Ikea’s sustainability, manufacturers call for energy strategy, recycling targets, Tillerson slammed, billionaires invest in green energy and EcoVadis expands

FTSE100 ‘going backwards’ on human rights reporting

Human rights reporting across the FTSE100 is falling, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Looking at 2015 annual reports, CIMA found a 9% fall in the proportion of firms detailing actions they have taken on human rights, raising worries that firms are failing to engage meaningfully with this issue.

While the number of companies talking about human rights had risen from less than a third in 2005 to 97 out of 100 in 2014, this fell back again in 2015 to 86%. The tobacco, food and drink, and mining sectors showed greatest progress, while mobile telecommunications and financial services were the poorest performers.

CIMA said the 2008 financial crisis marked a watershed in the linking of human rights to practical actions, falling from 74% of mentions being directly evidenced to just 8% in 2015 despite a significant rise in the use of the term “human rights”.

Tanya Barman, head of ethics at CIMA said: “The lack of detail around practical actions explains why human rights scandals continue to emerge so regularly. Although companies are clearly aware of the importance of being seen to act correctly, there is still a lack of understanding of how this impacts value.”

CIMA chief executive Andrew Harding cited Unilever, which has increased mentions of human rights in its annual report, despite recently introducing a separate human rights report. “This is part of a wider sustainability focus, recognising all the interdependencies of their business model, which has seen their business thrive in recent years,” Harding said.

Supply chain ratings firm EcoVadis gets €30m to expand 

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French supply chain ratings firm EcoVadis this week announced €30m in venture funding to radically expand its business. The funding from Partech Ventures represents the first investment for EcoVadis since its inception in 2007.

The investment will be used to accelerate worldwide adoption of EcoVadis’ supplier corporate social responsibility ratings. About 150 firms, including Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Nestlé, GSK, Heineken, Michelin, Schneider Electric, l'Oréal, BASF, and Subway use EcoVadis to track more than 30,000 suppliers.

EcoVadis CEO Frederic Trinel said: “This pivotal investment will empower our team to accelerate R&D and enhance our proprietary technology with the latest innovations in machine learning and natural language processing while broadening our expertise in CSR analysis to foster environmental, social and ethical performance improvement at a global scale.”

John Elkington, chairman of UK sustainability consultancy Volans, and EcoVadis advisory board member, said: "It's exciting to see the EcoVadis ratings and platform going mainstream – with growing potential to become the preferred enabler of business and market transformation for the two million businesses operating in global supply chains."

Ikea tackles sustainability during critical year

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Ikea published its 2016 sustainability report this week, and said it showed strong progress towards its People & Planet Positive strategy. The strategy aims to achieve 100% renewable energy – producing as much as it consumes – by 2020. The Swedish big box retailers highlighted efforts such as making LED energy-efficient bulbs as cheap as €1.50 and owning and operating 327 wind turbines and 730,000 solar panels on its buildings.

Ikea has spent €3bn on sustainability investments, with 61% of its wood and 100% of cotton of its products coming from sustainable sources. It is also looking at using recycled content in its products as part of its ongoing strategy to reduce waste. Ikea is a member of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s CE100 initiative, as well as the RE100 and Science-Based Targets.

Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer at Ikea, said: “We’ll keep delighting our customers with small but important innovations, like our new well-designed bicycle and low-carbon delicious veggie balls – part of our mission to enjoy a sustainable life at home.”


Manufacturers call on government to boost energy security

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A new report published this week by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, urges government to take action to drive down energy use across UK industries.

The report, Upgrading power: delivering a flexible electricity system, details 11 recommendations to the government regarding energy, including establishing an annual energy statement, reforming the Triad charging system for the National Grid, and developing an electricity demand response scheme.

“Manufacturers’ confidence in the Government’s handle on security of supply is tepid at best,” says Claire Jakobsson, head of energy and environment policy at EEF. The report reveals that only 3.6% of manufacturers felt energy infrastructure has improved in the last two years, and only two-thirds that the government has a robust energy strategy in the long term. EEF is calling on a wide range of reforms to help deliver further improvements in industrial energy efficiency, and hopes introducing an annual energy statement will provide a longer term view of energy policy in the UK, with increased transparency and stability.


Defra’s 2020 packaging targets ‘don’t go far enough’

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The aluminium packaging recycling organisation (Alupro) has urged the government to ensure that future recycling targets are “stretching but realistic”, in a statement released in response to Defra’s publication of proposed targets for 2018-2020. Alupro has said it is essential that targets are reviewed regularly to boost recycling efforts.

Defra is currently considering three options for packaging targets; the first suggests no increase in rates beyond the current amount (55% by 2020); the second and third suggest a yearly increase, though remaining below 70%. Alupro has said these targets are based on outdated information and disregard a large amount of recycled packaging.

Alupro said in a statement: “Targets that are easily achievable will result in lower package recovery note (PRN) prices, making accreditation to the system less attractive. Our real fear is that the proposed targets will not convince reprocessors/exporters to remain accredited, with the result that volumes will go unreported and the true recycling performance will not be measured.”


Green groups urge Senate to fight Tillerson appointment

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Environmental groups have slammed Donald Trump’s choice of Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, as secretary of state in the next administration. The president-elect applauded Tillerson’s “tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics” in a statement released on Tuesday morning by his transition team

NextGen Climate president Tom Steyer said the nomination “completes the takeover of our democracy of Big Oil, Wall Street and the far right”. Erich Pica, US president of Friends of the Earth, declared that Tillerson should be prosecuted for “climate fraud” and that Trump’s decision confirms he is not interested in “championing the regular guy”.

Republican and Democrat senators alike expressed concern over Tillerson’s lack of experience and close ties to Russian President Vladmir Putin, due to a succession of oil deals. Last year it was revealed that Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest oil company, was aware of climate change several years before it became a public issue but spent millions funding climate denial. The company is currently under investigation for misleading investors about what it knew about climate change.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, said: “At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run US foreign policy." Greenpeace spokesperson Cassady Craighill said in a statement: “We will not be silenced, and we will not allow this cabinet of billionaires to steamroll the people.”


Billionaires launch $1bn clean tech fund

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Bill Gates has launched a new $1bn clean tech investment fund a year on from announcing plans to accelerate investment in clean energy research. The fund has backing from 20 investors, including Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

The fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, will begin making investments next year and will “provide reliable and affordable power without contributing to climate change”.  Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has supported several energy start-ups focused on advances in energy production. "I am honoured to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research," he said.

Main Image Credit: Jimmy Tran

Human rights  ecovadis  FTSE100  CIMA  Rex Tillerson  Trump  Ikea  Defra  clean energy 

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