Top Stories

June 08, 2018


Google lays out AI rules after staff protests over military use

Google has promised not to let its artificial intelligence be used in weapons or for anything that might weaken human rights, in the strongest stance yet taken by a big technology company to limit the potential harm from the powerful new science. The commitment follows a storm of protest inside the company over the US military’s use of its vision recognition systems to guide drones. Google told employees last week that it would not renew its contract with the US Department of Defence when it expires in 2019, even though it had insisted previously that its AI was not being used to help the drones identify targets. The company unveiled a promise not to pursue applications of AI “that cause or are likely to cause overall harm”, with chief executive Sundar Pichai saying the company would police the governments and companies that use its technology. This attempt by Google to draw a line around how it will use AI is expected to ignite wide debate. (Financial Times*)

Corporate Reputation

Credit Suisse to pay $47 million to end US Department of Justice probe into hiring practices in Asia

Credit Suisse has agreed to pay $47 million to settle a US Department of Justice probe into hiring practices in Asia that involved the Swiss bank recruiting the sons and daughters of powerful political families in China to win business. The scandal around such practices rocked several US and European banks starting in 2013, when the US Securities and Exchange Commission launched an official investigation into whether the practice violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Credit Suisse has said that it has made changes to its hiring practices since the investigation was launched. “As cited in the agreement, since 2013 Credit Suisse has implemented numerous enhancements to its compliance and controls function and it remains committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and fair business practices in every jurisdiction in which it operates,” it said. (Financial Times*)


India to abolish all single-use plastic by 2020, vows prime minister

India will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, has announced. The pledge is the most ambitious yet of the global actions to combat plastic pollution that are taking place in 60 nations around the world. Modi’s move aims to drastically stem the flow of plastic from the 1.3 billion people living in the fastest growing economy in the world. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future,” said Modi on Tuesday. “The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” India, which has 7,500km of coastline, also announced a national marine litter action campaign and a programme to measure how much plastic enters India’s coastal waters. The nation will also pledge to make 100 national monuments litter-free, including the Taj Mahal. (Guardian)

Supply Chain

M&S announces “huge rise” in responsible cotton sourcing

Marks & Spencer has hailed a “huge rise” in its sourcing of responsible cotton in its first sustainability update since launching its new set of Plan A environmental targets in 2017. The retailer said more than three quarters of the cotton sourced for M&S products is now grown using more sustainable methods that use fewer pesticides and less water. It added that it was on track to ensure 100 percent of its product line uses sustainable cotton in 2019. The achievement, which M&S said made it one of the biggest users of more sustainably sourced cotton, was revealed alongside a raft of progress updates for its Plan A sustainability programme. Among other highlights M&S said 83 percent of its products “now have an eco or ethical quality above the market norm”, and that alongside Oxfam it has helped to recycle or reuse 30 million items of clothing. (BusinessGreen)

Renewable Energy

Vodafone and Iron Mountain commit to 100 percent renewables

Telecoms giant Vodafone and US data company Iron Mountain have been unveiled as the latest corporates to make the pledge to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewables, through joining the RE100 coalition. Vodafone currently sources only 13 percent of its electricity from renewables, and the company intends to massively scale-up its power purchase agreements alongside new renewable on-site capacity. The announcement forms part of its strategy to reduce emissions within its network operations by 40 percent by 2025 as well. By contrast, Iron Mountain has managed to increase its renewable consumption from 1 percent in 2015 to 30 percent in 2017, setting itself a long-term target to achieve 100 percent across the whole company by 2050. (Climate Action Programme)


Climate Change 2018
New frontiers in innovation, finance and climate science
15-16 October | Chatham House, London

The 22nd annual Chatham House Climate Change conference will ask how new business models and technological frontiers can drive sustainability and decarbonization as well as provide practical solutions to mitigating and managing climate change. The event will also offer an early opportunity to discuss the implications of the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C with policymakers, climate scientists, NGOs, and business and political leaders.

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Image source: Recycling in Alleppey by Christian Haugen on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.