Top Stories

May 25, 2018


Irish anti-abortion campaigners dodge Google’s ad ban

Anti-abortion campaigners have sidestepped Google’s ban on online adverts relating to the referendum in Ireland on Friday, so as to promote their message on popular websites. This May the tech company banned paid messages relating to the referendum from appearing on its services, which dominates many aspects of online advertising. However, thanks to the rise in programmatic advertising, where advertising slots are automatically sold without human intervention, news websites are finding it hard to stop them appearing on their sites – a fact that has been exploited by campaigners. These sites have included the Atlantic, Washington Post and the Guardian, and ads have also been aimed at readers of women’s lifestyle websites and players of mobile games. Some of these ultimately use elements of Google technology to serve the adverts, despite the company’s commitment to pulling out of the referendum. While Google issued a blanket ban on all referendum advertising, Facebook has continued to allow advertising but only if paid for by Irish campaigners, following concerns that foreign anti-abortion groups were targeting voters. (Guardian)


McDonald’s sees off plastic straw campaign

McDonald’s shareholders have rejected a proposal asking the firm to report on its use of plastic straws gobally, the latest part of a campaign pressing the firm to ban the items. The idea, which was backed by activist group SumOfUs, won less than 8% of the vote at the company’s annual meeting. McDonald’s had recommended against the measure saying it was “unnecessary” and “redundant”. SumOfUs said the vote was “not surprising”. SumOfUs has been pressing McDonald’s to end its use of plastic straws due to the impact on the environment and wildlife. An online petition on the issue has attracted nearly 500,000 signatures. The proposal, put forward by a small shareholder and published in an SEC filing in April, argued that McDonald’s could face a consumer backlash and that the company “has an opportunity to improve its brand by demonstrating leadership in the elimination of plastic straws”.  Sondhya Gupta, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, said she has seen McDonald’s take steps to address the issue since the campaign started “We hope McDonald’s will continue to take this issue seriously”. (BBC)

Read more: In March, McDonald’s in the U.K. pledged to work to eliminate plastic straws by requiring customers to ask for straws if they need them, and phasing in biodegradable straws.


Walmart and Target push for sustainable cosmetics with industry scorecard

A group of organisations led by US retailers Walmart and Target has published a science-based scorecard for the personal care industry, aimed at helping manufacturers create safer and more sustainable products. Addressing chemicals of concern and ingredient transparency emerged as one of the main issues from actions agreed at the 2014 beauty and personal care (BPC) product sustainability summit. A core group of eighteen organisations across the BPC value chain – including Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Sustainability Consortium – has worked on the scorecard since. The final result is made up of 32 key performance indicators (KPIs) clustered into four areas: human health impact of ingredients, resource usage, ingredient disclosure, environmental and health impacts. Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at NGO the Environmental Defense Fund, said the scorecard sends a joint signal from retailers, “this scorecard will incentivise a race to the top for safer, more sustainable products”. (Chemical Watch)

Supply Chain

India tea workers live in ‘appalling’ conditions on $2 a day

Women working on tea plantations in northeast India earn a “pitiful” $2 a day and live in “appalling” conditions with almost no toilets, according to a report released on Tuesday. The investigation by the British charity Traidcraft Exchange found workers in the tea-growing state of Assam were paid 137 rupees ($2) a day, far below the minimum wage of 250 rupees. More than half are women. Assam is the largest producer of tea in India and its estates supply top brands including Britain’s Twinings and Tetley. Both are working to improve conditions for workers, the report said. A spokeswoman said Twinings was “fully committed to ethical sourcing. Our Sourced with Care programme … directly addresses the needs and improve the lives of communities on the ground, from access to sanitation to children’s rights,” she said in a statement. A spokesman for Tata Global Beverages – which owns Tetley – said it was committed to sustainable sourcing of all the tea that it sells globally by 2020, and that it was working to improve the lives of tea-producing communities across Assam. Nick Kightley of the British-based Ethical Trading Initiative said authorities must urgently meet the workers’ basic needs. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


NFL teams to be fined if players kneel during anthem

NFL teams will be fined if players kneel for the US national anthem under a new policy. The American football league said players who do not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner can stay in the locker room until it has been performed. The NFL also vowed to “impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem”. Players said the protests were against police brutality of African Americans. The statement comes a day after NFL teams pledged $90m (£67m) towards social justice initiatives, under an agreement reached with all 32 teams in the league. New York Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson said he prefers that players stand for the national anthem but will not make them pay any fines. Mr Johnson told Newsday: “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players”. He said the Jets would pay any fines associated with kneeling during the anthem and he would work with players on social justice issues. (BBC)


Image source: Google by Z Jason on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0