Top Stories

December 01, 2014

Climate Policy

Record temperatures raise pressure on UN climate talks

Two weeks of UN climate change negotiations start in Lima today, with countries under pressure to develop the structure of a global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Envoys arriving in Peru’s capital are tasked with constructing a draft version of a deal that nearly 200 governments can assess by May 2015 and sign that December. It will need to limit warming to below 2°C, beyond which scientists say climate-related impacts could become dangerous and potentially irreversible. By the end of the conference countries will need to agree on what types of commitment they will make to a deal. The UN’s Climate Chief, Christiana Figueres, said she was arriving in “confident” spirits due to recent carbon cutting announcements from the US, China and EU. Furthermore, she said, “Never before have the risks of climate change been so obvious and the impacts so visible. Never before have we seen such a desire at all levels of society to take climate action.” (RTCC)

Supply Chain

Sedex launches new ethical audit system that puts workers at centre stage

Sedex, the leading non-profit organisation dedicated to improving global supply chains, has launched its latest version of the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA), an audit procedure which is a compilation of good practice in ethical audit technique encompassing all aspects of responsible business practice. The new version puts employees, including migrant workers, at the centre of an ethical audit, ensuring that their voices are heard and understood via interviews and trade union or worker committee involvement, and by looking at how management communicates with its workforce. Also addressed in the new procedure is the controversial issue of land rights (whether a site has permission to operate in its location), as well as the inclusion of biodiversity requirements. (Sedex)

Renewable Energy

E.ON plans to quit oil and gas and focus on renewable energy

E.ON, Germany’s biggest utility firm, has announced plans to split in two and spin off most of its power generation, energy trading and upstream businesses, in response to turmoil in the European energy sector caused by a prolonged period of weak demand, low wholesale prices and a surge in renewable energy sources. E.ON said it wanted to focus on its renewable activities, regulated distribution networks and tailor-made energy efficiency services, citing “dramatically altered global energy markets, technical innovation, and more diverse customer expectations”. The group said it would start preparing for the listing of the new company created by its breakup next year, with the spin-off taking place after its 2016 annual general meeting. The split will not be accompanied by job cuts; 40,000 employees will remain with the parent group, while the remaining 20,000 will join the new company. (Guardian)

Social Enterprise

UK’s Phone Coop invests in another social enterprise

Phone Coop, the UK’s only customer-owned ethical phone company, has invested £500,000 into community transport social enterprise Hackney Community Transport (HCT) Group, in a rare example of one social enterprise investing its excess capital into another . Vivian Woodell, chief executive of the Phone Coop, said: “We like to ensure that the way we invest surplus cash means that it is working in support of our values, so that it is not just us who earn a return but society as a whole.”. Dai Powell, chief executive of the HCT Group, said: “We also want a world where co-ops and social enterprises buy from each other, invest in one another, building a new business ecosystem based on values and ethics.” The investment marks a key trend in a sector where investment into impact is coming not only from financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals, but now other social enterprises as well. (Pioneers Post)

Responsible Investment

Norway to invest in green technology, despite losses

Norway’s $870 billion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, will invest almost $3 billion into green technology stocks next year, accelerating investments in renewable energy, waste management, energy-storage, transport and agriculture companies. The fund is under political pressure to boost investment in environmentally-friendly areas and reduce its exposure to the coal industry. Yet the shift has proved challenging as investments in the cleanest technologies have generated low returns or even losses. The European Renewable Energy Index, which includes the industry’s 10 largest and most traded stocks, delivered investors a 35 percent loss over the past five years. “No matter what you think, if it’s going to be a good investment or not, it’s very simple: We will invest in this area,” the fund’s CEO Yngve Slyngstad said. “We’re convinced that we will find profitable investment opportunities, and we’re convinced this part of the portfolio will be a long-term outperformer.” (Bloomberg)


Image source: Vallersund handelssted by Marius Meyer / CC BY 3.0