Top Stories

October 23, 2014

Human Rights

European Commission urged to keep company “red tape” over human rights concerns

Half of all companies listed on the British FTSE 100, the French CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX 40 have been implicated in allegations of human rights-related abuses over the last decade, a powerful new report published by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) has revealed. The research, which follows just weeks after the European Commission announced it intends to slash regulatory burdens for business, charts a decade of concerns and allegations of human rights abuse and human rights-related issues such as corruption, tax evasion and environmental damage. Concerns have been raised in relation to all sectors, from banking and retail to extractives and pharmaceuticals. Jerome Chaplier, ECCJ coordinator, said: “Governments have failed to oversee or regulate their private sector. With this backdrop, the emphasis from the European Commission on cutting “red tape” is a cause for concern.” Chaplier called for the European Commission to require all companies to conduct human rights due diligence. (Financial Director)


UK CEOs set out vision for controlling rising energy bills

The CEOs of influential UK business and charities have joined forces to launch The Big Energy Vision, a new long-term campaign to empower householders to take control of their rising energy bills. The initiative is being launched during ‘Big Energy Saving Week’, with the growing list of partners including Kingfisher, John Lewis, Home Retail Group and Willmott Dixon. It follows new research finding that energy bills are the top financial concern for households, but that the majority of people feel there is very little they can do about them. The campaign aims to highlight positive and practical actions people can take – from smart metres and digital technology to buying efficient appliances – to control their bills. David Hall, Executive Director of Behaviour Change, which is co-ordinating the campaign alongside Forum for the Future said,  “We know that changing consumer behaviour takes time but our partners are taking a long term view. Our aim is to reach every home in the UK with empowering and positive messages.” Organisations interested in joining are urged to get in touch via the Energy Control website. (Energy Control)

Supply Chain

Indonesian law could bar palm oil companies from protecting forests

A new law passed by the Indonesian government undermines palm oil producers’ commitments to phase deforestation out of their supply chains, according to a new report by Indonesian environmental group, Greenomics. Focusing on the zero deforestation policy established in 2011 by Golden-Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, the report concludes that GAR has successfully demonstrated its commitment to conservation of forests, but warns that the new law may make those gains fleeting.  As the lands GAR has set aside for conservation are classified as ‘plantable’ by the Indonesian state, the government may take away those forests and re-grant the concessions to firms without zero deforestation commitments. The report argues that the government will have to make a conscious effort to support private companies’ conservation initiatives. Failing to do so will undermine zero deforestation commitments as well as the country’s pledge to curb greenhouse emissions. (Eco-Business)

Corporate Reputation

New report ranks US insurance companies’ responses to climate change

Amid growing evidence about the deteriorating effects of climate change,  a survey conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), ranks the  330 largest American insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. Despite strong leadership in some companies, including Swiss Re, Allianz, Prudential and Zurich, the report found overall poor responses among the vast majority. In 2013, the states of New York, California, Washington, Connecticut and Minnesota required large insurers to disclose their climate related risks using the NAIC’s survey. The aim of the survey is to provide regulators, insurers, investors, and other stakeholders with substantive information about the risks insurers face from climate change and the steps they are taking – or are not taking – to respond to those risks. In addition, it offers recommendations for insurers and regulators to improve the insurance sector’s overall management of climate change risks. (Ceres)


Million older workers forced out at huge loss to UK economy

More than a million people over 50 have been pushed out of work due to a combination of redundancy, ill health or forced early retirement, costing the UK economy billions, according to a new report published by the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise, part of UK charity Business in the Community (BITC). The report estimates that if the skills and abilities of the 50-to-64 age group were fully used, UK GDP would be £88bn higher this year, equivalent to 5.6% of GDP. Calling for action from policymakers and employers alike, recommendations in the report include more flexible working and retraining for old workers as well as health packages to help over-50s stay fit enough to work. Pensions minister Steve Webb said: “In the next 10 years there will be 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49, but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and state pension age. Older workers have a huge amount to bring to any workforce and will form an increasingly important section of the labour market.” (Guardian)


Image Source: “Oil palm plantation in Cigudeg-03” by Achmad Rabin Taim / CC By 2.0