Top Stories

February 05, 2016


Human Rights

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark announces companies for pilot ranking

The Corporate Human Rights Benchmark has announced the companies it will include in its pilot ranking, to be released by June 2016. The pilot benchmark will include 100 global companies from across the extractives, apparel and agricultural products industries. The Benchmark was originally announced in 2014 and is supported by investors Aviva, Calvert, Nordea and VBDO, as well as the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the Institute for Human Rights and Business and the investor research agency Vigeo Eiris. The pilot benchmark follows multi-stakeholder consultations covering 404 individuals and organisations who have helped to shape the assessment methodology. The full list of companies to be benchmarked covers 43 extractives, including Rio Tinto and Chevron, 34 agricultural products companies, such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, 23 apparel, including Nike and H&M, and some companies who straddle industries, including M&S and Wal-Mart. BHRRC; Livemint)


Report: Investor push urged to help secure indigenous land rights

Conditions are ripe for a global leap forward in recognising the land rights of indigenous people and forest communities, but investors and the public need to pressure governments to make it happen, an international network of forest policy groups has said. A rising number of politicians and businesses realise that if plans to exploit natural resources and expand agricultural production are to succeed, they must consider local peoples’ concerns and ensure they benefit too, the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) said in a report released on Wednesday. Key countries, including Indonesia, Peru and Liberia, are poised to make legal reforms or roll out policies that would give communities greater security on their land. “I think we are on the brink of major change, both for saving forests and recognising rights, but it is going to require a push for governments to take that next step,” said RRI coordinator Andy White. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Responsible Investment

Norway’s oil fund sells 73 stakes on sustainability concerns

Norway’s US$810 billion oil fund sold out of 73 companies last year due to environmental and governance issues as the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund stepped up its work on responsible investing. In its second annual report on responsible investment, the fund also reveals that it voted against 9,000 company-backed resolutions at annual meetings in 2015, including proposals from Apple, ExxonMobil, Sanofi, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Toyota and General Electric. The report showcases the fund’s aspiration to use its growing weight in financial markets to push companies towards good corporate behaviour. The fund did not give the names of companies it had divested from, but indicated that most were involved in coal power generation, coal extraction, construction, mining, and cement production. Among those excluded in previous years have been some of the world’s biggest corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Rio Tinto, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. (Financial Times*, Guardian)


Obama to propose US $10-a-barrel oil tax to fund “clean transportation” projects

President Obama is proposing a US $10-a-barrel oil tax, phased in over five years, to pay for a variety of transportation initiatives, including new rail corridors, highway projects, pilot projects for self-driving cars and other technologies it said fall under the goal of a “clean transportation” system. The timing of the proposal, coinciding with one of the steepest drops in oil prices in the past decade and a half, could make it easier for consumers to digest. The administration also said that it would provide assistance to families to ease energy cost burdens. Republican congressional leaders have been quick to condemn the tax. But others argue that the tax would create an incentive for the private sector to use oil products more efficiently, and argue that such a tax has even been supported by a handful of oil industry executives. (Washington Post)


Morocco unveils a massive solar power plant in the Sahara

Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans. The Noor I power plant is located on the edge of the Sahara. It is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers thousands of acres of desert, making the first stage alone one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants. When the next two phases are finished, the plant will be the single largest solar power production facility in the world. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided US $435 million of the US $9 billion project’s funding. The North African country plans to generate 42 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020, with one-third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower apiece. (NPR)


Image source:  Solnova Solar Power Station by Abengoa Solar / CC BY 1.0