Top Stories

January 30, 2023


Rio Tinto apologises for losing highly radioactive capsule

Mining company Rio Tinto has apologised for losing a highly radioactive capsule that fell off a truck on a 1,400-kilometre stretch of desert highway in Western Australia. The miner and Australian authorities are scrambling to find the missing part from a sensor used in mining, which measures just 6mm by 8mm and was lost on its way from a site in the Pilbara region to a depot in the state capital of Perth. The silver capsule contains a small amount of caesium-137 and is dangerously radioactive. Experts said that an hour of exposure from about a metre away is equivalent to having 10 X-rays, and prolonged contact can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness, and cancer. The search has involved scanning for radiation levels from along the trucking route. (Financial Times)*


Barclays, UBS face questions over Russian oligarch trusts

Financial services companies Barclays and UBS are facing questions about their ties to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich after his offshore trusts were reorganised shortly before the EU and UK imposed sanctions. The ‘Oligarch files’, a cache of leaked documents suggest that before Russia invaded Ukraine the two banks held at least $940 million of assets on behalf of Abramovich’s trusts. However, shortly before the invasion, Abramovich’s offshore trusts were rapidly rearranged to transfer beneficial ownership of his fortune to his children. The documents raise questions about how the banks responded to the changes and whether, since sanctions were imposed, they allowed the children to financially benefit from the assets. Under UK and EU sanctions law, a bank is required to freeze assets if they are owned 50% or more by a sanctioned person. (The Guardian)


BlackRock increases lobbying in face of anti-ESG attacks

Asset manager BlackRock sharply increased its spending on lobbying in the US in 2022 as it came under attack over its use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in investing. BlackRock disclosed spending $2.38 million in 2022 on federal lobbying, up 63% from 2021. Within that, it more than doubled the amount of money it paid to high-powered lobbying companies to $1.2 million. State lobbying registers show that the company also added five registered lobbyists in Texas and two in Florida, up from none in either state in 2020. Republican politicians in those states have been leading the attack on investment groups they consider hostile to fossil fuels. BlackRock’s lobbying spending trails Fidelity and Invesco, which have been among the top users of federal lobbyists in recent years. (Financial Times)*


UK accounting watchdog tightens ESG scrutiny in audits

Britain's accounting watchdog said it will monitor whether auditors were making spot checks on their compliance with ESG reporting requirements in company audits. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it will continue to pay attention to work by auditors on climate-related risks faced by companies whose books they check. The watchdog said in 2023 it will focus on the use of ESG data and the link between investors and ESG reporting by companies. There will be targeted work including 'hot' or 'in-flight' reviews – internal checks at auditors as an audit progresses. The FRC said it will look at how these reviews consider ESG matters. The watchdog said it will also consider selecting listed companies with significant environmental risk and monitor whether their senior auditor has completed appropriate training. (Reuters)


Nearly two-thirds of consumers still prioritise sustainability

A report from tech giant Shopify has revealed that consumer interest in green products has remained remarkably robust, despite inflation and other economic pressures. The global survey of 24,000 consumers and 9,000 businesses undertaken in autumn 2022 found that 62% of shoppers said they would not cut down on spending on sustainable products and services despite ongoing economic uncertainty. Moreover, 82% of traders surveyed said they were confident sustainability measures were contributing to improved company performance. Globally, a majority of consumers were found to be prioritising green goods, with 54% claiming to be shopping sustainably by choosing retailers that offer carbon-neutral shipping, for example. Consumers were also found to be proactively changing their behaviours to seek planet-positive options, with one-in-four looking for products that are recyclable. (Business Green)*

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Important update

Corporate Citizenship Briefing has been published for over 30 years, making it the longest running daily news and analysis service in the responsible business sector. We've issued a daily news update by email since 2006. Over that time, we've often adjusted the format as technology has changed and the needs of practitioners have shifted. However, our mission has remained the same: to provide practitioners, companies and enthusiasts alike with key insights into the big issues facing corporate responsibility and sustainability. Now another shift is coming. We are moving away from reporting on a daily basis to focusing on analysing and interpreting the big trends in responsible and sustainable business on a monthly basis. The final Corporate Citizenship Daily Briefing will be published on Tuesday 31st January 2023. Thank you for being part of our journey.