Top Stories

October 13, 2014


Fortune 500 companies spend more than $15 billion on corporate responsibility

US and UK companies in the Fortune Global 500 spend $15.2 billion a year on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, according to the first report to quantify this spending. The research, carried out by economic consulting firm EPG, found that there was a clear difference in how US and British companies approached CSR. In-kind donations, such as donating free drugs to health programmes or giving free software to universities, accounted for 71 per cent of US spending on CSR. In the UK, it totalled just 46 per cent, with employee volunteering and fundraising making up 34 per cent. The study chose a narrow definition of CSR spending, with the aim of excluding corporate activity that was not entirely philanthropic. But some academics believe that in doing so, the research missed the full scope of business social activity. “For example, a company might engage with education in terms of recruiting new talent in a way that these explicit numbers leave out of the story,” says Ioannis Ioannou of London Business School. “A company doesn’t want to build a school and then just throw money at it. Instead, it wants a model that is self-sustaining or even able to be scaled up.” (Financial Times*)

Circular Economy

UK energy policy ‘vital’ to circular economy success, report argues

A new report warning that current energy policies are stifling the UK’s transition to a circular economy has been welcomed by the renewables industry, with calls for the Government to do more to realise the green potential of waste. The policy paper, launched this week by specialist waste management company Remsol, questions how the energy demands of the recycling industry will be satisfied without access to more affordable and reliable electricity. It argues that alternative energy sources such as wind, wave and solar renewables are unlikely to “meet the demands of the recycling sector”, adding that unless the UK energy policy better recognises the need for a diverse range of energy supplies in recycling, “there’s a real risk that reprocessing factories will relocate to other countries with lower energy costs and a more favourable policy environment”. The report argues that carefully extracted shale gas could play an important role in powering the recycling sector of the circular economy. (Edie)


US craft brewers dramatically reducing carbon emissions by sharing kegs

Over 200 leading craft brewers helped reduce their collective carbon footprint by over 3 million kg of CO2e in 2013 by sharing kegs rather than owning their own, according to a study by keg management company MicroStar Logistics. The findings will be used as a benchmark to help the craft beer industry further minimise its carbon footprint each year. “Sustainability is critically important to our customers and the craft beer industry overall”, said Dan Vorlage, MicroStar’s VP of Marketing and Business Development. “We’re proud to help brewers achieve their sustainability goals by leveraging our unique model, our scale and our logistics expertise to take empty keg miles off the road”. MicroStar recently joined the Environmental Protection Agency‘s SmartWay Program, committing to further track and reduce transportation-related emissions and fuel use. (Sustainable Brands)


Pipeline leaks in Caspian Sea oil project to cost $4 billion

Kashagan, Kazakhstan’s flagship offshore oil project in the Caspian Sea, will need to spend some $4 billion to repair 200 kilometres of pipelines that are leaking corrosive sulphur-containing gas, according to new estimates. The reports confirm long standing fears of environmental organisations and the local community. The project, a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, has already fallen ten years behind schedule and has cost over $40 billion more than estimated. One month after oil production began in September 2013, leaks were discovered and the project was shut down. The Kazakh government estimated that 2.8 million cubic metres of toxic “sour gas” had been flared off, causing the local air and water to turn acidic. Some say that the sour gas is just one of the serious dangers of extracting oil in Kashagan which is drilling for oil from some 4,000 metres under the sea bed. “Releasing oil at 1,000 atmosphere pressure is like releasing a genie in a bottle. Who knows what will happen?”, said professor Muftakh Diarov, a member of the Kazakh National Academy of Sciences. (CorpWatch)

Corporate Reputation

UK workers’ fury as top bosses’ pay soars by 21 percent

Bosses’ pay surged by 21 per cent in the UK last year despite workers’ salaries struggling to outstrip the country’s 1.5 per cent rate of inflation. According to a report by Income Data Services, the average total earnings for a FTSE 100 executive is now £2.4 million, with the increase driven by a sharp rise in share-based pay. The report, covering the year to June, found a 44 per cent increase in long term incentive share awards, and a 12 per cent rise in bonuses. But basic pay saw only a muted 2.5 per cent increase. The research demonstrates the growing disparity between the pay of top bosses and ordinary workers, where a FTSE 100 chief executive now earns an average 120 times more than a full-time employee. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) is expecting thousands of people to converge on London on Saturday for its “Britain Needs a Pay Rise” march. Its general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Now we know who is benefiting from the recovery… It is not the great majority of workers who continue to face cuts in their living standards”. (Independent)


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Image source: “Beam Rack House” by Bbadgett / CC BY-SA 3.0