Top Stories

September 05, 2014

Corporate Reputation

Groups accuse Apple supplier in China of labour violations

Apple is facing new accusations of violations of labour rights and workplace safety at a supplier in China. The allegations involve employees at a factory in the eastern China city of Suqian that is owned by Catcher Technology, a company producing metal casings for Apple iPads and for other consumer electronics companies. According to a joint report by environmental non-profit group Green America, and China Labour Watch, the employees are made to work excessive overtime and handle toxic chemicals without proper protective clothing. Apple said its most recent annual audit of the Suqian plant, in May, had “found some concrete areas for improvement in Catcher’s operations, and we worked with Catcher to develop a corrective action plan”. Apple have however, launched an immediate investigation in the face of the new allegations. Elizabeth O’Connell, campaigns director at Green America, said: “The health and safety violations found in this factory two years in a row are startling”. Apple has previously faced scrutiny over the working conditions at the factories in China where its products are made. (New York Times)

Technology & Innovation

New technology helps companies choose sustainable products and ingredients

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a product safety testing and certification company, have developed a set of data tools which help businesses source ingredients and products based on their environmental and social responsibility profiles. The ‘Prospector’ search engine component allows engineers and designers to look up materials for new product design, in addition, identifying materials that are more sustainable – ingredients that are free of certain chemicals, have received an environmental certification or comply with environmental regulations. The second component of UL’s tool set is ‘PurView’, a new cloud-based software that allows manufacturers and retailers to choose products based on sustainability criteria that is important to their company – if the product was tested on animals, if it contains a certain chemical or if it was made with fair labour practices, for example. Mathieu Guerville, director of strategy and business development at UL, said: “We’re seeing an interesting trend: Companies are not trying to compete on cost as much as before, but they want to be sure that at least some degree of sustainability is the minimum expectation for everybody”. (Triple Pundit)

Responsible Investment

EIB €500 million climate bond sparks investor rush

Investors have snapped up a new €500 million Climate Awareness Bond (CAB) issued by the European Investment Bank (EIB). Asset managers, insurance companies, and pension funds with a socially responsible investment focus, including Aegon, APG, and Pensionskasse, led the way to buy 63 per cent of the bond, according to the Climate Bond Initiative (CBI). The move is a further vote of confidence in the fast expanding green bonds market, which is widely tipped to enjoy stellar growth this year. Hendrik Tuch, senior portfolio manager at Aegon Asset Management, said: “We think the market for green bonds will grow considerably in coming years as the appetite from investors is more than sufficient to cover an increasing issuance level”. CABs provide investors with the opportunity to invest in projects contributing to climate action. The projects could include green energy projects or district heating, building insulation, or replacing equipment with more energy efficient technology. The Bonds have raised €6.2 billion for renewables and energy efficiency projects since 2007. (Business Green)


Renewable Energy

First commercial-scale biofuel plant opens in US

The USA’s first commercial-scale biofuel plant is now open and will eventually produce more than 110 million litres of fuel a year from corn waste. The £167 million ‘Project Liberty’ plant, supported by grants from the US Department of Energy and Agriculture (DOE), converts baled corn cobs, leaves and stalks into renewable fuel. America’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes the Project Liberty opening is proof that the country is ready for advanced renewable energy production. “It is boosting America’s energy independence, cutting carbon pollution, and holds great promise for our domestic agriculture and energy industries”, he said. Based in Iowa State, the project is a joint venture between ethanol producers POET and technological innovators DSM. POET’s founder and executive chairman Jeff Broin said: “With access now to new sources for energy, Project Liberty can be the first step in transforming our economy, our environment and our national security”. (Edie)


Image source: “Ethanol plant” (public domain)