Top Stories

September 08, 2016

Responsible Investment

Banks pump billions into deforestation-linked firms in Southeast Asia

Banks have financed companies responsible for rainforest destruction in Southeast Asia to the tune of billions of dollars, according to a new study. The figures were derived from a new research tool aimed at examining how firms linked to deforestation are financed. It was developed by the California-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Indonesia-based community group Tuk Indonesia and Dutch consultancy Profundo. Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most diverse rainforests, but they have come under threat in recent years due to large-scale expansion in industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber. The study found at least $38 billion worth of commercial loans and underwriting facilities were provided to 50 companies in these sectors between 2010 and 2015, for their production or processing operations. (Reuters; RAN)


Denmark to buy Panama Paper data

Denmark has become the first country in the world to buy data from the Panama Papers leak, and now plans to investigate whether 500-600 Danes who feature in the offshore archive may have evaded tax. Denmark’s tax minister, Karsten Lauritzen, said he will pay up to DKK9 million (£1 million) for the information, which comes from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. He said an anonymous source approached the Danish government over the summer, which secretly negotiated support for the controversial deal from political parties in parliament. “Everything suggests that it is useful information. We owe it to all Danish taxpayers who faithfully pay their taxes,” Lauritzen said. (The Guardian)


Zero-hours contracts used far beyond short-term work in UK

The number of people saying they are on zero hours contracts in the UK has risen, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were 903,000 people whose main job did not guarantee a minimum number of hours between April and June, which compares with the figure of 747,000 for the same period last year. Ahead of the official figures, research by independent think-tank The Resolution Foundation found that more than two-thirds of zero-hours workers aged over 25 have been with the same employer for more than a year. This highlights concerns that the insecure arrangements have become a permanent feature of working life for thousands of people. The ONS said workers were more likely to be contracted to large employers than smaller firms, and to work in the hotel and leisure industries. (BBC News ;The Guardian)


Tech firms add lobby strength as EU gets tough

Tech giants Google and Facebook are among multinationals spending more money lobbying in Brussels as the European Commission eyes new business regulation after last week handing Apple a €13 billion tax demand. A new annual filing by Google to the EU’s Transparency Register showed it spent roughly 15-20 percent more on lobbying European Union officials and lawmakers last year than in 2014. A review by Reuters showed Google among the biggest spenders of all corporations, reporting a budget of €4.25-4.5 million euros in 2015. A spokesman for the company, which has been served with three sets of charges in the past two years by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, said its 14 staff involved in lobbying in Brussels were there to provide information. (Reuters)

Circular Economy

New project will help European SMEs transition to circular economy

Ten partners from six European countries are pursuing a four-year ‘Circular Economy for SMEs (CESME)’ project. Created by the Business Development Centre North Denmark, the project aims to create a step-by-step guide to help SMEs transition to more closed-loop operations, maximize the efficiency of their resources during their use, and extend products’ value through processes such as reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling. In the first phase of the project, organisations will work to identify and recommend improvements for relevant policy instruments, and design support packages to help SMEs adopt more circular business models. The second phase will involve working directly with SMEs to act on the lessons learned from the previous work. By the end of 2020, the project is expected to create 350 new jobs and generate €45 million in revenue growth for the participating SMEs. (Sustainable Brands)

Image source: Deforestation in Burma by jidanchaomian/ CC BY-SA-2.0