Top Stories

September 10, 2014

Supply Chain

Chiquita sued for deceptive sustainability claims

Chiquita Brands International, one of the world’s largest distributors of bananas, has received notice of a lawsuit filed by Seattle-based Water and Sanitation Health (WASH) accusing the company of deceptive advertising practices, over its claims that its bananas are “farmed in an ecologically friendly and sustainable manner”. This, according to WASH founder Eric John Harrison, “is far from the truth”. According to the lawsuit, some 7,200 residents are at risk in various Guatemalan communities from fungicides containing nitrates and heavy metals. At 10 times the recommended safe levels, these are sprayed on the plantations, which have no buffer zones separating them from homes, schools or local water supplies. “Chiquita sells millions of pounds of bananas that are produced in ways that destroy natural ecosystems and contaminate the drinking water of local communities living next to Chiquita’s largest Guatemalan supplier”, Harrison said.  A Chiquita spokesperson said the company was considering filing a countersuit against Harrison and WASH for “defamation and other torts associated with his incorrect statements”. (Triple Pundit)


Companies are at risk of sourcing illegal palm oil despite zero deforestation commitments

Major palm oil suppliers may be continuing to buy tainted palm oil despite high-profile commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, reports a new investigation published by Eyes on the Forest. The study tracked fresh fruit bunches illegally produced within protected Sumatra Provinces, finding that the contraband fruit entered palm oil processing facilities who ship palm oil to a port owned by SK Group. Customers of SK Group include Asian Agri and Cargill, who have taken steps toward eliminating deforestation from their palm oil supply chains. Eyes on the Forest says buyers will have to trace palm oil all the way back to plantations in order to ensure their zero deforestation commitments are credible. “It is essential that responsible palm oil product providers trace the origin of their products to the plantation level”, the report states. (Eco-Business)

Technology & Innovation

Renault and Bolloré bet on electric cars

French billionaire Vincent Bolloré and carmaker Renault are teaming up to make electric cars. In 2015, Renault will begin producing Bolloré’s Bluecar electric vehicle, which has been used in Paris’s Autolib system – an electric car-sharing scheme also operating in Lyon and Bordeaux. The pair have also announced they will set up a joint venture for car-sharing services and will carry out a feasibility study for Renault to make a new three-seater electric vehicle using batteries made by Bolloré. When introduced, electric cars were adopted slower than expected, despite being heralded as the future of the industry. “The lack of charging infrastructure put people off buying electric cars, but the infrastructure wasn’t being built because there weren’t enough vehicles on the road,” said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity – a low-carbon focused energy supplier. However, Bolloré and Renault are betting on a surge in demand for emission-free vehicles and the expansion of ‘green’ urban car hire schemes. (Financial Times*)

Human Rights

Human rights violations have increased 70 percent since 2008 globally

Since 2008, there has been an unprecedented rise in human rights violations globally, up 70% according to the 2014 Human Rights Risk Atlas – published by risks analytics firm Maplecroft. Workers’ rights are seriously compromised and rural and indigenous communities are facing land grabs and forced displacement amid growing demand for low-cost labour and resources, the report says. In September 2013, the UK government set an action plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but campaigners argue that this summer’s shocking revelations about slavery in the Thai fishing industry, which supplies prawns to global retailers, demonstrate that voluntary systems are failing to identify and eradicate these practices. At European level, a coalition led by Global Witness is pressing for meaningful action to end the trade in conflict minerals, going beyond the voluntary scheme currently being proposed by the EU Commission. (Guardian)


Rapanui hopes to set sustainable trend for fashion industry

Eco-clothing brand Rapanui has announced plans to tackle the problem of ‘throwaway fashion’ by offering store credit to customers who return last season’s clothes. Customers’ old clothes will be recycled, adding to Rapanui’s reputation of sustainability; the company makes its t-shirts, tops and sweats from 100% certified organic cotton in a wind-powered factory. Rapanui designer Martin Drake-Knight believes there is a conflict between fashion and the environment, as products end up unused in customers’ wardrobe season on season. “We want to heal that and find a way for people to enjoy shopping, and fashion, without creating mountains of waste”, he said. Rapanui is fully transparent in its production, having created a ‘traceability map’, which tracks the entire product supply chain from the planting of the seed, to the processing of the fabric, to transportation. Commenting on the scheme, Rapanui co-founder Rob Drake-Knight said: “It’s another way we’ve proved that sustainability and fashion don’t have to be in conflict”. (Edie)


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Image source: “Banana plantation” by Luc Viatour / CC BY-SA 2.0