Top Stories

July 02, 2020

Corporate Reputation

Novartis reaches $642m settlement with US authorities
Swiss pharmaceuticals group Novartis has agreed to pay $642m in settlements over claims it paid kickbacks to doctors and improperly funded purchases of its own drugs by patients receiving US government health benefits. The deal settles civil allegations against its US arm, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and is the company’s third big resolution with US authorities in recent months. In March, a Novartis unit, Sandoz, admitted price-fixing as part of a $195m criminal antitrust settlement. Last week Novartis, along with a current and a former subsidiary, agreed to pay a total of $347m to settle US criminal and civil foreign bribery investigations. One of the settlements announced concerned the alleged use by Novartis of charitable foundations to funnel money to patients receiving government benefits under the Medicare programme. The second settlement, accounting for $591m of the resolution, resolved allegations that between 2002 and 2011 Novartis had paid bribes to doctors by purportedly paying them to give speeches to prescribe more drugs. (FT)*

Human Rights/ Employees

New laws in Singapore appear to give employers ‘almost unfettered power’ over migrant workers’ movements, say NGOs

Two major migrant welfare groups in Singapore have expressed deep concern over new laws that require most lower-income foreign workers to obtain their employers’ consent in order to leave their dormitories. The new regulations appear to give many employers “almost unfettered power over workers’ movement” and leave workers with no immediate recourse under the law, said the two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). The amendments affect two categories of lower-wage workers, Work Permit and S Pass holders, who number more than a million. The workers come from countries such as India, Bangladesh and China, and are employed in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, marine and services. The rules apply at all premises housing seven or more workers. Singapore has confirmed more than 44,000 Covid-19 cases to date, more than 94 per cent of which are migrant workers living in dormitories. “The main factors of the spread of Covid-19 among the workers were their overcrowded living, working and transportation conditions” HOME and TWC2 said. (Eco-Business)

Employees/ Environment

Up to 1.6 million new jobs could be created through green Covid-19 recovery

A green recovery package prioritising jobs in energy efficiency and public transport could create 1.6 million new jobs in the UK, new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has concluded. The report warns that up to 2.1 million Brits could file for unemployment within the next five years – equivalent to 10 per cent of the workforce – without strong policy support for industries driving the transition to a low-carbon, more socially equal nation. IPPR is, ultimately, optimistic, concluding that strong policy support for building retrofits, low-carbon heat, social care, health care and public transport could minimise job losses, creating 1.6 million roles on a net basis. The Institute’s ‘transforming the Economy after Covid-19’ report states that 560,000 full-time equivalent roles could be created in the energy efficiency and low-carbon heat sectors. A further 700,000 net jobs could be generated across the health care and social care sectors and 230,000 in the transport space, through investments in hydrogen and electric railways; electric buses and walking and cycling infrastructure. (Edie)

Ethical Business

Rainforest Alliance aims to help ethical growers get climate-smart

The Rainforest Alliance is to bolster its food certification scheme to ensure growers and brands make better use of technology to tackle climate change, respect human rights and invest in sustainable farming. International certification bodies the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ merged in 2018, and provide ethical labelling for coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas, to meet growing consumer demand. “Sustainability certification has changed dramatically over the last five to 10 years – there are now much bigger challenges,” said Ruth Rennie, director of standards and assurance at the Rainforest Alliance, a US-based non-profit. Globally, more than 2 million farmers now use the Alliance’s certification schemes, which help to ensure commodities are not linked to deforestation and can be tracked from grower to buyer. Members will have to comply with strengthened criteria on forest protection and social issues, while also looking at where climate and human rights risks occur in their supply chains and creating a plan to overcome them. (Eco-Business)

Climate Change

UN agrees to airlines’ Covid-19 pleas on offsetting scheme

The United Nations has agreed to changes in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) offsetting scheme as a result of reduced flights from the COVID-19 pandemic. ICAO was initially set to use the 2019-20 financial year as the offsetting baseline for the updated CORSIA scheme – a system designed to cap net emissions from the global aviation sector through carbon offsetting. But recent months have seen airlines propose the 2019 calendar year as the baseline, since the amount of passenger flights in 2020 has plummeted significantly due to Covid-19-related travel restrictions. Businesses across the aviation sector had warned that if any 2020 figures were added to the benchmark, airlines would not account for the full scope of their emissions. MEPs from across the political spectrum sent a letter to ICAO in late May, arguing that the body should wait for the scheduled CORSIA review in 2022 before making adjustments. ICAO said that, to complement the adjusted baseline, which will serve as a short-term measure, it is “considering the need and means to facilitate the green and resilient recovery for sustainable aviation from a longer-term perspective”. (Edie)

 Image source: photo by Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash

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