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April 10, 2015

Policy & Research

UK Prime Minister pledges statutory ‘paid volunteering leave’

A Conservative government would offer up to 15 million workers three days paid leave a year for volunteering, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged in the run-up to the UK general election. Under the plans, a new law would be passed requiring public sector employers and companies with more than 250 employees to give staff up to three days a year to do voluntary work. Employers would cover the cost. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the move would “enhance productivity” but suggested that employers worried about the impact it would have on their operations would be able to opt out. He also rejected suggestions it could prove a financial burden for smaller firms and public organisations such as the NHS. The Labour Party pointed out that the Conservatives had made a similar pledge in 2008, but the promise had remained unfulfilled. (BBC News)


AkzoNobel and The Economist Intelligence Unit publish future cities report

A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) sponsored by global paints and coatings company, AkzoNobel, explores how cities can create optimal environments for citizens. The report, called Tomorrow’s Cities, states that currently nearly 4 billion people live in cities and the number is expected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050, with over 90% of the growth occurring in Asia and Africa. These regions, however, lack the resources to adapt to the forces of urbanisation and so designing and building ‘future-ready’ cities is key. EUI and AkzoNobel gathered views from city experts and executives from across the world on various topics, including how to make transport more accessible and how to create more age-friendly cities. Other subjects covered include the benefits of empowering communities to improve their environment, learning how to integrate slums and rethinking urban technology. (AkzoNobel)

Supply Chain

Fair Wear launches living wage portal

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), an NGO aiming to improve labour conditions for garment workers, has launched the Living Wage Portal to show brands and retailers the steps they can take to implement a living wage in their supply chains. The portal covers eight major obstacles that prevent garment workers from earning a living wage, including lack of collective bargaining, lack of information on how living wages affect prices, and lack of control by brands over whether extra money reaches workers. The Living Wage Portal uses real-life examples of brands working with factories towards living wages, and also offers insights from Oxfam and trade union IndustriALL. Crucially, it also ties into other work being done by the group, including the enhanced Wage Ladder launched in November – a benchmarking tool that allows the wages paid at any factory to be compared with a range of pre-set reference points such as a country or region, minimum wage, negotiated wage, and living wage estimates by local stakeholders. (Fair Wear; Just Style)


HSBC faces French criminal tax probe

Worldwide banking corporation, HSBC, has said it will fight an order to pay a €1 billion bail after French authorities said they had put the bank under formal criminal investigation for alleged tax evasion. The company said it had been notified on Wednesday that French magistrates had put its Swiss private bank under ‘mise en examen’ – a legal loophole of the country’s criminal system that orders the accused institution to pay a bail fee. The bank said that the decision was “without legal basis and the bail is unwarranted and excessive”. The investigation relates to alleged tax evasion at HSBC’s Swiss bank in 2006 and 2007. Details of 30,000 accounts at HSBC’s Geneva-based private bank were leaked to the French authorities by a whistleblower, Herve Falciani, in 2007. France opened a probe in 2013, and the matter was referred to the French criminal court last month. (BBC News; The Telegraph)


Report: UK ESOS awareness on the rise, but energy managers remain sceptical

The majority of UK businesses are now aware of the government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), but the minority of affected businesses believe it will actually help them develop plans to become more energy-efficient. A report by the sustainability information resource, Edie, found that 82 percent of respondents had heard of the Government’s mandatory energy assessment scheme, but just 30 percent of ESOS-affected businesses believe it will help them identify savings or format plans. ESOS requires all ‘large enterprises’ with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than €50 million to produce detailed reports on their energy use and efficiency before 5 December 2015 and every four years after. Earlier this year, the Environment Agency’s ESOS project manager Jo Scully said that the eventual financial benefits for businesses implementing energy efficiency improvements will massively outweigh the costs of administrating the scheme. (Edie)

Image Source: Sri Lankan garment workers by GarmentsWithoutGuilt/ CC BY-SA 2.0