NGOs slam EU plastics strategy, Teesside CCS, SC Johnson protects Amazonia, phones for the homeless, DONG to end coal, Primark cotton farmers increase profits, the Crowd goes B Corp, and VisionFund boosts impact

NGOs say EU plastics strategy ‘not tackling producer responsibility’

THE EU’s new Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy should be focusing on reducing and optimising the use of plastic, not recycling it, according to the Break Free from Plastic Movement.

The coalition of 19 NGOs, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Surfers Against Sewage, which formed last year to coordinate global action on the issue, is calling for a massive decrease in the use of single-use plastics and a sharp increase in reuse and recycling.

“While the Commission highlights the many problems of plastic pollution for the marine environment, the coalition regrets that it does not propose adequate measures to tackle the issue. What’s more, for packaging and its role in littering, the Commission points at the lack of consumer awareness, rather than addressing the producer’s responsibility and the full range of confusion introduced by biodegradable plastics, " said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the coalition.

"In addition, the Commission does not expand on the need to move away from the use of hazardous chemicals in plastics, which can harm public health ...These responses will not lead to a meaningful adoption of circular economy principles, nor will it necessarily reduce health-harming plastic pollution.”

The large US discount store Target last week announced that it would remove harmful chemicals from its products by 2020.

Teesside sets out plan for cost-effective industrial CCS

Credit: Lee Roberts

TURNING TEESSIDE into a hub for industrial carbon capture and storage would cost £58 per tonne of CO2, a price tag that is significantly below offshore wind, at £200/tCO2, and nuclear, at £128/tCO2, according to a report released this week.

The report was funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and conducted by Pöyry Management Consulting by the Teesside Collective, a group led by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership. It is working with Lotte Chemical, BOC, CF Fertilisers, Sembcorp Utilities UK and SABIC, which are heavy producers of CO2 as part of their production processes, and aims to create Europe’s first CCS-equipped industrial zone.

In recent years, analysts and governments have recognised that some of the world’s most carbon-intensive industries may have no alternatives to CCS for deep emissions reduction because CO2 is unavoidably generated by their production processes, not only from fuel use.  

“In addition to a major reduction in UK CO2 emissions, there would be considerable economic benefits to the UK in decarbonising industry through the competitive advantages of insulating industry from future carbon policy, and creating a strong rationale to continue production in the UK,” the report said.

However, it also said that “The costs of supporting industrial CCS in the UK remain uncertain”, with the best estimates based on concept-level engineering estimates in Teesside.

Paul Booth, chair of Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “There is no doubt the technologies involved in CCS are tried and tested and that Teesside has the concentration of facilities that make it the ideal place to start. The benefits in terms of long-term industrial growth and emissions reduction are also clear.

“The question this report answers is whether there is a cost-effective way of making this a reality. The answer is a resounding yes. We know the demands on the public purse are great, but these are also lean industries with low margins. Working together, sharing the costs and risks opens up vast opportunity for all involved.

SC Johnson pledges to protect 10,000 acres of Amazon rainforest

Credit: Filipe Frazao/Shutterstock Inc.


SC JOHNSON HAS launched a challenge to help protect the Amazon rainforest by matching consumer donations made to protect acres of land from deforestation.  

The household consumer products brand announced the challenge in partnership with Conservation International, to support the new virtual reality film Under the Canopy. The film allows viewers to experience the Amazon rainforest in 360-degree virtual reality, highlighting why Amazonia is integral to the planet, from its trees’ absorption of carbon to helping regulate the climate.

Along with sponsoring the film’s distribution, SC Johnson has challenged consumers to protect acres of the rainforest by matching donations. The company will match up to 5,000 acres – each acre costing as little as $25.

Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International, said: “When a household name like SC Johnson acts to protect the Amazon rainforest, people take notice. With this new commitment, SC Johnson builds on a longstanding partnership with Conservation International to support conservation and sustainable development in Amazonia. Their investment in the rainforest is an investment in families everywhere.”

Three donates old mobile phones to people at risk

Credit: Xtrekx/Shutterstock Inc.


Three UK has launched a scheme to connect disadvantaged citizens to the digital world through redistributing unused mobile phones.

The communication provider’s Reconnected scheme, in partnership with recycling firm GSUK, distributes unused handsets to people at risk of homelessness, including ex-military members and victims of domestic abuse.

Three is asking members of the public to donate suitable phones, which will be recycled if they are not fit for redistribution. Along with the handset, benefactors will receive 90 days of free access to the Three network, after which they can keep the handset and sign up to a contract of their choosing.

Vicki Blenkarn, director of engagement at Three, said: “Reconnected is a simple but very effective way to help those in need to get online. Initially, we rolled the scheme out internally and the feedback from our employees has been fantastic. We are therefore so excited to launch Reconnected with the public to get even more people involved.”

