Top Stories

May 07, 2020

Corporate Reputation/ Climate Change

Splits emerge over investor response to Total’s net zero pledge

A row has erupted over the net zero emissions pledge unveiled yesterday by oil and gas giant Total. A number of investors slammed the commitment as “totally insincere” and a calculated attempt to undermine a recent shareholder resolution that contained more ambitious climate-related demands. The French giant committed to reducing its worldwide operational emissions and European energy product use emissions to net zero emissions by mid-century, while also shrinking the average carbon intensity of products by 60 per cent the same time frame. However, some campaigners and investors allege the commitments amount to a concerted attempt to undermine support for a more progressive shareholder resolution that was filed on 15 April. This resolution, filed by an investor group accounting for some €750bn in assets and approximately 1.35 per cent of Total’s shareholder capital, called on the company to set absolute emissions targets in line with the Paris Agreement and take account for emissions generated from the use of its fossil fuels in all 130 countries it works in, not just in Europe. (Business Green)

Employees/ Corporate Reputation

Amazon executive “quit in dismay” at sacking of climate activists

An Amazon executive claims to have quit his job “in dismay” at the recent dismissal of several staff who had publicly criticised the online retail giant’s climate action efforts. Tim Bray, who left his job as a vice president at the tech giant on Friday 1 May, wrote on his website that the decision to walk away after almost five and a half years had likely cost him over $1 million in salaries and shares, but that remaining at the firm would have meant “signing off on actions I despised”. Last month Amazon fired two leading organisers of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) group, which has repeatedly and publicly demanded the firm step up its climate efforts, publishing open letters calling for more ambitious environmental initiatives and promoting shareholder resolutions calling for greener policies. Earlier this year AECJ also decried “intimidation tactics” from the firm after some of its members received letters from HR threatening to terminate their contracts over their actions. (Business Green)

Health/Supply Chain

New study finds pollution causing birth defects in children of DRC cobalt miners

Thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being exposed to dangerous levels of toxic pollution that is causing birth defects in children as they mine for cobalt used in rechargeable batteries, laptops and electric cars. The findings were revealed in a new medical study, which found that local people working in mines in the African “copperbelt”, a mining region stretching across Zambia and the DRC, are at significantly higher risk of having children born with serious birth defects. The researchers linked the increased risk to the high levels of toxic pollution caused by the extraction of cobalt in southern Katanga, named one of the 10 most polluted areas in the world. Pressure is growing on the multinationals who continue to source cobalt from the DRC to address the human rights and environmental abuses that have been uncovered in mines across the country. (The Guardian)


Unilever calls on government and corporates to end ‘business as usual’

Alan Jope, chief executive of consumer goods company Unilever, has called on governments and businesses to “double down” on environmental commitments in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking at a virtual event to mark the 10-year anniversary of Unilever’s sustainability strategy, Jope said all actors must reject a business-as-usual approach in favour of action that tackles the climate crisis and social inequality. Jope argued the existing capitalist model had been in “need of repair” for some time and that it was the responsibility of businesses like Unilever to work with partners to “drive a new model of capitalism and build a better future”. Unilever said that its Sustainable Living Plan, launched in the wake of the last major shock to the global economy, will be retired this year and replaced with a new multi-year sustainability corporate strategy called the ‘Unilever Compass’. The new strategy will tackle issues that include climate change, social inclusion, waste, gender equality, human rights, and fair value, with 15 multi-year priorities unveiled in due course. (Business Green)


World cannot return to ‘business as usual’ after Covid-19, say mayors

Mayors from many of the world’s leading cities have warned there can be no return to “business as usual” in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis if humanity is to escape catastrophic climate breakdown. City leaders representing more than 750 million people have published a “statement of principles”, which commits them to putting greater equality and climate resilience at the heart of their recovery plans. Mayors from cities in Europe, the US and Africa held talks as part of a newly formed C40 economic task force. They agreed to coordinate efforts to map out plans to support a low-carbon, sustainable recovery from the crisis. The statement warns that the recovery from Covid-19 “should not be a return to ‘business as usual’ – because that is a world on track for 3C or more of overheating.”Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City and one of the signatories to the statement, said: “Half-measures that maintain the status quo won’t move the needle or protect us from the next crisis. (The Guardian)

Image source: Amazon pickup and return building by Bryan Angelo on Unspash