Top Stories

February 27, 2019


Costa Rica targets electric cars and forest growth in 2050 climate strategy

Costa Rica has launched an economy-wide plan to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The plan aims to decrease the use of fossil fuels in transport, buildings and heavy industry as well as to adopt the most advanced technologies available for farming and food, as part of a broad strategy for becoming a “green, emission-free” economy. The strategy, announced by President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, lays out 10 focus areas across economic sectors. Achieving these plans will require changes such as green tax reforms, digitalisation, a new approach to foreign direct investment and greater transparency and education. It is not the first time Costa Rica has announced bold climate ambition: previous administrations promised to go carbon neutral by 2021. Two years ahead of its deadline, while its electricity is 95 percent renewable, little progress has been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with industry and transport. The latest president’s plan does not set specific emissions targets, but outlines short, medium and long-term actions to boost green growth. Costa Rican former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres called it “an excellent example for the rest of the world to follow”. (Business Green)*


IBM job applicants outraged over racially insensitive labels

IBM was called out by job seekers for using racially insensitive labels in an online application, prompting an apology from the tech giant. Applicants expressed outrage after being forced to choose among ethnic categories including “yellow” and “mulatto” during the process. “I was appalled to be asked on an IBM internship application to choose my ethnic group, and be given the choice of ‘yellow,’” New York University computer science student Alex Gao wrote on Twitter last week, posting a photo of his application for a software developer internship in the U.S.. The photo included a drop-down menu asking job seekers to select their ethnic group. IBM spokesman Ed Barbini said the company’s recruiting websites “temporarily and inappropriately” solicited information on job applicants’ ethnicity. The information came from local government classifications still used in Brazil and South Africa, he said. “Those questions were removed immediately when we became aware of the issue and we apologize,” Barbini said. “We do not use race or ethnicity in the hiring process and any responses we received to those questions will be deleted.” (Bloomberg)

Supply Chain

Workers making clothes for Australian fashion firms can’t make ends meet – study

Australian fashion companies use a “system of entrenched exploitation” that is trapping millions of garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam in poverty, according to Oxfam Australia campaigners. Nine out of 10 garment workers in Bangladesh and over two-thirds of those in Vietnam can’t make ends meet, with wages as low as 55 Australian cents (US$0.39) per hour, according to Oxfam’s Made in Poverty report. As a result, the workers, most of them women, often struggle to put enough food on the table and cannot pay for medical treatment when they are sick. “If we don’t see changes soon, we will continue to see a fashion industry that is perpetuating and fuelling a system of poverty,” said Oxfam Australia’s advocacy manager Joy Kyriacou. Although fashion labels such as Cotton On, Target and Kmart have made commitments towards paying a living wage, progress to improve conditions across the supply chain in Australia’s $23 billion fashion industry remained slow. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Technology & Innovation

DeepMind and Google train AI to predict energy output of wind farms

London-based AI company DeepMind claims it has trained an artificial intelligence system how to predict the energy output of Google wind farms in the U.S. The variable nature of wind makes it difficult to accurately predict how much energy a wind farm could produce in any given time period. But DeepMind says that its AI system – a neural network trained on widely available weather forecasts and historical turbine data – can predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Google claims that DeepMind’s AI system has boosted the “value” of its wind energy by roughly 20 percent. “Based on these predictions, our model recommends how to make optimal hourly delivery commitments to the power grid a full day in advance,” a team of DeepMind researchers wrote in a blog post. “This is important because energy sources that can be scheduled (i.e. can deliver a set amount of electricity at a set time) are often more valuable to the grid.” (Forbes)

China’s tech firms monitor pig faces to predict disease and illness

Chinese companies are experimenting with facial and voice recognition and other advanced technologies as ways to protect the country’s pigs. Many Chinese pigs are dying from a deadly swine disease, threatening the country’s supply of pork. “If they are not happy, and not eating well, in some cases you can predict whether the pig is sick,” said Jackson He, chief executive officer of Yingzi Technology, a small tech firm that has introduced its vision of a “future pig farm” with facial and voice recognition technologies. China’s biggest tech firms have also begun investing in the process with e-commerce giants using cameras to track pigs’ faces and Alibaba, its rival, also using voice-recognition software to monitor their coughs. Critics suggest that facial recognition may not be useful until China has a comprehensive database of pig faces to track their movement. In October, China’s cabinet said it wanted to promote “intelligent farming” and the application of information technology in agriculture. Last year, Beijing city agricultural officials praised “raising pigs in a smart way” using the A-B-C-Ds: artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and data technology. (New York Times)

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External Event

Ethical Corporation: The Responsible Business Summit New York 
18-19 March 2019, New York

The 7th Responsible Business Summit New York returns gathering global businesses to create partnerships, share practical insights and shape the future sustainability agenda. This year 500+ CEOs, business leaders, Investors, Government representatives and NGOs will discuss how to lead a sustainable future for all.

We’re pleased to announce that Corporate Citizenship’s Regional Director for North America, Abby Davidson, will be facilitating the closing keynote on ‘Moving from risk to opportunity’ with panelists from Cummins, Shift and TerraCycle.

Find the brochure here and quote CC200 for a £200 saving.

Image source: Costa Rica-8028 by Melody Warford on FlickrCC BY 2.0.