Top Stories

December 03, 2014

Human Rights

Investor group launches first wide-scale business and human rights ranking project

A group of investors – Aviva Investors, Calvert Investments and VBDO – alongside the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, The Institute for Human Rights and Business and the investor research agency Eiris, have today announced the launch of the first wide-scale project to rank companies on their human rights performance. The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) will seek to “harness the competitive nature of the markets to drive better human rights performance, namely through developing a transparent, publicly available and credible benchmark.” A total of 500 of the top global companies from four key sectors; Agriculture, ICT, Apparel, and Extractives, will initially be researched and ranked. Giuseppe van der Helm of VBDO said: “Over the next three years the six organisations, making up the CHRB Steering Group, will conduct a worldwide consultation on the methodology and results with diverse stakeholders… When achieved, this will be an extraordinary breakthrough moment for the business and human rights field.” (Eiris)

Renewable Energy

Businesses voice support for US Clean Power Plan

223 companies including industry giants such as IKEA, Mars, VF Corporation and Nestlé have voiced their support for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan”. The plan is the nation’s first comprehensive effort to reduce carbon pollution from existing electric power plants, the largest source of global warming pollution in the US. The EPA estimates the move will reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The companies’ support was communicated in a letter coordinated by the non-profit sustainability advocacy organisation Ceres. Many of the signatory companies have set their own renewable energy and energy efficiency goals, which will be more achievable with enactment of the EPA carbon rule. “These companies recognise that the EPA’s power plant rule is a critical step in mitigating climate risks and accelerating low-carbon technologies that hold enormous economic promise,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres. (Ceres)


Canada’s green energy sector now employs more than tar sands

Canada’s green energy sector has grown so quickly that it now employs more people than the oil sands. About $25 billion has been invested in Canada’s clean energy sector in the past five years, and employment is up 37 per cent, according to a new report from climate think tank Clean Energy Canada. That means the 23,700 people who work in green energy organizations outnumber the 22,340 whose work relates to the oil sands. Wind, solar, run-of-river, and biomass energy has grown by 93 per cent since 2009. Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada, said that government backing is crucial: “Every major industrial sector in Canada – from the aerospace industry to the oil sands – has gotten off the ground with support from the federal government. But in the clean energy sector, the federal government is really missing in action.” (The Globe and Mail)


Trafigura first commodities trader to join extractives transparency drive

Commodities trader Trafigura will be the first among its peers to join the Oslo-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), aimed at increasing transparency of companies’ dealings with governments of natural resources-rich countries. The EITI has 48 member countries, including oil producers like Iraq, Nigeria and Azerbaijan. It also has as members 90 oil, gas and mining companies, but until now no dedicated commodity trading firms. Under the initiative, Trafigura will be required to disclose payments to EITI member countries’ national oil companies for crude oil, gas and petroleum products, as well as payments in the form of corporate taxes and licenses. “We believe that as a leading commodities trader we have a role in disclosing how much we pay”, Trafigura Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Weir said in a statement. The move comes as European governments put more pressure on companies to increase transparency in an effort to curb corruption. (Reuters)


Report: eating less meat is essential to curbing climate change 

Think-tank Chatham House has published a report indicating that decreasing meat consumption is essential to curbing climate change. However, the report also finds that governments and green campaigners are doing nothing to tackle the issue due to fears of a consumer backlash. Rob Bailey, the report’s lead author, said, “There is a deep reluctance to engage because of the received wisdom that it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.” A worldwide survey by Ipsos MORI in the report finds that the global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport industry, but that twice as many people think transport is the bigger contributor to global warming. Past calls for reducing meat consumption, including from the chief of the UN’s climate science panel and the economist Lord Stern, have been rare and controversial. (Guardian)


Image source: Meat processing-01 by Dottorpeni / CC BY 2.0