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March 31, 2015

Indices and Rankings

Oxfam’s latest Behind the Brands scores revealed

Today sees the latest bi-annual update of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands scorecard, which ranks the world’s ten biggest food and beverage companies on their policies and commitments to improve food security and sustainability. Since the last update in October 2014, Unilever has narrowly overtaken Nestlé for first place, with an overall score of 71 percent compared to 69 percent. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo remain respectively on third and fourth place, while Mars has achieved the single largest rise in score, overtaking rivals Danone, Kellogg’s and Mondelēz for fifth place. At the bottom come Associated British Foods (ABF) and General Mills. The scorecard covers seven themes impacting the lives of people living in poverty around the world: transparency, farmers, women, agricultural workers, access to land, water and climate change. Since the scorecard launched two years ago, all of the companies have raised their scores. However, a new briefing paper from Oxfam says that while policies may have improved, the companies still have a long way to go in terms of implementing these new policies in practice. (Oxfam)

International Development

UN orders 10,000 IKEA flat-pack shelters for refugees

This week, the IKEA Foundation announced a plan to provide the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with 10,000 flat-pack Better Shelter units for refugee and disaster aid this year through IKEA’s Housing for All Foundation. The optimal shipping volume, weight, price, safety, durability, health, and comfort of the structures represent a milestone in humanitarian design, according to the Foundation. The prototype was reportedly tested by 40 refugee families in Iraq and Ethiopia, whose feedback resulted in various improvements to the design. Traditional refugee tents are reported to only last for about six months, while the new IKEA-built shelters are designed to last for three years, and come equipped with a solar panel, lamp, windows, ventilation and a locking door. The shelters are designed so that residents can install them using only the tools and instructions contained in the box. (PSFK)


Research study explores the dynamics of corporate-NGO partnerships

Partnerships between multinational corporates, NGOs and development aid agencies are becoming increasingly commonplace as a means of addressing social, environmental or economic challenges. A research study by economics consultancy Maxwell Stamp draws on insights from companies including Coca-Cola, HSBC and Tesco and NGOs such as WaterAid and WWF. It found that the main benefits that corporates sought from partnering were related to the technical expertise and stakeholder relationships held by their NGO or aid agency partners. Partnership projects also often have a high visibility with senior management in corporates as they can provide tangible examples of shared value creation. Though there was consensus on the growing importance of partnerships to corporates, the study identified challenges. Corporates are often frustrated by competiveness between NGOs, and there is often a ‘culture clash’ related to project management discipline. Meanwhile, NGOs and aid agencies often face challenges in persuading their field-based workforce of the merits of collaborating with big business. (Maxwell Stamp)

Circular Economy

H&M and Puma trial clothes recycling technology

Clothing giants H&M and Puma are hoping to prove the value of a new recycling technology that can separate individual fibres and dyes from old clothes. The new partnership will see Puma and H&M use a technology developed by East London start-up, Worn Again, that aims to reduce the millions of tonnes of cotton and polyesters produced each year. Worn Again claims it has developed the world’s first process that uses chemicals to dissolve and separate polyester and cotton from old clothes and textiles. Puma and H&M aim to turn recaptured polyester into pellets of the same quality of virgin oil by-products, and use it to make new clothes. Research by Tecnon OrbiChem, chemical industry analysis firm, estimates that 65 million tonnes of polyester filament and cotton fibre were produced last year. This figure is expected to rise to 90 million tonnes by 2020, but currently only one fifth of the world’s clothes are collected for reuse, with many ending up in landfill or incinerators. (Business Green)


UK doctors demand immediate fracking moratorium

A report by UK health charity, Medact, warns contamination from shale gas extraction could increase risks of cancer, birth defects and lung disease. Doctors and senior health professionals have today urged the government to impose an immediate moratorium on fracking after the report showed the drilling technique generates “numerous” public health risks. It also said that fracking could drive climate change, which would have further impacts on people’s health. Fracking has already been suspended in Wales, Scotland and New York State over health and environment concerns, but is currently allowed in England. Medact says the UK should not compare itself to the mature shale gas industry in the US, because Britain is significantly smaller and wells could be closer to surrounding populations. Medact has requested a full health and environmental impact assessment before fracking can continue. Earlier this year, MPs rejected an 18-month moratorium on fracking. (Business Green)

Image Source: Assembly of Better Shelter prototype, Hilawyen Refugee camp, Dollo Ado, Ethiopia, July 2013 by Better Shelter