Top Stories

November 11, 2014


Rich countries subsidising oil, gas and coal companies by $88bn a year

Rich countries, including the US, the UK, Australia and Russia, are subsidising oil, gas and coal companies by about $88 billion a year to explore for new reserves, despite evidence that most fossil fuels must be left in the ground if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. A new report published by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International has found that most of the support is in the form of tax breaks in exploration in deep offshore fields. According to the report, Britain is one of the most generous countries, having given tax breaks to companies such as GDF-Suez, Total and Chevron. The report argues that reforming fossil fuel subsidies is a critical issue for tackling climate change. It further criticises the G20 countries for providing over $520 million a year in indirect exploration subsidies via organisations including the World Bank. The authors stress that about four times as much money is spent on fossil fuel exploration as on investment in renewable energy. (Guardian)


Mismatch between boardroom skills and business challenges, says survey

A new report by recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash casts new light on the changing role of Non-Executive Directors as the corporate environment demands more transparency, accountability and diversity in its board room. A key finding from the research, which is based on data and interviews with hundreds of board members across the UK, is a stark mismatch between the skillsets on boards and the challenges faced by organisations. Over half of respondents thought digital, talent management and corporate reputation/brand were increasingly becoming issues, highlighting that diversity of experience is a problem. Christine de Largy, Chair of the UK Board Practice, said “we know that organisations are working hard to appoint more diverse boards but there is still much more to be done. The importance of formal board assessments, opening up the brief to include more diverse candidates and identifying robust assessment criteria are critical to  align the strategic objectives  with the  appoint of non-executives who can add real value.” (Harvey Nash)


UK employers call for action on living standards and low pay

Only one in four UK workers who were low-paid a decade ago have managed to move on to higher pay, according to a new study by the Resolution Foundation, commissioned by the government commission for social mobility. Key characteristics of “escapers”, who saw their wages grow by on average 7.5 percent in real terms over the decade, include having or obtaining a degree, possessing a positive outlook for the future and working for a large employer. Barriers to pay progression appear to include working part-time, or being older, a single parent or disabled. Workers also tend to stay in low pay if they are in specific sectors such as sales or hospitality. The report came as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at its annual conference in London called for government measures to help the poorest in work and discussed what business could do to tackle low pay. (Guardian)


Recent laws not tackling root cause of Southeast Asian haze

Recent laws enacted to tackle the ‘haze’ pollution plaguing Southeast Asia are a welcome move but will do little to tackle the issue if the root cause is not addressed, environmental groups have warned. Singapore recently passed the Transboundary Haze Bill to punish errant companies whose actions result in haze, and Indonesia’s Parliament ratified the Asean haze agreement in September. Haze has been blowing into Malaysia and Singapore in recent weeks from forest and plantation fires in the southern part of Sumatra, a recurring phenomenon over the past decades. The consensus at a dialogue organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), was that companies need to uphold their no deforestation pledges and demand the same of their suppliers. Four prominent traders in palm oil, Wilmar International, Golden Agri Resources, Cargill and Apical committed to a no deforestation pledge at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September. “Now the question is what proactive steps these traders will take to prevent fires in their supply chains,” said SIIA’s director Chua Chin Wei. (Eco Business)


WRAP reveals plan for next wave of retail waste reduction

The UK’s leading retailers and their suppliers have begun work on the next wave of voluntary waste reduction targets, with a view to finalising the next phase of the so-called Courtauld Commitment from 2016. Waste advisory body WRAP confirmed yesterday it has started discussions with government and industry stakeholders on a proposed 10 year programme dubbed Courtauld 2025. Signatories to the Courtauld Commitment, which include many of the UK’s largest supermarkets and their suppliers, are currently working to reduce food waste by five percent, curb supply chain waste by three percent and make reduce packaging waste by three percent by 2016, against a 2012 baseline. A spokeswoman for WRAP said a new wave of targets was now being planned that could include water waste for the first time. (Business Green)


Image Source: “West Texas Pumpjack” by Eric Kounce / Public commons