Top Stories

August 28, 2014

Supply Chain

Central American farmers generate energy from coffee wastewater

A project run by sustainable farming organisation UTZ Certified has proven that it is possible to generate energy, tackle climate change and protect water resources by treating discharges from coffee mills. The ‘Energy from Coffee Wastewater’ project has been implemented in a range of different sized coffee farms in Latin America, with the goal of addressing environmental and health problems caused by the wastewater produced in the coffee industry. “Rural communities and coffee production depend intrinsically on a ready supply of fresh water”, said UTZ Certified’s executive director Han De Groot. “If we want to talk about coffee produced in a sustainable manner then wastewater must be treated when released into the environment”, he added. UTZ says the project has so far had a positive environmental and economic impact on over 5,000 people in the various regions, which has inspired the organisation to replicate the initiative in other Latin American countries. UTZ hopes to get further funds and industry’s support to replicate the initiative in Africa and Asia. (Edie)


Indonesian authorities to step up audits of oil palm companies

Indonesia will crack down on the licensing of companies that have concessions for agriculture on peatlands and rain forests, to curb the world’s fastest rate of deforestation. The agency for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is auditing 18 companies to check for proper licensing. A lack of central government oversight and corruption in licensing, traditionally done at the local level, has contributed to the illegal burning of Indonesia’s peatlands and forests. Commenting on the audits, head of the REDD+ office in Jakarta, Heru Prasetyo said: “After we review the licenses, we register them and we start doing the dirty things like revoking the licenses… Three companies are being prosecuted”. The Environment Ministry is separately investigating 26 companies accused of using fires to clear land in Riau, a national centre for oil palm production. The audits come after Singapore passed a bill last month to fine companies who contribute to trans-boundary haze. Indonesian companies can be put on trial if they fail to participate with mandatory environmental assessments, or use bribery to win licenses, added Prasetyo. (Eco-Business)

Technology & Innovation

Dropcountr launches a new app to manage water usage

California-based start-up Dropcountr is about to launch a water usage app, providing tools to both consumers and utilities in a clear and visual format. The technology will deliver ‘real-time’ data to allow consumers to proactively measure and conserve water usage, in a way that paper bill figures cannot. Dropcountr’s CEO, Robb Barnitt, said: “The average Californian estimates they use half the amount of water than they actually do use… People want to do their part, but don’t have the tools and direction to make a contribution”. The start-up hope to get water utilities companies on board so that data is made available, allowing them to disseminate the system to customers. The app will incorporate features such as push notifications when water use is about to cross over into a higher-rate tier, and alert homeowners when a potential leak is detected. The company hopes that by using the technology and applying their analytics, it will be possible to gather the right kind of data so that a reasonable water budget can be determined at the address level. (Triple Pundit)

Corporate Reputation

Overcharging by outsourcing giant Serco costs NHS millions

Outsourcing giant Serco is embroiled in a fresh misuse of public funds scandal after a company it set up overcharged UK hospitals millions of pounds. Internal documents leaked to Corporate Watch indicate that Viapath, Britain’s biggest pathology services provider, overcharged the National Health Service for diagnostic tests. A 2013 internal audit by the trust into three of the 15 laboratories run by Viapath found its invoicing and billing systems were “unreliable” and contained “material inaccuracies”, amounting to an overcharge of £283,561 over a sample three month period. Viapath has also been dogged by allegations of cost-cutting and clinical failings, as internal documents show increasing concern amongst senior consultants. Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “This is not just about ripping off the taxpayer, but about a failure to provide acceptable quality in a service that is vital for diagnosing what it many cases are serious or even life-threatening illnesses”. (Independent)


FCA fines RBS £14.5m over mortgage advice failures

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) £14.5 million over a catalogue of failings that saw customers given the wrong information regarding mortgage products. In the financial watchdog’s review of the bank’s sales processes carried out in 2012, an array of issues regarding affordability assessments has been uncovered. Out of 164 sales the FCA reviewed, only two delivered the adequate standards required when advising customers on what product is affordable. When problems were first raised by customers the bank also failed to address them, leaving some customers with payments that were not affordable and in some cases even causing the loss of their home. Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA, said: “Taking out a mortgage is one of the most important financial decisions we can make. Poor advice could cost someone their home so it’s vital that the advice process is fit for purpose”. An RBS spokesperson has confirmed that approximately one in every four customers has been affected by the bank’s mistakes. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)


Image source: “coffee-drying” by DirkvdM / CC BY-SA 3.0