Top Stories

September 11, 2014

Rankings & Standards

Results announced for 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices, in conjunction with RobecoSAM, the investment specialist focused exclusively on sustainability investing, today announced the results of the annual Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) review. The index tracks the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide based on an analysis of financially material economic, environmental, and social factors. The 2014 industry group leaders consist of a range of global companies, including US healthcare company Abbott and consumer goods giant Unilever. AkzoNobel, for the third year running, has outperformed more than 350 companies in the Materials industry group to take the top spot. This year marks the 15 year anniversary of the DJSI, providing investors with sophisticated benchmarks for corporate responsibility. Celebrating the milestone, Guido Giese, Head of Indices at RobecoSAM, said: “companies continue to tell us that the DJSI provides an excellent tool to measure the effectiveness of their sustainability strategies”. (DJSI)

Supply Chain

Congo’s miners bear brunt of attempts to make minerals conflict-free

US legislation that requires firms to trace the supply chains of minerals sourced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is disrupting people’s livelihoods and creating sources of funding for armed groups, according to an open letter signed by 70 academics, politicians and civil society professionals. The letter warns that measures to block armed groups from selling minerals “risk contributing to, rather than alleviating, the very conflicts they set out to address”. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, US companies are required to submit due diligence reports that prove minerals sourced in the DRC do not “directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups”. Products that meet this requirement are labelled conflict-free. But experts say many Congolese rely on small-scale artisanal mining, which is difficult to track, meaning that legislation is harming these subsistence miners. Large multinational companies such as Apple and Intel depend on Congolese minerals, and many have adopted policies in line with transparency legislation. (Guardian)


Hershey uses mobile technology to reach 100% fair trade goal by 2020

The Hershey Company has adopted a unique programme to increase the production of fair trade certified cocoa, in order to meet the rising demand. Efforts to transform traditional farms into fair trade farms, requires the support and commitment from the farmers producing the beans.  In partnership with the Ghana Cocoa Research Institute and the Ghana Cocoa Board, Hershey has initiated CocoaLink, a unique program that uses low-cost, mobile phone technology to carry social and agricultural information. Based on fair trade principles and techniques, the information educates farmers on best practices for harvesting, pruning, the use of pesticides and labour practices, including when children can and cannot participate in farming because of child labour laws. Project Director of Hershey’s CocoaLink programme, Tawaih Agyarko-Kwarteng, said: “90 percent of people in Ghana own mobile phones. We realised there was an opportunity to reach farmers with agricultural information, particularly those we can’t reach easily in person”.  Farmers voluntarily sign up to receive CocoaLink updates and can send messages and questions back to the platform. (Just Means)

Corporate Reputation

 General Mills acquire Annie’s, riding demand for “authentic, values-driven products”

General Mills has announced the $820 million acquisition of Annie’s Inc, a leading US producer of branded organic and natural food products. Annie’s is known for creating healthy, organic products free from the artificial flavours, colours or preservatives used in many other conventional packaged foods. The company will join General Mills’ US natural and organic products portfolio. “We are excited about this strategic combination, which will enable Annie’s to expand the reach and breadth of our high quality, great tasting organic and natural products”, said Annie’s CEO John Foraker. He also added that, despite the merger, their values would remain the same. “Sustainable business practices will continue to be the cornerstones of the Annie’s brand”, Foraker said.  However, some have identified a conflict of interest between the firms, noting that General Mills has opposed state-level efforts to label genetically modified foods, while Annie’s has pushed for tougher labeling requirements. (Sustainable Brands)


Canadian beekeepers set to take pesticide companies to court

Sun Parlour Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, two of Ontario’s largest honey producers, are to sue pesticide manufacturers as bee populations continue to dwindle. The class action lawsuit alleges that Bayer Cropscience and Syngenta Canada were negligent in their design, manufacture, sale and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides. They seek $450 million in damages, with impacts ranging from bee deaths, to reduced honey production, to impacts on the quality of honey. “Beekeepers have suffered, and will continue to suffer devastating economic hardships as a result of the continued use of neonicotinoids”, the lawsuit states. A report by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists found that bee colonies declined by 58 percent last year. The European Commission has restricted the use of the pesticides for two years and Ontario has indicated it will also move toward regulating them, following the concerns over bee health. (Sustainable Business)


Image source: “Wolframite Mining in Kailo” by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0