Top Stories

April 27, 2017

Corporate Reputation

Judge says Exxon owes $19.95 million for Texas refinery pollution

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday (26th April) that ExxonMobil Corp should pay a $19.95 million penalty for pollution from its Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex between 2005 and 2013. The ruling was issued in a citizen lawsuit that allows citizens to sue when regulators have failed to stop pollution. It was brought under the U.S. Clean Air Act by two environmental groups, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club. “We think it might be the largest citizen suit penalty in U.S. history,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.  U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner ruled there had been 16,386 days of violations and 10 million pounds (4.5 million kg) of pollutants had been released in violation of operating permits issued to Exxon for the Baytown complex. The penalty will be paid to the federal government. The judge said Exxon was liable for legal fees incurred by the two environmental groups. (Reuters)


Tyson commits to better worker conditions after criticism

After years of exposés about working conditions in the U.S. meat industry, Tyson Foods Inc. pledged to improve pay and safety for more than 95,000 employees at domestic factories and be more transparent about its practices in a statement released on Wednesday (26th April). In a bid to achieve a 15 percent year-over-year reduction in injuries and illnesses as well as a 10 percent improvement in employee turnover, it has planned to set up a pilot program at two poultry plants to increase workers’ base wages and accelerate their move up the pay scale. The company has long been a target of criticism by regulators and activists over the conditions for its employees, who slaughter, dismember and package roughly a fifth of all the beef, chicken and pork produced in the U.S.  After some accusations by Oxfam over inadequate bathroom breaks, both companies are now working closely in collaboration with the United Food & Commercial Workers Union to address these issues. (Bloomberg)


McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers

McDonald’s is to offer 115,000 UK workers on controversial zero-hours contracts the option of moving to fixed contracts with a minimum number of guaranteed hours every week, after staff in its restaurants complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they were not guaranteed employment each week. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts and it has seen an increase in levels of employee and customer satisfaction after the offer. The company will initially expand fixed contracts to 50 more restaurants before rolling it out nationwide to existing and new employees later this year. This comes after the TUC has called for the government to ban zero-hours contracts. Denying that McDonald’s was reacting to political pressure by making the change, chief executive Paul Pomroy has confirmed that staff who are paid by the hour have had their pay increased by an average of 15% since April 2015. (Guardian)


India’s planned coal plants could ‘single-handedly jeopardise’ 1.5C target

A new paper published in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future, states that current plans to build 370 coal-fired power stations in India will gravely undermine the country’s Paris climate pledge, or create “stranded assets” worth billions of dollars. But there are signs that some may never get built, the paper notes.  Even allowing a “fair” carbon budget for India’s rising population and relative need for economic growth would mean emissions need to decline by 2030, the study said, while for 1.5C, reductions in India would have to begin immediately. However, previous analysis by Carbon Brief has suggested India’s emissions could almost double to around 6.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) in 2030. This clashes with India’s major pledge to ensure 40 per cent of its installed electricity capacity is made up of low-carbon sources by 2030. While the IEA has said it makes “no real economic sense” to build more coal plants in China, it also projected last year a strong growth in demand in India and southeast Asia up to 2020. (Eco-Business)

Responsible Investment

Ethical bank Triodos to launch first current account

Ethical lender Triodos announced on Wednesday (26th April) that it was opening registrations for its first personal current account in the UK. “Money doesn’t have to be invested in the arms trade, fossil fuels and tobacco – it can be used to do good things that help build the society we want to live in”, said UK managing director Bevis Watts. Head of retail banking Huw Davies said the bank was “leading by example” with its £3 monthly fee. Huw explained that ‘free’ accounts are usually subsidised with high penalty charges and hidden fees, so the most vulnerable customers end up bearing the brunt of exorbitant costs. The move by Triodos comes as new data shows that more current account customers have been ditching and switching their bank following a wave of providers cutting rates or reducing perks on their accounts. In total, more than 3.7 million current accounts have been switched since the seven-day service to make it easier for customers to ditch and switch was launched in September 2013. (Scotsman)

Image source: McDonald’s logo, Warsaw, Poland by Crusier. At Wikipedia. Creative Commons: CC BY-SA 3.0