Top Stories

August 13, 2014

Policy & Research

Just four companies reveal gender pay gap under UK government scheme

A UK initiative encouraging hundreds of companies to disclose differences in pay for male and female staff has recorded just a handful of participating firms, new figures show. Launched in 2011, over 200 companies have signed up to the Think, Act, Report initiative, which aims to challenge the gender pay gap difference through transparency. However, only four companies have published their gender pay gap data. Following a survey last year, former Lib Dem women and equalities minister, Jenny Willott said: “At least two companies, Friends Life and Genesis Housing, publish detailed gender pay gap information broken down by every grade… Two others, Tesco and AstraZeneca, published general pay gap statistics”. Gloria De Piero, the shadow women and equalities minister, believes more than £90,000 of public money has been spent on the initiative so far, with few results. A government spokesperson defended Think, Act, Report, saying: “For many companies – especially those in traditionally male-dominated sectors – signing up is a positive first step”. (Guardian)

International Development

Coca-Cola announces new $5 billion sustainable investments in Africa

Coca-Cola has announced a new investment of $5 billion in Africa over the next six years, raising its total committed investments in the continent to over $17 billion for 2010 to 2020. Additional investment will be utilised to set up new manufacturing lines, cooling and distribution infrastructure, support key sustainability initiatives, as well as community development projects. The announcement follows the recent Africa Leaders’ Summit, where US President Obama pledged to increase private investment in Africa. Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said: “Even as we see tremendous growth potential in Africa, we know that the strength and sustainability of our business are tied directly to the strength and sustainability of the African communities we proudly serve”. The company has also signed a letter of intent to launch ‘Source Africa’, an initiative to secure more consistent and sustainable local ingredient sourcing for its products in partnership with the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and Grow Africa. (Just Means)

Community Investment

Tesco asks customers to choose which charity receives its carrier bag levy proceeds

Supermarket giant Tesco has invited its customers to decide which charity should get the proceeds of its new plastic carrier bag charge. From October 20, Scotland will follow the lead of Wales in introducing a 5 pence charge for carrier bags, in a bid to cut waste and boost recycling. Tesco expects the charges to raise £1.8 million from the two countries, and has asked its customers to vote for the charity they want to see the funds donated to. Over 120 organisations applied for the funding, and the supermarket has now whittled them down to a shortlist of four. “This is a fantastic opportunity for organisations to partner with us and make a real difference to the communities they serve,” said Greg Sage, community director for Tesco. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, added: “We’d like to see as many retailers as possible taking the opportunity to support good causes with the proceeds from carrier bag sales in the future”. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)

Technology & Innovation

Free online sustainability resource for facilities management and services industry

A free resource, due to be launched in January 2015, will help facilities management (FM) and services sector suppliers, contractors and clients to boost their sustainability credentials. The new online service has been created by the award-winning Supply Chain Sustainability School, founded in 2012 by construction companies including Skanska, Kier and Willmott Dixon. Members will be able to access e-learning modules and track their progress, get involved in supplier development days, and participate in group discussions. Allowing businesses to meet their stakeholder requirements, “the School will offer a free support resource – built upon responsive, innovative and sustainable best practice”, said David Picton, chair of the School’s FM leadership group. The school expansion recognises the growth of the FM market, as well as the diverse challenges faced by businesses within the industry. Picton added: “Environmental, social and economic responsibilities have become key to any balanced, long-term growth, but the demands on the FM Services supply chain are complex, dynamic and pressurised”. (Edie)


Green signal for ‘Britain’s first’ battery-powered train

The UK’s Network Rail is trialling a prototype battery-powered train it claims could prove a cost-effective and sustainable zero emission replacement for diesel engines. The train normally operates using electricity drawn from overhead power lines, but has now been retrofitted with six lithium iron magnesium battery rafts. Along with its partners, including Bombardier, Abellio Greater Anglia, and the Department for Transport, it believes battery-powered trains could bring these environmental and financial benefits to otherwise non-electrified parts of the network. The trials follow Network Rail’s successful testing of several types of battery technologies last year. James Ambrose, senior engineer leading on the Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) project, said: “Over the next five years, Network Rail has a target to reduce the cost of running Britain’s railway by a further 20 per cent. At the same time, we are always looking for ways to make the railway greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals”. (Business Green)


Image source: “Tesco Kingston Park” by Mankind 2k / CC BY 3.0