Casting an eye over the last week in the world of responsible business

Dame Polly Courtice wins Ethical Corporation’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Dame Polly Courtice, founder-director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at Ethical Corporation’s seventh annual Responsible Business Awards last Friday night. The glittering event, at the Waldorf Hilton in London’s Covent Garden, also saw carpet company Interface pick up both the Best Company and CEO of the Year awards.

Courtice was lauded by the award judges “for her tremendous contribution to global sustainability leadership” over nearly 30 years of working with business leaders, policy makers and academia to promote the sustainability agenda. She was asked by the Prince Charles to set up his influential Business and Sustainability Programme in 1993 and set up the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group in 2005. The Cambridge institute, which she leads, has an alumni network of almost 3,000 senior leaders from around the world.

White House, Google, Amazon turn to big data to fight climate change

The US White House and a number of companies including Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and IBM’s The Weather Company are teaming up to improve the availability and usability of data around climate resilience.

The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (Prep) collaboration aims to “empower a data-driven approach to building climate resilience” by engaging communities and facilitating ongoing conversations among producers and users of data. Prep seeks to translate data into actionable information that will help inform planning decisions for people on the ground and give them access to the tools they need to build climate resilience.

It is developing an open-source platform as a first step in supporting communities’ climate resilience needs. A beta version of the platform, managed by The World Resources Institute, is already available on the Prep website.

BT leads FTSE 100 on sustainability

BT has outperformed other FTSE 100 companies on sustainability reporting for the third year running, according to low-carbon consultancy Carbon Clear.

The UK telecoms giant was crowned “leader of the pack” for demonstrating “a comprehensive approach to carbon and sustainability reporting though an extensive and broad strategic approach, firmly cementing their position as one of the best practice leaders of the FTSE 100”.

The company was praised for being the first FTSE100 company to committing to science-based targets last year, and achieving an 81% cut in net emissions compared to a 1996-97 baseline. A member of the RE100, BT already sources 95% of its electricity from renewable energy. It is also part of the CE100 circular economy initiative set up by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.


Theresa May puts tax dodgers on notice

The new prime minister, Theresa May, put companies on notice that her government will take action to combat tax evasion during her speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.

“When I stood on the steps of Number 10 for the first time as Prime Minister 84 days ago, I said that the government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the rich and powerful, but by the interests of ordinary, working class people,” she said, warning: “If you’re a tax-dodger, we’re coming after you. If you’re an accountant, a financial adviser or a middleman who helps people to avoid what they owe to society, we’re coming after you too. An economy that works for everyone is one where everyone plays by the same rules.”

She also made a plug for the Conservative candidate to become the first mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who has said he will step down as John Lewis’s managing director if he succeeds. She described Street as “a man to get things done”.


Paris Agreement to come into force this year

The European Union has ratified the Paris Agreement, clearing the final hurdle for the global pact agreed at last December’s climate conference to enter into force.

The agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries, sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C. In the lead up to the COP21 climate conference in Paris it was expected that any agreement would not be in force before 2020. It is now expected to be legally binding before COP22 opens in Marrakech in November.

Under the UN’s rules the agreement will enter force 30 days after at least 55 parties, representing at least 55% of global emissions have ratified it. The EU ratification brings the number of parties to 62, and crosses the 55% emissions threshold.

President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Today the European Union turned climate ambition into climate action."


Securing indigenous land rights ‘a cost-effective way to fight climate change’

The World Resources Institute has for the first time put a monetary value on policies that secure land rights for indigenous people who protect forests.

In a new report this week the Washington, DC think tank does matching analysis of 12 years of data for Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia to show that inside forestlands where indigenous groups have secure tenure to land, deforestation rates were between two and 2.8 times lower than in areas where they have no land rights.


The study puts the costs to governments of proving secure land rights at less than 1% of the economic benefits, which include provision of fuelwood, timber and plants, the regulation of climate and water cycles; erosion control, pollination; and protection of important species habitats.

“These findings make a strong economic case for governments, climate change funding agencies, and other partners to invest in securing indigenous forestland tenure in Latin America, and, more broadly, community land rights around the world,” the report says. 

Climate deal to cost Asia $300bn a year until 2050

Research from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shows that developing economies across Asia will have to spend $300bn each year until 2050 in order to meet the Paris climate deal targets.

The research also states that a shift to low-carbon growth would help save thousands of lives and avoid the worsening of poverty.


“ADB estimates that the region can generate more than $2 in gains for each $1 of cost it bears to reach the Paris goal if the right steps are taken,” ADB’s deputy chief economist Juzhong Zhuang said.

The bank is urging the region to boost investment in renewable energy and slash its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which currently contribute over two-thirds of Asia’s total emissions.

Novo Nordisk to provide discounted insulin to poorest nations

Pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk has pledged to provide insulin at greatly discounted prices in the world's least-developed countries.

As part of its "access to insulin commitment ” the Danish drugmaker, which produces almost half of the world's insulin, said reduced pricing - which according to the company will not exceed 20% of list prices charged for the medicine in developed nations - will be applied to least developed countries as defined by the UN, low-income nations as defined by the World Bank, and a number of humanitarian organisations.

According to the World Health Organisation, of the 400 million people who suffer from diabetes worldwide, more than three million die of the disease each year and an estimated 50 million lack access to insulin.


Biggest customer fear: businesses mishandling client information

Research by the UK’s Association of Accounting Technicians has revealed that the biggest fear customers face when deciding with whom to do business is the mishandling of sensitive client data.

According to a survey of 2,000 UK adults, the most important issue for the public is that businesses are careful with private client information, cited by 44% of respondents.


Having businesses not engaging in aggressive tax avoidance was the second biggest concern, stated by 42% of respondents, followed by a strict ethical code in a business’ supply chain ranking third with 39% of respondents selecting it as the most important issue.

When asked what measures they wished to see implemented to discourage aggressive tax avoidance, the public’s top response was to compile and publish a “blacklist” of companies that engage in aggressive tax avoidance.

BT  Indigenous People  Responsible Business Awards  Paris Agreement  Novo Nordisk 

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