Top Stories

April 17, 2015


Banks are realising the importance and potential for investments in water

According to the World Economic Forum, water scarcity ranks first among all long-term risks worldwide. Australia, Brazil and the United States are only a few examples of where droughts have affected everything from agriculture, hydropower and those everyday tasks most of us take for granted. In California, the annual snowpack this year was only 12 percent of normal, which has had a huge impact on the state’s skiing industry as well as its growing dairy sector. More and more companies are starting to grasp the impact that the global water crises will have on their businesses, especially the financial sector. Recent announcements by Wells Fargo and Bank of America, who have both partnered with water related NGOs, indicate that banks are starting to take a larger interest in the threats of global water shortages on society and the global economy. (2 degrees)

Diageo to slash water use in half

Drinks giant Diageo has vowed to improve its water efficiency by 50 percent, replenish water in water-stressed areas and return all waste water back to the environment as part of an ambitious new water stewardship strategy.  The Water Blueprint report has been cited by Diageo as a “critical supporting pillar” of its twenty sustainability and responsibility targets published in December 2014 – all of which are aligned to the emerging United Nations Sustainable Development goals. It details how the producer of Guinness and Smirnoff will protect and manage its water resources as the business expands into emerging markets across the globe. Diageo’s Water Blueprint is based on four core areas: in its sourcing of raw materials; in its own operations; within the communities in which it operates; and through local and global advocacy for best practice in water stewardship.  Diageo’s new water strategy has been welcomed by green groups and water charities such as WaterAid. (Edie)

Supply Chain

Rana Plaza clothing factory disaster fund still short of target

Two years after the collapse of a Bangladeshi garment factory building which killed more than 1,100 people, a fund to compensate the victims of the disaster remains US $7 million short of its US $30 million target. Benetton, the Italian clothing company says it will contribute US $1.1 million to the fund, making it the last major western brand linked to Rana Plaza building to donate. Benetton’s contribution brings the total to US $23 million but is likely to disappoint labour unions, which had previously appealed to Benetton to fill all, or most, of the funding gap. Marco Airoldi, Benetton chief executive, said US $1.1 million is double the payment it was advised to make by PwC, the professional services group, which Benetton commissioned to assess its fair contribution. PwC estimated that Benetton’s sourcing of some 267,000 shirts from a factory in Rana Plaza was less than 2 per cent of the building’s total output in the 12 months before the disaster. (The Financial Times)*


UK government to investigate Rio Tinto’s role in potential Burma sanctions busting

The UK Government will investigate the British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto over a possible breach of EU economic sanctions on Burma, Amnesty International has reported. Rio Tinto was instrumental in setting up the secretive Monywa Trust, a mining fund, which enabled Canadian-based Ivanhoe Mines (now Turquoise Hill Resources) to divest its stake in the controversial Monywa copper mine project in central Burma, where abuses have included forced evictions and extreme pollution.  Rio Tinto has been a major shareholder of Ivanhoe since 2006 and took a controlling stake in the company in 2012. Information obtained by Amnesty International suggests that the Trust’s subsequent sale of Ivanhoe’s stake could have involved a breach of economic sanctions on Myanmar, by making assets available to the military-owned conglomerate the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding (UMEHL) and Tay Za, a ‘broker’ for the Myanmar government. (Amnesty International)


How scientists are annotating climate reporting

Climate Feedback, a network of climate scientists, oceanographers, and atmosperic physicists is making use of a browser plugin from NGO, which develops web tools, to annotate climate journalism on the web. Readers with the plugin, or with a link created through it, can read an article while simultaneously reading comments and citations from a cadre of experts. Click on the headline, and you’ll see an overall rating, based on the article’s accuracy, fairness, and adherence to evidence. About 25 scientists are listed as contributors, and more can apply as long as they are actively publishing climate research. Because the plugin is still in development, a small group of experimental users is providing input to Climate Feedback on how to best make use of it. Emmanuel Vincent, the leader of the network, says that the ultimate goal isn’t to fact-check, but to foster more scientific thinking in journalists and ultimately build more communication between the two parties. (Columbia Journalism Review)

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Image Source: The Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection by Ben Smith/ CC BY-SA 2.0