Top Stories

August 22, 2016

Human Rights

H&M factories in Myanmar employed 14-year-olds on long hours

Swedish fashion chain H&M worked with clothing factories in Myanmar where children as young as 14 toiled for more than 12 hours a day, according to a new book on “fashion slaves”. H&M called the conditions “unacceptable”, and said it had taken action with both factories over ID-cards and overtime after being made aware of the issue in 2013. But it stressed that the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s definition of “child labour” in developing countries only covers children under 14. “ILO instead stresses the importance of not excluding this age group from work in Myanmar,” H&M said in a statement. The revelations raise new fears about working conditions in Myanmar, whose garment sector has grown rapidly in recent years. (Guardian)

Responsible Investment

Shareholder advisers take aim at ‘male, stale and frail’ US boards

Alphabet and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway head a list of more than 800 US companies that could come under pressure to refresh their boards, under new guidelines being floated among shareholders. Corporate governance adviser ISS is surveying clients’ opinions on boards that are stuffed with long-serving directors, or where no new directors have been appointed in five years. ISS data reveals that more than one in four US boards would fail on at least one of the mooted measures. The absence of a formal corporate governance code in the US has been cited by investors as the reason American directors tend to be older, longer-serving and less likely to be women than in many other countries. (Financial Times*)


Rise in UK women facing discrimination on taking maternity leave

UK charity Citizens Advice has recorded a nearly 60 percent rise in the number of women seeking advice about maternity leave issues this year. Legally, women are protected from losing their job, having their hours changed or their responsibility reduced as a result of pregnancy. But Citizens Advice says the introduction of fees for employment tribunals has combined with the rise of zero-hours contracts, agency work and multiple part-time jobs to make employees more vulnerable to breaches of the law. The study also found that 10 percent of women were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments by their employers, putting the health of mother and baby at risk. (Guardian)

Technology & Innovation

New online trawler tracking tool aims to help end overfishing

Oceana, an international conservation organisation, is working with Google and technology-driven non-profit SkyTruth to launch the Global Fishing Tracker. The tool will be available to the public, non-governmental organisations and local authorities to monitor coastlines and marine conservation areas, and follow individual boats in near real-time. “You can slice that piece of data in many different ways which we think will be helpful when it comes to law enforcement, increasing public understanding, and catching the kind of people who are doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe. It will be especially useful for countries like Madagascar which have few resources to patrol and monitor their own coastlines, Oceana said. (Guardian)


ISO sustainable procurement draft open for public comment

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has released a second draft of its upcoming standard for sustainable procurement, ISO 20400. The standard will provide guidelines for organisations wanting to integrate sustainability into their procurement processes, complementing the existing ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility. Jacques Schramm, chair of the committee developing the standard, said that the procurement function is a key driver of an organisation’s level of social responsibility. “Using ISO 20400 will therefore help organizations achieve their sustainability objectives, improve management of supplier relations, improve the sustainability efforts of their supply chain and give them a competitive edge,” he said. (ISO)


Image source: Fishing boat by moritz320 / Public Domain