Top Stories

April 28, 2014

Community Investment

Alibaba founders launch charitable trust to inspire Chinese philanthropy

Chinese internet entrepreneur and billionaire Jack Ma is to launch a charitable trust to combat pollution and improve education and healthcare in his home country. Ma and Joe Tsai, the two founders of ecommerce giant Alibaba, have set up two personal trusts that will together receive share options equal to approximately 2% of the company’s equity – roughly $2.5-3 billion according to analysts. Ma, who said he has sought advice from Microsoft founder and renowned philanthropist Bill Gates, said that he would donate more of his personal wealth to the trust over time. He also explained that the funds will focus on China’s considerable environmental and social challenges. “We hope to live in a world with bluer skies, cleaner water and better access to healthcare. I am extremely focused on the environment, medical care and education in China but concern and complaints cannot change the current situation,” he said. Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City and another prolific philanthropist, added, “Their gifts set a new bar for philanthropy in China, and hopefully other entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world will follow in their footsteps.” (Blue and Green Tomorrow)


Unilever expands sustainable living ambition

Consumer goods giant Unilever has announced a third year of good progress on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and an intention to expand further its sustainable living ambition to bring about broader change on a global scale. Unilever CEO, Paul Polman said: “In the three years since we launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we have learned that sustainability drives business growth and a much deeper connection with our employees and consumers. In 2013, we’ve seen good progress, particularly on targets within our direct control. Our Plan is helping us to save money, reduce risk and drive innovation.” In addressing 100 senior sustainability experts in London today, Polman explained that the company will continue to focus its scale, influence, expertise, and resources on making a fundamental change to entire systems, not just incremental improvements. This involves stepping up plans to reduce deforestation and improve food security through sustainable agriculture, and an expanded focus on livelihoods, including fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women and developing inclusive business. (Unilever)


General Electric invests $24 million in giant Indian solar plant

General Electric (GE) has invested $24 million in India’s largest solar power plant, hailing the “incredible potential” for the technology across the country. The investment by GE’s financial services arm in Welspun Energy‘s 151MW plant marks the conglomerate’s first foray into the Indian solar industry. The Neemuch project – one of the world’s largest solar plants – powers 624,000 homes in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and mitigates an estimated 216,372 tons of carbon emissions annually. GE Energy Financial Services has now ploughed more than $10 billion into renewable energy across the globe. In the past three years India has gone from having virtually no solar power to becoming one of the world’s largest solar markets. “With its geography, strong economic growth and commitment from the highest levels of government, India has gained incredible potential for the development of solar power,” said Raghuveer Kurada, business leader for India and South East Asia at GE Energy Financial Services. “Our investment in Welspun Renewables’ solar project helps to realise that potential.” (Business Green)

Sustainability: New ball game for palm oil firms

In the last five months, two palm oil giants who together trade about half the global supply – Wilmar International and Golden Agri Resources – have declared that their sustainability policies will apply not just to their own plantations, but also to those of their suppliers. The two palm oil groups’ resolve to set a new sustainability standard in the industry has prompted others like First Resources to look into doing the same. The pressure from NGOs such as Greenpeace has been mounting for a decade, but the catalyst for these recent developments was the changing tide of sentiment among consumer goods firms. These fundamental changes to large companies operations have allowed at least one company to recognise new business opportunities as momentum gathers for sustainable practices in the palm oil sector. Australia-based New Forests, which manages funds in timberland and environmental markets, is looking to provide a service to restore degraded forests to their natural state. (Business Times Singapore)*


Inflexible employers blamed as 430,000 disabled people quit their jobs in the UK

Almost 430,000 disabled people left their jobs last year, more than double the number that found employment, according to a report published by Scope, the UK disability charity. More than four million disabled people work in the UK, yet the analysis shows that a significant proportion drop out every year — mainly because their employers are inflexible to their needs. Disabled workers blame inflexible employers for failing to allow them to adapt their working patterns to make it easier to work efficiently. This includes physical measures such as ramps and roomier workspace areas to accommodate wheelchairs as well as more flexible working to allow time off for hospital appointments, treatment sessions or working at home. “Disabled people are finding work — this is welcome news. But today’s report shows that a scandalously high number — some 430,000 — have dropped out of work last year,” said Richard Hawkes, Scope chief executive. “As a result the employment rate for disabled people remains alarmingly low.” (The Times)*


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Image source: Solar power plant in India by Citizenmj / CC3.0