Top Stories

July 22, 2014

Corporate Reputation

Report: Brands ‘not trusted’ yet to deliver on socially responsible products

Brand leaders are at risk of losing one-third of their customers over the next few years if they don’t align their product portfolios more closely with responsible consumption. Researchers have analysed point-of-sale data across different retail chains out in the US, including grocery, convenience, department, and wholesale-club stores. The study, carried out jointly by the Boston Consulting Group and market research company Information Resources, found that ethically and environmentally sourced products accounted for 15% of total sales, with sales growing 9% annually in the past three years – making up 70% of total growth. This growth however is not going to the major product brands, which the study found to have weak offerings in this area. The study suggests that brand leaders need to build consumer trust around the responsibility agenda – for instance, by acquiring a specialty brand and granting it considerable autonomy, or developing a socially responsible brand internally that can be externally validated. The report suggests taking a lead from Starbucks which, by “embracing the fair-trade claim has enriched [its] own value propositions”. (Edie)


Leading companies call for standardised green energy label

A group of leading businesses have put forward plans for a new electricity label designed to inform corporate and domestic customers of the carbon content of the power they consume, in a bid to further drive demand for clean energy. A new report, backed by the Aldersgate Group, BT, EY, HSBC, Reed Elsevier, Sky and the Retail Energy Forum, argues that businesses should call upon their energy suppliers to provide standardised information on the emissions footprint of the power they supply. “Customers have a right to know the ingredients of the product they are buying, but this is not the case in the energy market,” said Andrew Raingold, executive director of the Aldersgate Group. Demand for green energy has soared in the UK in recent years, with specialist green energy suppliers such as Ecotricity and Good Energy reporting significant growth in customer numbers. However, the majority of business and domestic customers still purchase energy directly from the grid. Raingold said that introducing a clear label providing information on the carbon content of different energy tariffs would “lead to more informed procurement decisions, driving much-needed investment in renewables and reducing demand for shale gas or dirty coal”. (Business Green)

Supply Chain

China food scandal spreads, dragging in Japanese chains

The latest food scandal in China is spreading fast, dragging in US coffee chain Starbucks, Burger King and others, as well as McDonald’s products as far away as Japan. McDonald’s and KFC’s parent Yum Brands apologised to Chinese customers on Monday after it emerged that Shanghai Husi Food Co, a unit of US-based OSI Group, had supplied expired meat to the two chains. Starbucks said some of its cafes previously sold products containing chicken originally sourced from Shanghai Husi, a firm that was shut down on Sunday by local regulators after a TV report showed staff using expired meat and picking up meat from the floor to add to the mix. The scare has stirred local consumers and become one of the most discussed topics online among the country’s influential ‘netizens’, with some users spreading long lists of firms thought to be tarnished. Dicos, the Chinese fast food restaurant, is among those affected and has vowed to “carry out a probe into Shanghai Husi Food and its related firms, to understand whether or not it followed national regulations”. The incident highlights the difficulty in ensuring quality and safety along the supply chain in China. (Eco-Business)

Technology & Innovation

Google and EDF join to expose gas leaks under US streets

The US non-profit Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) has launched a partnership with Google Earth Outreach to map thousands of natural gas leaks beneath three American cities; Boston, Indianapolis and New York City’s borough of Staten Island. Using three of Google’s famous Street View cars equipped with special sensors, the organisations gathered millions of data points over thousands of miles of neighbourhood streets, giving citizens and local utilities online access to data on pollution that used to be invisible.The data shows not just the location of leaks but also assesses how big they are, allowing utilities and regulators to prioritise efforts to stop them. Head of EDF, Fred Krupp said that a convergence of tech trends – inexpensive sensors, cloud computing and data analysis, and social media – have led to a “powerful new era of environmental monitoring and protection”.“We are confident that our research will make it faster, easier and cheaper to gather and analyse data on methane leaks and other kinds of pollution,” he added. (GreenBiz)

Responsible Investment

Grants and loans to boost climate change adaptation in East Africa

A new $250 million fund has been announced to be given in grants and interest-free loans to businesses across East Africa. Businesses that qualify in a competition to provide renewable energy solutions in rural areas and enable small-scale farmers to adapt to climate change through projects like irrigation and widening financing opportunities for small businesses in the region, will benefit. The fund, managed by KPMG and fundraised under the umbrella of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) was announced by the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF). Businesses will be required to match the grant which they apply for. “Matching is important because the business must share the risk with the fund” said Hugh Scott, the director of AECF. “The key issue here is to fund agribusiness and renewable energy projects”. The fund offers an opportunity for small businesses with innovative ideas to gain from soft financing at a time when interest rates charged by commercial banks in the region are high. Business ideas that will be considered for funding include cost effective renewable power, commercially viable renewable fuels and other clean energy alternatives. (The East African)


Image Source: “Wal-Mart checkout” by Ben Shumin / CC BY-AS 2.5