Top Stories

August 04, 2020

Sustainable Investment

Google owner issues largest corporate sustainability bond in history

Google‘s parent company Alphabet Inc. has issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds, in what it claims is the largest sustainability or green bond issued by a corporation to date. While the proceeds from green bonds are typically used to fund projects, which minimise a company’s environmental footprint, sustainability bonds cover social sustainability issues as well. For projects to receive support from the bond, they must fall into one of the eight priority categories identified by Alphabet: energy efficiency, renewable energy, green buildings, clean transport, circular economy and design, affordable housing, racial equality, and support for small businesses in the wake of Covid-19. The clean transport projects will help Google integrate electric vehicles (EVs) and cargo bikes into its global fleet, following successful pilots in California’s San Francisco Bay; while the circular economy and design funding will be used to accelerate progress towards Google’s recycled content and recyclable devices targets. (edie)

Climate Change

Vodafone and Defra launch IoT tree monitoring system to inform climate policy

Telecommunications company Vodafone has enrolled in a new partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor and research tree growth to assist in tackling the climate crisis. Fresh off pledging to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of July 2021, Vodafone will now work with Defra and Forest Research to monitor tree growth and uncover ideal growing conditions to help capture more carbon. A three-month pilot in Forestry England’s Alice Holt forest, in Surrey, and Harwood forest, in Northumberland will see Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology connect to sensors attached to trees. The sensors will collect data on temperature, humidity and soil moisture, on tree growth and function without the need for frequent site visits, and the impact these will have in storing carbon. The pilot will assist Defra’s 25-year Environment Plan, which includes a commitment to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025. (edie)


Bangladesh may ditch 90% of its planned coal power

Bangladesh’s minister of power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, made a surprising announcement recently when he said the country is planning to “review” all but three of 29 planned coal plants. “We are keeping the three coal-fired power plants that are under construction. At present, we are aiming for [40 to 41GW of total generation capacity], where only 5GW is coal based,” said Minister Hamid during a webinar run by Centre for Policy Dialogue, a societal think tank in Bangladesh. “We are reviewing how we can move from coal-based power plants.” Bangladesh has one of the largest coal power pipelines in the world, a total of 29 power plants amounting to 33.2GW of capacity, according to a 2019 study by an Australian organisation that tracks fossil fuel investment. If the minister’s comments become government policy, up to 26 power plants accounting for 28GW of capacity could be put under review. That’s 90 percent of the coal pipeline. (Eco-Business)

Human Rights

Migrant workers on farms across Canada are being told they can’t leave, raising human rights concerns

Agriculture employers in several provinces of Canada are restricting the movement of migrant farm workers during the pandemic, raising questions about the human rights of temporary foreign workers who in some cases aren’t allowed to leave the premises, even to get groceries. In an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19 at agri-food operations, some employers are asking workers to sign agreements or conform to rules confining them to the property. Under the federal temporary foreign worker (TFW) program, employers often provide seasonal farm staff with on-site accommodation, which can include bunkhouses, trailers and sheds. Some employees said they have not ventured off the grounds for several months, forgoing grocery runs, church services, medical appointments and visits with spouses and children who live in Canada year-round. (The Globe and Mail)

Responsible Advertising

KLM’s biofuel advertisements were greenwashing, regulator rules

Dutch airline KLM has been ordered to change one of its advertising campaigns after it was found to have over-emphasised the firm’s use of biofuel. The advertising campaign in question stated that KLM mixed biofuels with traditional fossil-fuel-based kerosene up to a maximum of 50 percent and that the airline was “the first to fly biofuel on a daily basis”. It was run in the Netherlands earlier this year. While KLM has operated a select number of flights with a 50 percent biofuel blend and, pre-pandemic, was using a biofuel blend on at least one flight per day, biofuel only accounted for 0.18 percent of its total fuel consumption in 2019. The Dutch Advertising Code Committee ruled that this proportion should be listed in future advertisements which use biofuel as a selling point and that KLM should re-word its campaign to avoid misleading consumers. The ruling is non-binding. The court case was brought forward by local teacher Eric Stam, who submitted a complaint as a private citizen. (edie)