Top Stories

October 12, 2016

Human Rights

UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner pledges action to hold companies to account

The UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s first annual report praises the “landmark” Transparency in Supply Chains section of the Modern Slavery Act for prompting corporate action. The Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has communicated with over 1,000 companies in the past year, and is working with bodies such as the Consumer Goods Forum to build awareness in the retail sector. But the report states that transparency is “not an end in itself”, and says the government aims to create a system to allow “easy scrutiny and comparison” of companies’ modern slavery statements. “There is still much more to be done to ensure that companies produce statements that both comply with the Act’s obligations and point to decisive action begin taken, as opposed to merely being a ‘tick box’ exercise. Here the role of consumer and investor pressure is crucial,” the Commissioner wrote. (Reuters;


Taxes on sugary foods and drinks backed by World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added its support to countries which place a “sugar tax” on soft drinks. The organisation’s new report found that raising prices by 20 percent or more results in lower consumption and “improved nutrition”. Several countries, including Mexico and Hungary, already tax added-sugar products. South Africa will introduce a tax next year, becoming the only country in Africa to do so. The WHO said it wants to see lower consumption of “free sugars”, which it said will lower incidences of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. The report also found that government subsidies for fruit and vegetables – which lower prices – can increase the amount people eat. (BBC)

Supply Chain

MSC report shows accelerated growth in the sustainable seafood supply chain

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has published its 2015-16 Annual Report, highlighting market engagement and growth in MSC certified fisheries and supply chain. The volume of MSC certified catch has increased by six percent since last year, while the MSC certified supply chain has climbed 16 percent over the same period. Between April 2015 and March 2016, the number of processors, restaurants and caterers with MSC Chain of Custody certification grew from 2,879 to 3,334 companies, operating in 37,121 sites across 82 countries. The MSC’s report highlights some of the commitments made by leading retailers, including Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Carrefour, Migros, Coles and Aeon. (CSR Wire)

Sustainable Development

Report: Energy crops offer farmers income and productivity boost

The production of energy crops for use in biomass power plants or biofuel refineries has long been controversial. But according to new research from the Energy Technologies Institute, some second-generation energy crops can help farmers diversify their income while helping to boost the productivity of their land with minimal impact on food production. The study found that energy crops can complement other farming activities as they can be grown on land which is less suitable for grazing or food production because of poor soil quality or waterlogging. The research also found that the ability to source long-term contracts from biomass energy firms was an important factor in enabling farms to diversify their operations and develop energy crops. (Business Green)


Facebook continues fight over US taxes after Ireland move

Facebook is carrying on its fight with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over taxes relating to its transfer of global operations to Ireland in 2010, even as the social media giant pledged cooperation with the government’s investigation. The dispute stems from the IRS’s claims that Facebook’s tax adviser Ernst & Young undervalued the company’s property as it was transferred to Ireland by evaluating pieces of the online platform separately. The company is prepared to comply with seven “extraordinarily broad summonses” demanding information “about virtually every aspect of Facebook’s core business,” but needs more time to do so, it said in a filing. (Bloomberg)



Image source: A basket of freshly caught catfish by Peggy Greb / Public Domain