Top Stories

January 09, 2019


Activists warn of gaps as EU lifts threat of a ban on Thai fishing industry

Labour rights campaigners warned against complacency as the European Union on Tuesday withdrew its threat to ban Thai fishing imports into the bloc, saying that the country has made progress in tackling illegal and unregulated fishing. The EU’s so-called “yellow card” on Thai fishing exports has been in place since April 2015 as a warning that the country was not sufficiently addressing the issues. After the EU threatened to ban fish exports, and the U.S. State Department said it was failing to tackle human trafficking, the Southeast Asian country toughened up its laws, increased fines for violations and improved its monitoring and surveillance systems. But important gaps remain, said Steve Trent, executive director at advocacy group Environmental Justice Foundation. “There is a risk that with the lifting of the yellow card, complacency will set in. We need to see a culture of compliance, and more being done to protect vulnerable workers in the industry,” Trent said. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


U.S. greenhouse gas emissions jumped 3.4 percent in 2018

U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, spiked last year after falling for the previous three. Increased manufacturing activity, the slow pace of decarbonisation in the power sector and a cold weather snap all contributed. Transport saw jet and diesel fuel demand increase by 3.0 and 3.1 percent respectively. The Rhodium Group, an independent research group, said emissions rose 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest jump since 2010, when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession. Rhodium said that for the United States to meet reductions targets it set under the Paris Agreement in 2015 it would have to cut energy-related carbon emissions by 2.6 percent on average over the next seven years.  A pace more than twice that achieved between 2005 and 2017. “It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future, and/or favourable market and technological conditions,” the group said. (Reuters; Forbes)


Fitch launches ESG credit rating ‘relevance’ scores

Fitch Ratings, one of the “Big Three credit rating agencies”, has introduced a scoring system to show how environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors affect the agency’s individual credit rating decisions. The ESG “relevance” scores “transparently and consistently display both the relevance and materiality of ESG elements to the rating decision”, Fitch said. It claimed the move filled a market gap by publicly disclosing how an ESG factor directly affected a company’s current credit rating. In an FAQ document accompanying the announcement, the rating agency added: “Asset managers and asset owners are in the business of managing and directing funds, whereas our role is to provide rigorous, independent and insightful commentary on the credit risks surrounding an entity with respect to its ability to repay debt.” Fitch managed expectations when it emphasised that the scores “do not make value judgements on whether an entity engages in good or bad ESG practices”. (IPE)

Policy and Research

Research: Regional banks have ‘historic opportunity’ to tackle food security risks

New research led by Global Canopy and WWF argues regional banks operating in South East Asia and Latin America stand to benefit from improving their lending policies to minimise the negative environmental and social impacts of seafood and commodity production. Despite the significance of SE Asia’s blue economy, none of the 24 regional banks assessed have a seafood-specific lending policy, potentially opening up their lending to local sustainability risks, such as over-fishing and depleted stocks, the Finance for seafood report states. In contrast, the eight global banks which have operations in SE Asia, including Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, all have some form of sustainability policy on seafood. Meanwhile, in Latin America, the research found that of 24 banks assessed in Brazil and Paraguay, only one currently has a commitment to reduce deforestation caused by companies in its portfolio. And, of 14 regional banks in Brazil, only four specifically require companies to demonstrate legal land tenure and compliance with the forest code. (Business Green)*

Supply Chain/Human Rights

Adidas and Gap top sustainable fashion supply chain rankings

Companies including Adidas and Gap have been named as the corporates leading the fashion sector’s drive for better human rights practices in supply chains, in a new ranking of 43 of the sector’s largest brands. Released by anti-modern slavery charity Know The Chain, the 2018 apparel and footwear benchmark assesses big-name fashion firms on the actions they are taking to remove forced labour from their supply chain and avoid human rights breaches in garment factories. Brands are assessed based on their contribution to social sustainability across areas such as commitment and governance, traceability and purchasing practices. Sportswear giant Adidas and Canadian athletic wear brand Lululemon topped the rankings achieving an overall score of 92 percent and 89 percent respectively. The top five was completed by Gap (75 percent), Primark (72 percent) and Inditex (70 percent). Know The Chain praised these firms for taking strong action to address risks associated with recruitment processes for migrant workers, who are often forced to pay a fee in exchange for a job. (Edie)


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Image source: Fishing boat on anchor off Sam Roi Yot Beach, Thailand by Bryon Lippincott on FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0.