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October 28, 2015

Supply Chain

Mars launches sustainable rice standard, commits to 100 percent by 2020

Mars Food, in partnership with the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a global alliance of research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organisations convened by UNEP and the International Rice Research Institute, yesterday announced the first global standard for sustainable rice. The SRP standard consists of a set of criteria for sustainable rice cultivation that can be used across the globe to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and improve the lives of rice farmers. As the leading corporation within the SRP and owner of the world’s largest rice brand, Uncle Ben’s, Mars Food played a pivotal role in developing the standard. Mars has announced a commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of its rice (representing around 0.5% of total global supply) by 2020 using the new standard. “The benefit for us is that is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, whilst also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution,” said Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Food. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)

Responsible Investment

Bank of America: Fossil fuel companies risk plague of ‘asbestos’ lawsuits

Oil, gas and coal companies face the mounting risk of legal damages for alleged climate abuse as global leaders signal an end to business-as-usual and draw up sweeping plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Bank of America has warned. Investors in the City are increasingly concerned that fossil fuel groups and their insurers are on the wrong side of a powerful historical shift and could be swamped with exorbitant class-action lawsuits along the lines of tobacco and asbestos litigation in the US. “It is setting off alarm bells that there could be these long tail risks,” said Abyd Karmali, Bank of America’s head of climate finance. Mr Karmali said the United Nations’ COP21 climate summit in Paris in December is likely to be a landmark event that starts to shut the door on parts of the fossil industry. Carbon Tracker, a think tank of former City bankers, said the fundamental risk for the oil, gas and coal industry is that it continues to project an increase in fossil fuel use (and implicitly a four degree world) over the next quarter century as if nothing had changed, when global leaders are calling for a cut of 40 to 70 percent by 2050. (Telegraph)


BlackRock working on launch of fossil free fund

BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, is working on plans for a fossil fuel-free product for launch next year, in a move that provides further evidence concerns about a so-called ‘carbon bubble’ are fast entering the mainstream investment market. David Graham, managing director of BlackRock’s family offices, charities and endowments business, said the company’s Developed World ex Tobacco and Controversial Weapons Index Fund could be converted to also exclude fossil fuels. “We are currently in discussion with existing investors from whom, so far, the reaction has been positive,” he said. Graham also indicated the company was looking at the possibility of additional funds that could exclude fossil fuel assets. “BlackRock is committed to ESG investing, and we are constantly looking at ways to meet our clients’ objectives,” he added. The fossil fuel free fund is expected to launch in early 2016, with the latest news coming just days after BlackRock announced the launch of its Impact World Equity Fund which aims to “[measure] social and environmental outcomes while generating competitive financial returns”. (Business Green)

Corporate Reputation

Chevron’s star witness admits to lying in Amazon pollution case

In March of last year, California-based oil giant Chevron hailed a sweeping victory in a two-decade long legal battle in the Ecuadorean Amazon. A New York federal judge ruled that a $9.5 billion judgment levelled against the company by Ecuador’s highest court was obtained by way of fraud and coercion. The case was largely dependent on Chevron’s main witness, Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorean judge. In New York, Guerra testified that he struck a deal between the plaintiffs and the presiding judge to ghostwrite the verdict. But in testimony given this year before an international tribunal, newly released by the government of Ecuador, Guerra has now admitted that there is no evidence to corroborate such allegations, and that large parts of his sworn testimony were exaggerated and simply not true. “This is the sinking of the Titanic of Chevron’s RICO case,” said Paul Paz y Miño, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Amazon Watch. “Guerra was not credible from day one, and he has now admitted under oath that he lied about the entire case”. (VICE News)


India must resist US pressure on generic drugs, African leaders to say

This week, India hosts 54 African heads of state at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit. According to reports, the visiting leaders will urge India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resist growing pressure from the US government and Western drug multinationals to stop exporting cheap generics to Africa. Kenya’s ambassador in India, Florence Imisa Weche, indicated that the leaders will urge Modi not to dilute India’s current status as the “Pharmacy of the Third World”. The US pharma lobby wants India to limit the production of affordable generics to only what is required for Indian consumers. India’s pro-public health intellectual property policy has been widely hailed in the developing world for enabling the price of HIV drugs to fall 99 percent – from $10,000 per person per year in 2000 to $100 per year today. However, in January Modi publicly assured American CEOs in President Obama’s presence in India that he would “address all their concerns on intellectual property rights”, causing some to worry that he is willing to dilute India’s laws. (The Wire)

Image Source: Rice farmers Mae Wang Chiang Mai Province by Takeaway / CC BY-SA 4.0