Nestlé targets the young unemployed, help to address water stress risks and GM’s new CEO

Nestlé targets youth jobs

The ripple effects of the 2007 global economic crisis are still being felt across the world. In Europe, one in four young people is currently unemployed, and youth employment is often presented as a remedy for economic woes. Following this principle,food and drinks giant Nestlé has pledged to create 20,000 positions under its recently launched “Nestlé needs YOUth” initiative.

Over the next three years the initiative will offer 10,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships across Europe to people under the age of 30.

“Think of the impact on our society if these young people are left on the margins, without income, without a future, without hope,” says Laurent Freixe, Nestlé’s executive vice-president and zone director for Europe. “As we continue to grow and invest in Europe, we want to do all we can to strengthen and develop their skills, and improve their employability, regardless of their level of education.”

Among the 20,000 employment and apprenticeship positions, 3,000 young people will be hired in France, 2,500 in Germany, 1,250 in Spain and 1,000 in Italy. In the UK, where nearly one million young people are unemployed, and in Ireland where youth unemployment currently stands at 30%, Nestlé announced it will create 1,900 employment opportunities over the next three years.

Roles will be distributed across all areas of the business and at all levels, covering specialisations including manufacturing, administration and human resources, sales and marketing, finance, engineering and R&D.

Veolia’s water management tool

French water and waste giant Veolia Environnement has launched a new measurement tool that allows businesses to address “blue risks”.

With water increasingly becoming a scarce natural resource, the global environmental services firm developed what it calls the True Cost of Water, a pragmatic tool to help organisations assess the financial implications of water-related risks, and to allow major companies and public authorities around the world make long-term business decisions that integrate the sustainability issues associated with water use.

“With this tool, financial and high level decision-makers are now able to make better, more calculated choices when investing in industrial water sustainability solutions around the world,” says Johann Clere, Veolia global director for business development and industrial markets. Clere says the need for such a tool is growing as companies look to optimise their water performance, enhance competitiveness, mitigate risks and ensure social licence to operate.

Philippe Joubert, senior adviser and managing director for energy and climate at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, points out: “Water crises will be the second major global risk for business over the next 10 years according to a report published at the 2013 World Economic Forum.” He believes that nature is starting to send us the bill for unsustainable development. “Pricing water appropriately is the only way to make sound sustainable business decisions.”

GM appoints industry’s first woman CEO

After being in operation for more than a century, American car manufacturer General Motors has become the first global automaker to appoint a woman chief executive. Mary Barra has  joined the select group of women CEOs of US corporations in traditionally male-dominated industries. These include IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and Marillyn Hewson of defence firm Lockheed Martin.

Barra is also unusual, certainly in recent history, in being an insider to move up to the top job at one of the US automotive industry’s biggest companies.

Barra has worked at GM since 1980 when she joined as a plant engineer. Her most recent role was executive vice-president for global product development. Deborah Kolb, an authority on gender issues from Simmons School of Management in the US, believes Barra was able to work her way up in the operations area. She tells Ethical Corporation: “In the past, leaders tended to come from finance. However, the position Barra held prior to CEO, in product development, was surely a major strategic issue for the auto industry. So she had a promising background, held key jobs in operations, and … a long-standing relationship with the company.”

In 2013, women held 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEO positions and the same 4.6% of Fortune 1000 CEO positions, representing 23 and 46 chief executive positions respectively.

A recent Grant Thornton International Business Report on women in senior management reveals that the country with the highest number of women in CEO positions is Thailand, where 49% of chief executive officers are female. In contrast, Turkey recorded the lowest count in the study with just 2% of CEOs being women. The UK and India ranked in the bottom five, where only 4% of chief executives are women.

Amazon’s sensible packaging

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is developing better packaging that is more sustainable and user-friendly.

Following the American e-commerce company’s launch of its Frustration-Free Packaging initiative five years ago – with just 19 products – the retailer has announced that more than 200,000 of its products come in sensible, easy-to-open recyclable packaging.

“We have all experienced the frustration of trying to remove a product from nearly impenetrable packaging like plastic clamshell cases and products bound by dozens of wire ties,” says Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive.

To improve its packaging, the retailer engaged leading manufacturers including Fisher-Price, Mattel, Unilever and Logitech. It also took customer feedback into consideration during the process of rethinking and reshaping its packaging strategy. Bezos says the new packaging is not only frustration-free for customers, but is also more environmentally sound. It uses no styrofoam, no clear-plastic inlays, and is smaller.

Amazon’s new packaging strategy has eliminated 5.3m square metres of cardboard and some 11m kg of packaging, all of which translates into a considerable reduction in costs.

Amazon spokeswoman Pia Arthur says that while the company does not disclose specific figures on savings from waste and material use reduction, “many frustration-free packaging items are able to ship in the package provided by the manufacturer, which means no extra Amazon box and less packaging for customers to dispose of, reducing the amount of cardboard we use and empty space in the boxes we ship”.

Nissan’s electric taxi right around the corner

The first all-electric cabs are soon to hit the streets of London. Japanese carmaker Nissan has confirmed that its fully electric taxi, the e-NV200, will be deployed on the streets of the UK capital as early as 2015. This comes well ahead of London mayor Boris Johnson’s 2020 target for the development of a zero-emissions taxi, part of a wider strategy to improve air quality in the city.

While the e-NV200 may be the first fully electric taxi to service London customers, it will be joining the fleet of Nissan’s low emission NV200 being launched in 2014. According to Nissan, compared with existing diesel London cabs, the NV200 motor will be “far cleaner, with lower levels of nitrogen oxides and particulates”.

Nissan’s NV200 is already in use in New York and Tokyo. However, it has been redesigned for London to more closely resemble the traditional iconic black cab. “We have worked closely with the mayor’s office, associated stakeholders and interested parties to ensure that Nissan’s new cab not only raises the bar for both driver and passenger, but is also as instantly recognisable as its legendary forebears,” says Nissan executive vice-president Andy Palmer.

Road transport is responsible for about 80% of airborne pollution in central London, to which black cabs contribute 20%. Johnson has been pushing to create an ultra-low-emissions zone in London by introducing hybrid buses and low-emission lorries and promoting electric-vehicle use.

In line with this strategy to reduce pollution in the capital, London taxis are being be confined to a lifespan of 15 years, where no taxi over 15 years old can be issued a licence. This regulation applies to the 22,000 black cabs on the streets on London, and allows Nissan into the market to compete against the dominant black cab manufacturer, London Taxi Co.

Nissan, however, isn’t the only car manufacturer in the running to become the provider of London’s very first clean cabs. The all-new zero-emission range-extended electric (REE) Metrocab taxi, which runs on a powerful, near-silent electric motor, has already taken to the streets for test trials.

According to REE Metrocab developer Ecotive, its drivers will be able to slash their running costs by charging the taxi’s lithium-ion polymer batteries at home on a standard three-pin plug, or by topping up at designated charging posts around London.

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