Top Stories

September 16, 2014

Supply Chain

H&M steps up work to tackle sustainable supply chains

H&M has teamed up with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to promote sustainable global supply chains in the fashion industry. The new agreement will include joint work on industrial relations, wages and training in factories that supply the Swedish clothing brand. The deal will also position H&M as an ambassador for the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda – an initiative that aims to create jobs, guarantee workers’ rights and promote social inclusion. “We see the cooperation as a great opportunity to further strengthen our work towards the establishment of well-functioning industrial relations on all our strategic production markets”, said H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson.  The clothing company has a strong history of corporate responsibility since launching its social sustainability drive in 2009. In August it was named as the world’s biggest user of sustainable cotton. Praising the collaboration, ILO director-general Guy Ryder, added: “Issues in the garment industry are systemic and require action that helps develop effective industrial relations and promote respect of international labour standards”. (Edie)

Technology & Innovation

Google releases affordable smartphones for “the next five billion”

Google has announced a new line of budget-priced “high quality” smartphones in India, in a bid to make high-quality smartphones accessible to as many people as possible. The ‘Android One’-branded handsets are manufactured by local companies Micromax – already India’s bestselling mobile-phone maker – Karbonn and Spice, but Google has determined a minimum set of features, and has sourced several components to help cut manufacturing costs. Sundar Pichai, who oversees Google’s Android division, said the scheme had delivered economies of scale that meant the first batch of phones could be offered for as low as 6,399 rupees ($105) if bought contract-free. The company has also teamed up with a local network to make it cheaper to download Android updates and new apps. Pichai added the scheme should soon expand to Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and that handset makers Lenovo, Acer, HTC, Asus, Panasonic and Alcatel had recently joined the programme, along with the chipmaker Qualcomm. (BBC)

Climate Change

Big corporations already preparing for carbon pricing agreement, study reveals

Some of the world’s biggest corporations are beginning to factor the likely introduction of a global price on carbon emissions into their business plans, in anticipation of international action to curb climate change. Data gathered for a new CDP report reveals that there is a growing corporate consensus that carbon will soon be priced, with many businesses already incorporating their own internal price. Of the large listed companies that report to CDP some 150 have begun using internal carbon prices, ranging from $6-80 per tonne, to drive green investments. Among them are 29 leading US companies, including banking group Goldman Sachs, tech giant Microsoft and oil major ExxonMobil, each of them pre-empting national regulation. In the UK, major companies such as BP and BSkyB have also disclosed an internal carbon price.  The survey, CDP’s first analysis of corporate attitudes to carbon pricing, also found that 638 companies believe related regulations present a business opportunity, rather than a disadvantage. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)

Responsible Investment

Impact investment taskforce calls for governments to free $1 trillion finance

A new report has called on governments to recognise the potential for social impact investing – and help the private sector unleash $1 trillion in investments ready to generate profits and social good. The document, Impact Investment: The Invisible Heart of Markets, has been produced by the Social Impact Investment Taskforce, which was set up under the UK’s presidency of the G8 in 2013. Sir Ronald Cohen, chair of the Taskforce, explained that there is already $1 trillion in capital from the private sector around the world ready to be invested in businesses and organisations that work for social and environmental good. Interest in the sector is also rising among big players, such as the Rockefeller Foundation. Cohen said, “This is not about increasing or reducing public expenditure, but helping government to benefit from innovation and private sector capital in order to achieve more impact with the money it has”. He also called on governments to reduce barriers for this kind of investment. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)


Sports Direct accused of ‘disregarding’ shareholder concerns

At its annual general meeting last week, UK retailer Sports Direct faced tough questions about practices in regards to its employees, including the use of zero-hour contracts and legal action related to bonus schemes.  Sports Direct has an estimated 20,000 workers in the UK employed on zero-hour contracts, which are used by a number of firms and have been described as exploitative. The company is now facing legal action from employees who were excluded from a bonus scheme because they were on these contracts. In 2013 the bonus scheme paid out £160 million in shares to permanent staff. Responsible investment campaign group ShareAction used the company’s AGM to draw attention to the issues and argues that responsible investors will want Sports Direct to move on from the “unpleasant practice” of zero hour contracts before changes catch up with them. Louise Rouse, director of engagement at ShareAction, said: “The zero hour contract controversy is going to continue to follow Sports Direct and the company is simply going to have to move beyond ‘no comment’ if it wants to stem criticism”. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)


Image source: “H&M Canal City Hakata” by Mano darbas / CC BY-SA 3.0