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June 02, 2014

Policy & Research

World No Tobacco Day marked with call for higher taxes

World No Tobacco Day was marked this weekend with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners calling on countries to raise taxes on tobacco to discourage its use. “Higher taxation, above anything else, is the most efficient way to stop people from taking up smoking, particularly young people,” said WHO’s Dr Ayda Yurekli, who is helping spearhead the campaign. “Plain packaging is an efficient tool… but higher taxation is still the best preventative.” Nearly six million people still die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and the WHO launched its initiative after calculating that only 8 per cent of people live in countries where the tax on tobacco is prohibitive enough to deter users. Based on 2012 figures, WHO estimates that by increasing tobacco taxes by 50 per cent, countries would reduce the global number of smokers by 49 million within the next three years and potentially save 11 million lives. Recent tax rises in India and the Philippines – where the increases under the Sin Tax Law see proceeds go directly to health programmes – have resulted in significant falls in the number of smokers. (The Independent)

Supply Chain

Danone extends sustainable palm oil pledge

Danone has committed to sourcing traceable palm oil with no links to deforestation, setting a goal to map its palm oil supply chain by the end of next year. The company says it is on track to buy 100 percent segregated oil certified to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards by the end of the year but wants to push beyond the standards to ensure that its suppliers’ practices safeguard other vulnerable ecosystems, in addition to old-growth forests, such as tropical peatland and second-growth forests. Danone will work with The Forest Trust (TFT) to ensure its palm oil is free from deforestation and exploitation of workers and the environment. TFT says mapping will give Danone an accurate picture of any changes suppliers need to implement to reach its goal. Danone’s traceable palm oil pledge follows a series of similar commitments by companies including Colgate-Palmolive, General Mills and Mars. (Environmental Leader)


China’s growing hunger for dairy raises fears over sustainable production

China’s milk consumption has grown significantly over the past decade, whereby a Chinese consumer now drinks around 10kg of liquid milk a year, up from 1kg in 2000. This has seen China’s dairy industry double in value over the past five years to an estimated $40.6 billion, leading to talk of a “white gold rush”. The country has more than 40 farms with herds of more than 10,000 cows, local media reports suggest, and imports are escalating. The shift towards mega-farms is actively supported by the Chinese government but, according to campaigners, could pose animal welfare risks and have serious environmental and food safety implications. Rates of brucellosis, mastitis and other diseases associated with industrialised factory farming are already on the rise in Chinese herds, and environmental pollution is also a concern. To help combat the issues, FrieslandCampina, a Dutch farming cooperative representing over 14,000 dairy farms, is running a technical training programme for farmers in Asia and Africa. The Dairy Development Programme offers practical advice on everything from good feeding and fertility practices to energy efficiency and water management. (Guardian)

Community Investment

JPMorgan Chase commits $30 million to improving financial capability

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Center for Financial Services Innovation have announced their collaboration on the Financial Solutions LabSM, a new $30 million, five-year initiative that will bring together social entrepreneurs and leading experts in technology, behavioural economics and design to improve financial capability. This cross-industry initiative intends to catalyse the development of innovative, technology-enabled strategies, products and services that align with consumers’ financial needs. “The Financial Solutions Lab will bring together the best and brightest to identify innovative solutions that help consumers increase savings, improve credit and build assets” said Bruce McNamer, Chief Executive Officer of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Over the course of the next five years, the Financial Solutions Lab will host a series of competitions for social entrepreneurs to identify products and services designed to help consumers improve their financial health. Leading ideas will be able to be supported with capital, technical assistance and third-party evaluation. (Next Billion)


FIFA faces call to run World Cup vote again

FIFA, the international football governing body, is coming under renewed pressure to re-run the vote for the location of the 2022 World Cup after a whistleblower leaked documents said to reveal $5 million of secret payments to help Qatar win its bid to host the tournament. The Sunday Times alleged some of the payments were made to senior African football officials so they could influence the four African representatives on the FIFA executive committee voting in the election. The newspaper said it was in possession of an electronic database of “hundreds of millions of emails, accounts and other documents” from the whistleblower. If it is clear that the decision made involved payments and possible corruption, “that makes the case for reopening the vote overwhelming” said the UK’s John Whittingdale MP, who headed an inquiry into allegations surrounding the FIFA vote for the 2018 World Cup. The new claims are not the first problems to beset Qatar’s hosting of the tournament. Human rights groups have also accused the emirate of failing to protect the rights of thousands of workers who are building the infrastructure for the competition. (Financial Times*)


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Image source: Shag-tobacco-01 (xndr) / CC BY-SA 3.0