Top Stories

November 24, 2015

Human Rights

Nestlé reports on abuses in Thailand’s seafood industry

The seafood industry in Thailand suffers from widespread labour and human rights abuses, exposing virtually all American and European companies that buy seafood from there to the “endemic risk” of having these problems as part of their supply chain, according to a report released by the food giant Nestlé. The report catalogued deceptive recruitment practices, hazardous working conditions and violence on fishing boats and in processing factories. It also criticized the industry for taking insufficient steps to ensure that workers were not underage. The report further states that most of Thailand’s seafood workers are migrants from neighbouring Cambodia or Myanmar, who were brought into Thailand illegally by traffickers, provided fake documents and often sold to boat captains. Nestlé said that next year it would announce new requirements for all potential suppliers to improve labour conditions, as well as  a plan for rigorous compliance checks. As Nestlé is the world’s biggest food company, the report says, “It is seen as a leader in the industry, and could have a positive impact on the whole industry by raising the bar on labour protection.” (NY Times)

Climate Change

Britain’s Prince Charles: climate change root cause of Syrian war

Britain’s Prince Charles has pointed to the world’s failure to tackle climate change as a root cause of the civil war in Syria, terrorism and Europe’s current refugee crisis. The heir to the British throne is due to give a keynote speech at the opening of a global climate summit in Paris next week where 118 world leaders will gather to try to nail down a deal to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions. The prince said in an interview recorded before the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that such symptoms were a “classic case of not dealing with the problem”. “Some of us were saying 20 something years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues, you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought,” he said. “And in fact there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria… was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land but increasingly they came into the cities.” (Eco-Business)


Qatar delivers target-free INDC in final flurry of national climate pledges

Qatar has become one of a final wave of countries to have submitted national climate pledges ahead of the UN conference on climate change, which is due to begin next week in Paris. The oil-rich nation delivered a non-committal ‘intended nationally determined contribution’ (INDC) in which it acknowledged its vulnerability to sea level rise caused by climate change but said policies to slash carbon emissions could damage its economy. Qatar has the highest ratio of GDP per capita of any country on Earth according to Global Finance magazine. Qatar’s climate plan, submitted late last week, outlines plans to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources such as solar. However, it did not set specific targets for these mitigation measures, and said it needs better access to clean technology breakthroughs made by industrialised economies if it is to successfully cut emissions. The INDC is part of a wave of last-minute pledges from countries keen to submit their climate plans before the Paris conference kicks off next week. (Business Green)


Philippines wrestles with fossil fuel dilemma

The president of the Philippines has said that new coal plants are needed to meet demands for energy. This comes despite environmental groups and some leading Filipino politicians arguing that coal is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Coal emits more greenhouse gas than any other fossil fuel, and climate scientists have long concluded that burning more coal will undermine efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures. However, many developing countries facing rapid increases in population and surging economic growth see coal as a relatively cheap option, which is why the Philippines is planning a total of 23 new coal plants. China, India and other fast-growing Asian economies also have plans for hundreds of new coal power stations. The dilemma of how developing countries should generate electricity – and whether they should follow the path of the nations which industrialised first and became rich using coal – will loom large at the UN summit on climate change in Paris starting next week. (BBC)

Responsible Investment

World’s ‘first’ fossil-free fund hits stock exchange

A new socially responsible and fossil-free exchange-traded fund was launched on the New York Stock Exchange last week. The ETHO ETF fund, launched by investment management companies Etho Capital and Factor Advisors, is made up of equities from the Etho Climate Leadership Index (ECLI), which lists 400 “climate-efficient” companies across various sectors. As well as being divested from fossil fuels, the new index also shuns investment in tobacco, weapons, and gambling companies and applies screening for social responsibility to the companies it invests in. “Our research shows that investing in climate-efficient companies can yield higher returns,” said Conor Platt, co-founder, chief executive officer of Etho Capital. “Investors want options that prioritise both profits and the planet, and ETHO is helping fill these needs.” According to Etho Capital, ETHO ETF is the world’s first broad-based, diversified and fossil-free exchange-traded fund without exposure to the energy sector , filling a critical void in the fossil-free investment sector by optimising both sustainability and financial returns. (Business Green)

Image Source: Prince Charles 2012 by Maximus0970 / CC BY-SA 2.0