Top Stories

May 24, 2017

Supply Chain

Sainsbury’s criticised over move to drop Fairtrade label from tea

Sainsbury’s supermarket, which is among the UK’s biggest purchasers of Fairtrade produce, has drawn criticism from some African farmers and the Fairtrade Foundation for removing the ethical sourcing marque from its own-brand tea bags. The retailer said it would still offer tea farmers a guaranteed minimum price for their crop, as well as a “social premium” towards community initiatives. But it will replace the independent accreditation with its own “Fairly Traded” label, and take control of how the extra money is spent through its own Sainsbury Foundation programmes, overseen by supermarket executives and independent specialists.

In an open letter, tea producer representatives from Fairtrade Africa said the new model was “not done with producer consultation”, would “add a further unwelcome layer of bureaucracy”, and would “bring about disempowerment”, as any request for funding by farmers could be “rejected by a few decision makers in the UK”. However, other producers defended the move. Austin Changazi, general manager of the Sukambizi Association Trust, said the new process would be “simpler” and would help farmers deal with challenges such as climate change and political instability. The move follows Mondelēz-owned Cadbury’s, which last year withdrew from the Fairtrade scheme in favour of its own ‘Cocoa Life’ programme. (Financial Times*; Fairtrade Foundation)


At Google, an employee-run email list tracks harassment and bias complaints

A Google employee-run message board called “Yes, at Google” provides employees with an alternative means of submitting grievances. Employees can anonymously submit complaints of sexual harassment, sexism, bigotry or racism, which are communicated across the company in a weekly email. Since starting in October, more than 15,000 employees – 20 percent of the company’s workforce – have subscribed. Google management is aware of the list, and has encouraged employees to use it as a resource. Keeping an eye on such a list “could be a pretty smart thing for an employer to do,” said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “You can find out stuff that’s going on without having to do surveys. Employees don’t necessarily trust hotlines, and they certainly don’t always trust going to their supervisor with problems.” (Bloomberg)

Responsible Investment

Shell investors dismiss climate resolution to set carbon reduction targets

Shareholders in Shell rejected proposals for the oil giant to set public emission reduction targets at its Annual General Meeting in the Netherlands on Tuesday. The proposals were rejected by 94 per cent of shareholders, despite a sustained campaign by activists and a number of Shell shareholders, including the Church of England and European pension funds. Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden argued setting unilateral targets was not in the “best interests” of the company, as they could reduce sales, and lead higher emissions if customers switched to suppliers with more carbon intensive fuels. However, the company did promise to work closely with investors in becoming more transparent about its agenda for tackling climate change in the future. (Business Green)

Corporate Reputation

US sues Fiat Chrysler, accusing it of using software to pass emissions tests

The US Federal Government has filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler , accusing it of using illegal engine-control software to enable its diesel-powered vehicles to “emit substantially higher levels” of nitric oxide than allowed in tests. The Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler in January of installing the software on about 104,000 vehicles sold from 2014 through 2016. In a statement, the automaker said it was disappointed by the action and would defend itself against any claims that its software represents a “deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat US emissions tests.” In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to using “defeat device” software to pass emissions test. It has subsequently paid billions of dollars in fines, and several of its executives have been investigated or charged with crimes. (New York Times)


Barclays faces £1.6bn PPI mis-selling lawsuit by US group

A US-based credit card company is suing British bank Barclays for £1.1 billion, in compensation for mis-selling payment protection insurance at a subprime lending business it bought from Barclays a decade ago. The claim is an escalation by CCUK Finance of its long-running dispute with Barclays over the acquisition. Barclays said it had rejected the claim: “We will be vigorously defending our position.” The PPI mis-selling scandal has cost UK banks more than £34 billion, but the UK Financial Conduct Authority announced earlier this year that it was imposing a cut-off date of August 2019 for consumers to file claims. (Financial Times)*

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Image source: Producers, Africa, 2004,Kenya tea conference at Flickr. Creative Commons: (CC BY 2.0)