Top Stories

August 18, 2014

Responsible Investment

Big business increasingly being held to account on climate from shareholders

Twenty global corporations have set goals to cut GHG emissions and source sustainable palm oil in response to 150 climate-related resolutions filed by their shareholders this year. An additional 45 corporate commitments were secured related to sustainability reporting, energy efficiency and carbon asset risk. The companies include Kellogg, General Mills, Mondelez, ConAgra, Panera and Safeway. Most of them are food and beverage firms, supermarket companies and grocery store chains – including some of the top 10 purchasers in the $44 billion palm oil industry. Over the past year, suppliers of more than 55 percent of the world’s palm oil have committed to produce or trade 100 percent deforestation-free palm oil, many of them spurred by shareholders. The data has been released by Ceres, which directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totalling more than $13 trillion. Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said: “The successes this season show that when investors set the bar high, the companies in their portfolios strive harder to integrate sustainability into their business practices”. (Edie)

International Development

DNV GL and UNEP team up to advance green energy in developing countries

Global risk management company, DNV GL, will work with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to improve access to climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies in developing countries. Assisting the work of the UN’s Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), the company aims to stimulate technology cooperation among developed and developing countries in areas such as agriculture, energy, forestry, industry, and water. “Replacing current technologies with cleaner, low-carbon alternatives is a vital part of tackling the causes and effects of climate change”, said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. Since its launch in late 2013, 93 countries have established national CTCN focal points, which collaborate with country stakeholders to develop and relay requests to the centre’s network of experts. Representatives from 74 countries have been trained by the CTCN through regional training initiatives across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The partnership will help in “improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries who are dealing with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis”, Steiner added.  (Business Green)

Inclusive Business

Collecting discarded plastic for a better quality of life

Thread, a Pittsburgh-based B Corp, is employing hundreds of people living in impoverished regions to pick up discarded plastic bottles, which are then turned into recycled polyester fabric. Operating in Honduras and Haiti, Thread supports 225 full-time jobs and 3,000 income-generating opportunities within the collection centres and recycling facilities where the bottles are washed, processed and turned into ‘flake’, the preliminary plastic material necessary for recycled polyester fabric production. The company has partnered with Ramase Lajan, an Executives Without Borders NGO programme whose name translates to “picking up money” in Haitian Creole. Each recycling centre operates as a non-profit private entrepreneurship model which is echoed down the supply chain. Frank Macinksy, Thread’s director of marketing said: “When you ask people in Haiti what they need, they don’t ask for $100 in their pocket or a trip to the market, what they tell you they need is education and jobs. They want the opportunity to have a dignified life through hard work”. (Triple Pundit)

Corporate Reputation

China finds Mercedes-Benz guilty of price fixing

German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz has been found guilty of manipulating prices for after-sales services in China, the official Xinhua news agency has reported. The report said the cost of replacing all the spare parts in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class could be 12 times more than buying a new vehicle. Industry experts say automakers have too much leverage over car dealers and auto part suppliers in China, enabling them to control prices, considered as a violation of the country’s anti-trust laws. China’s 2008 anti-monopoly law allows the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), to impose fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s China revenues for the previous year. Zhou Gao, chief of the anti-trust investigation at the Jiangsu bureau, said: “It is a typical case of a vertical monopoly in which the carmaker uses its leading position to control the prices of its spare parts, repair and maintenance services in downstream markets”. Further investigations have prompted carmakers such as Volkswagen AG’s, Audi and BMW to slash prices on spare parts in recent weeks. (Reuters)


UK banks ‘abused’ loan guarantee for firms

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is examining allegations that government schemes designed to increase lending to small businesses have been abused by high street banks. A claim that government-funded guarantees have been wrongfully secured in order to remove companies’ overdrafts and pass risky SME loans on to the taxpayer is one of a range of issues being looked at by the SFO. The Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme (SFLG) helped lenders to support companies with more than £4 billion between 1981 and 2009, assisting the likes of The Body Shop and Waterstones in their early stages. Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, has called for the government to conduct “a full and comprehensive investigation into these allegations to determine whether there have been abuses and to give the public comfort that taxpayers’ money is not being misused”. (The Times*)


Image source: “Bales of PET bottles” by Michal Maňas / CC BY 3.0

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