Top Stories

August 01, 2018

Human Rights / Technology & Innovation

Anti-slavery app will help users spot potential victims of labour exploitation

A leading anti-slavery charity has launched an app, developed in partnership with BT, that will help users identify signs of modern-day slavery and report suspicions to a confidential helpline. Unseen said the move was intended to improve reporting systems in line with the “ever more sophisticated technology [traffickers use] to control and exploit their victims”. “It is crucial that those of us combating modern slavery must innovate too,” said Unseen’s CEO, Andrew Wallis. “Whether that is technology for businesses to map their supply chains, or an app for everyone to have in their pocket at the nail bar, car wash or takeaway, this isn’t just a gimmick, it’s an essential part of the fight to eradicate slavery.” The app uses infographics and bullet points to relay information about modern-day slavery in various contexts, from the agricultural and cleaning sectors to manufacturing and construction. (Guardian)


France bans smartphones in school in order to tackle tech addiction

French lawmakers have passed legislation banning students as old as 15 from bringing smartphones and tablets to school, or at least requiring that they be turned off, according to Agence France-Presse. Officials in support of the new rule described the policy as a way to shield children from addictive habits and to safeguard the sanctity of the classroom. The law, however, does provide French high schools with the option to impose a less-stringent ban on Internet-connected devices if they wish to. This isn’t the first French law designed to beat back the encroachment of digital technology in everyday life. In 2017 the government passed a law requiring French companies to draft rules that limited work emails and work-related technology outside the office. Dubbed the “right to disconnect,” French officials said the legislation aimed to reduce job-related stress and prevent employee burnout. (The Washington Post)

Corporate Reputation / Waste

Coles backs down on plastic bag ban because customers “need more time”

Coles will continue to hand out plastic bags for free in its stores indefinitely, bowing to customer pressure and saying Australian shoppers “need more time to make the transition to reusable bags”. Most state governments in Australia have banned thin single-use bags, and the supermarket giant pledged to phase them out from July 1st, 2018. Now, thicker reusable bags which had previously cost 15 cents each will be handed out for free. This decision has annoyed environmental groups, who warned the reusable bags are worse for the environment if they are discarded into waterways and habitats. “This decision makes a complete mockery of Coles’ claim to want to reduce plastic waste and is a betrayal of the millions of their customers who want the supermarket to do the right thing in favour of a vocal minority,” said Zoe Deans, a campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. (ABC News)

Sustainable Investment

PRI steps up engagement on cyber security

The PRI has launched findings on how seriously corporates are taking the issue of cyber security, with the publication of Stepping up governance on cyber security: what is corporate disclosure telling investors? The research evaluated the public disclosure of 100 companies on cyber security, covering 14 indicators on aspects such as policy, governance and flow of communication, access to expertise, training and assessment, and other procedures. According to the World Economic Forum’s latest report on global risks, cyber security is ranked as one of the top five risks to businesses, reaffirming the need for company boards to prioritise this issue. The business case to engage with companies on this topic is clear-cut – cyber security threats and related incidents can cripple business operations, materialise into legal and regulatory risks, and have adverse impacts on portfolio company valuation and earnings. However, the PRI has found that corporate reporting on this topic often falls short of these expectations. “Boards need to work closely with senior management to escalate the message across the organisation that security is everyone’s problem,” said Fiona Reynolds, CEO, the PRI. (PRI)

UK GPs to halt fossil fuel investments

The UK’s Royal College of General Practitioners has confirmed it is to halt investment in fossil fuels in response to climate risks that “threaten to destabilise our National Health Service”. The group, which represents more than 52,000 members and is the largest Medical Royal College in the UK, said it has long-recognised that climate change has an adverse impact on both the environment and human health and has now decided to disinvest from fossil fuel assets as it seeks to reduce its own emissions impact. “We already face a seasonal crisis every winter that threatens to destabilise our national health service, but with our summers forecasted to become hotter and hotter, we risk the emergence of a second seasonal crisis, and the NHS will simply be unable to cope,” said College Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard. The College’s investment portfolio was worth £10.7 millio as of the end of the last financial year, around four percent of which was in fossil fuel companies. (BusinessGreen)


Image source: Coles Coles Coles by Ryan Phillips on Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0.