Ethical Corporation has previously reported on similar initiatives to champion circular action with smartphones, including O2’s own initiative to recycle old mobile phones. Figures from Ofcom show that more than 20 million phones are unused in UK households, with huge potential for phone companies to profit from recycling initiatives.

DONG Energy to phase out coal by 2023

Credit: DONG Energy


DONG ENERGY HAS vowed to phase out all use of coal as fuel in its power stations by 2023 and replace it with biomass.

Since 2006, DONG Energy has reduced its coal consumption by 73%, as well as increased its use of offshore wind. By 2023, the coal will be replaced entirely by sustainable biomass, a move that will make it one of the greenest energy companies in Europe, the company says.

Henrik Poulsen, CEO of DONG Energy, said: "We've decided to take the final step and phase out the use of coal at all our power stations. The future belongs to renewable energy sources, and therefore we're now converting the last of our coal-fired power stations to sustainable biomass."

Since 2002, DONG Energy has used wood pellets and wood chips as fuel at two of its power stations. Its reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2006 amounts to 53% of the Denmark’s 25m tonne cut in CO2 emissions. By 2023, the company expects to reduce its emissions by 18m tonnes on 2006 levels and emit only 500,000 tonnes annually from electricity and heating production from gas-fired boilers.

Indian women farmers see 247% rise in profit in Primark programme

Credit: Primark

WOMEN SMALLHOLDER FARMERS in India involved in Primark’s sustainable cotton programme have seen their profits increase by an average 247%, allowing them to invest in farm and home improvements, healthcare and education for their children, Primark said.

Launched in 2013, the programme is a partnership between the UK clothing retailer, agricultural experts Cotton Connect, and the Self Employed Women’s Association. The programme trains women smallholders in sustainable farming methods so they can improve their livelihoods through increased income. In total, 1,251 farmers participated in the first three years of the programme and in 2016 Primark announced that the programme would be extended to reach a further 10,000 farmers over a six-year period.

India is the second-largest producer of cotton, in which women play a crucial role: they account for 70% of cotton planting, and 90% of the hand-picking, according to the International Trade Centre. Yet women in rural Indian earn only 78% of what men get. Participants in the programme also recorded a reduction of input costs by 19.2%, a 40% cut in the use of chemical fertiliser, 44% lower chemical pesticide usage, and a 10% water usage reduction.

Alison Ward, CottonConnect’s CEO, said: “By partnering with Primark and the Self-Employed Women’s Association, we’ve been able to achieve significant results for the programme farmers, their families and the broader community. Key to its success was gaining the support of male elders and family members. In doing so, we’ve seen a real cultural shift: women’s voices are now heard and respected, and they are part of the decision-making process with their families and communities.”

Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark, said: “Primark’s long-term ambition is to ensure all the cotton in our supply chain is sourced sustainably. We approached SEWA and CottonConnect because we wanted to develop a project that would give us invaluable insight into producing sustainable cotton and make a meaningful difference for cotton farmers in India.”

The Crowd becomes B Corp

SUSTAINABILITY FORUM The Crowd has joined the ranks of the certified B Corporations. The announcement was made on Monday, at The Crowd’s monthly forum, which this week explored the “exponential mindset” that John Elkington says companies will need to adopt to tackle social problems, using powerful new technologies and business models.

There are 2,026 B Corporations in 50 countries, for-profit companies that are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, with stakeholders and shareholders given an equal say in how they are run. As Charmian Love, co-founder of B Lab UK, told the forum on Monday night: “B Corps are about mobilising business to be a force for good. They show that profit and purpose can operate together. It’s not one or the other.” This, she said, creates a “virtuous, even exponential cycle”.

Jim Woods, CEO of The Crowd, said as a five-person team, The Crowd doesn’t have much of a supply chain. But they decided to apply for B Corp status because they wanted to promote the movement. “We spend our whole time studying the corporate landscape from a social and environmental perspective and the biggest problem is short-term investor interest, which means companies under-invest in innovation, and don’t see a return for social and environmental initiatives, which pay back in the longer term. B Corp could possibly change that.”

He added: “If there was a groundswell of companies doing this,  over time it could tip the balance into multiple stakeholder models.”

VisionFund sustains 2.4 million jobs 

VisionFund has released its 2016 Social Performance Report, showing the impact of its microfinance programmes and economic empowerment of 4.4 million children last year.

The financial services company, which was created in 2003 to bring lending to some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world, lent $729m to 1.2 million clients last year, sustaining 2.4 million jobs in developing countries. Women make up 72% of VisionFund’s clients, and in Asia this figure is 92%.

Its partnerships in 2016 have brought thousands of water pumps to farmers in Zambia, latrines to families in the Philippines, and water filters to households in Cambodia. VisionFund plans to move its programme into the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.

plastics  circular economy  carbon capture  amazon rainforest  mobile phone  recycling  coal  cotton farmers  B corp  green finance 

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