non-Fairtrade sector does not allow farmers to make a profit: “With my hand on my heart, the price that we get for our produce is not enough for us to sustain production over here. It is too low for us to have a good quality of life, or at least a decent one.” (Blue and Green Tomorrow)

International Development

WHO urges drug firms to donate antibiotics

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stepped up efforts to eradicate yaws, described as the “forgotten disease”, after the discovery of a single-dose oral antibiotic that can cure it. Wiping out the bacterial skin disease that causes weeping ulcers would, however, depend on whether drug companies were prepared to donate millions of tablets, the WHO said. Only 12 countries – three Pacific islands, eight African countries and Indonesia – are affected by yaws, which mainly affects under-15s in poor, remote populations. The WHO set 2020 as the deadline for the eradication of yaws, and has successfully carried out treatment campaigns using the new antibiotic in Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Expanding the treatment will require more resources, particularly the drug azithromycin. “If we leave it to a country’s ability to buy the drug, it’s going to really delay the speed at which we can reach the target. Our basic objective is now to secure the donation of azithromycin,” said Oriol Mitjà, a technical adviser for the WHO’s neglected tropical diseases department. (Guardian)


Ladbrokes to link executive pay to responsible gambling

UK betting shop Ladbrokes will seek to calm criticism over lucrative fixed-odds gambling machines this week with a vow to link executive pay to targets on tackling problem gambling. The bookmaker also plans to set up a board committee to investigate responsible gambling policies as it responds to widespread criticism of machines dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” by campaigners. UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged last month that he would address the “problem” of fixed-odds betting terminals, indicating that the government would act after an industry-funded review reports in the next few months. Ladbrokes has written to the minister responsible for gambling, Helen Grant, and industry stakeholders saying it will promote the Association of British Bookmakers‘ code of player protection in shop windows from this week. The letter also promises a link between future pay for top bosses, including the company’s chief executive, Richard Glynn, and efforts to tackle problem gambling. (Guardian)


US pushes for greater transparency in EU business regulation

The US is using transatlantic trade negotiations to push for a fundamental change in the way business regulations are drafted in the EU to allow business groups greater input earlier in the process. The move is likely to face resistance in Brussels and draw the ire of critics in Europe already concerned that a proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would weaken consumer regulations and give US corporations the right to challenge European laws. US negotiators argue that the TTIP provides an opportunity to update the way the EU does business, avoid transatlantic differences in future regulations and consumer and other civil society groups a louder voice. US companies complain that they are often shut out of the regulatory process in Europe because the EU system can depend on closed consultations with local industry groups. However, experts said the US push risked giving ammunition to critics, many of whom would see it as a ploy to open the door to more lobbying by US companies in Brussels. (Financial Times*)


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