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Global environment index

Switzerland tops a high-profile report by Yale University on national environmental conditions. The Environmental Performance Index ranks 178 countries around the world according to nine criteria, such as water management, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore and Czech Republic are the remaining countries in the top five. The UK is placed 12th overall, with a score of 77.35 out of 100 (up 3.48 on last year), while the US comes 33rd with a score of 67.52.

Brazil (77th), Russia (73rd), India (155th) and China (118th) – the so-called Bric countries – fare poorly, largely due to the rapid rate of urbanisation and industrial development in recent years. The five worst performers – Somalia, Mali, Haiti, Lesotho and Afghanistan – demonstrate the damaging environmental effects that follow civil unrest, poverty and political instability.

One of the most worrying trends is the depletion of fish stocks through the use of heavy equipment and over-catching. Only 13% of countries have surplus fish, with 57% fully exploiting their stocks and 30% guilty of over-exploiting. Meanwhile, a mere 16% of countries meet the World Health Organisation’s Household Air Quality targets. Success in meeting the United Nations’ Change in Forest Cover targets is even lower, with only 11% of countries hitting the mark.

Edelman’s 14th annual trust survey

Just over two in five people believe corporate leaders can be trusted to tell the truth and make ethical decisions, according to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer. The survey of 33,000 people – the 14th of its kind – finds that 58% trust the private sector as a whole. It’s not a great score, but it’s at least better than that for government (44%).

Interestingly, trust levels are higher for family-owned companies (71%) and small and medium-sized companies (68%). Big business scores a mere 45% trust rating. Public confidence differs by sector, too, with the technology (79%) and automotive (70%) industries topping the list. Banking (51%) comes last, with trust in financial institutions especially low in European countries such as Spain (16%), Italy (23%) and the UK (32%).

Edelman finds that a majority of respondents (84%) believe that business can pursue its self-interest while doing good work for society.

Electric car sales racing ahead in Norway

Norway is reckoned to be the world’s first car market where electric vehicles have beaten off their conventional combustion engine equivalents to top the sales rankings. The Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf proved the bestselling models over the last three month of 2013. Despite the success of the individual Tesla and Nissan models, EVs still only make up a small proportion of total car sales in Norway. Around 10% of all new car purchases are battery-powered, equivalent to around 1,200 vehicles a month. More than 21,000 EVs are now registered in the country of five million people, compared with just 5,000 in the UK (though the number here is accelerating).

US public believes in climate change

Almost two in three US citizens concede that global warming is real, although the number of sceptics jumped by 7 percentage points in the last year to 23%. A study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication finds that 14% of Americans remain uncertain either way, down from 20% last year. Only around two-fifths (38%) of US citizens believe they will be affected by climatic change, while a similar proportion (43%) said they felt “helpless” in the face of the global warming threat.

UK payroll giving on the up

One clear sign that the recession may be waning is the surge in employee giving. Donations from payroll giving schemes in the UK shot up 24% in 2013 to £162.5m. Matched-giving, where employers match their employees’ donations, increased by 27% to £7.5m, according to the latest figures from the Association of Payroll Giving Organisations.

Sustainability motivated by cost-cutting

More than half of UK companies say their primary motivation for sustainable business is cost cuts from resource efficiency. The news marks a transition from more traditional compliance-led motivations, according to a new survey from specialist consultancy 2Degrees. The survey, which is based on responses from more than 700 businesses, identifies engaging senior management as the biggest single challenge (cited by 65% of respondents). This is followed by employee engagement (47%).

Solar delivers US jobs

The US solar industry now employs 143,000 people, up by a fifth on 2012, figures from the Solar Foundation reveal. More than two-thirds of new job opportunities are in manufacturing and installation. The 23,682 jobs created in the solar sector during 2013 represent an employment growth rate of 10 times the US average (of 1.9%). During the same period, jobs in the US fossil fuel sectors fell by 8.7%.

Organisation snapshots

Global jobless figures

The global economy may be picking up, but the problem of global unemployment is proving slow to resolve itself. The latest figures from the International Labour Organisation suggest almost 202 million people were unemployed in 2013, an increase of almost five million on 2012. The speed at which young people are entering the workforce marks a critical factor. More than 45% of additional jobseekers originate in the populous regions of east and south Asia. Latin America, in contrast, counts for only 1% of the world’s additional unemployed.

The world’s young people continue to be particularly affected by the weak and uneven recovery. Some 74.5 million young people – aged between 15 and 24 – were unemployed in 2013, an increase of almost one million on the previous year. Global youth unemployment now stands at 13.1%. This is almost three times as high as the adult unemployment rate.

Times are tough for many in work too. The ILO estimates 839 million workers (equivalent to 26.7% of total employment) are trapped in “working poverty”, living on less than $2 a day. Of these, around 375 million (or 11.9% of total employment) survive on less than $1.25 per day.

WEF report: Climate adaptation

The extreme weather caused by climate change and the resulting natural disasters could cause losses of 1-12% of global GDP per year, a report from the World Economic Forum finds. These loses could rise to 19% by 2030 if no action is taken. With appropriate action in hazard-prone areas, however, the estimated cost of future losses could be reduced by up to 69%. Insurance can cover another 15% or so of the expected losses, WEF estimates.

Aquaculture to meet rising fish demand

Aquaculture will provide close to two-thirds of global food fish by 2030 as catches from wild capture fisheries level off and fish demand substantially increases, says a new report by the World Bank. The Fish to 2030 report, jointly published with the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation, calculates that 70% of all fish demand will originate in Asia by the end of the next decade. China alone will make up an estimated 38% of global fish demand. Meanwhile, as a proportion of global supply, wild-caught fish is expected to fall from its current level of 55% to 38% in 2030. According to the FAO, 55 million people are engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture worldwide.

Corporate insights

Ikea increases use of sustainable cotton

Nearly three-quarters of all the cotton used in Ikea’s products now comes from sustainable sources, up from a mere third in 2012. The Swedish retailer, which works with the WWF-backed Better Cotton Initiative, procures 110,000 tonnes of cotton a year. Ikea is also making advances with its timber, increasing its use of Forest Stewardship Council certified wood from 22.6% in 2012 to 32.4% in 2013.

Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug increases reach

Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk reached 24.3 million people with its diabetes care products during 2013, up from 22.8 million in 2012, the company’s 10th integrated annual report reveals. On the downside, the company racked up year-on-year increases in CO2 emissions from energy consumption (+2%), water consumption (+8%) and energy consumption (+6%).

Freshfields gives free law advice

Employees at the global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer racked up 60,000 hours in pro bono and community volunteering activities last year, according to the company’s 2013 Responsible Business Report. The UK-based firm also achieved ISO 14001 accreditation for environmental management. The certification comes despite a 2% increase in gross carbon emissions.

climate change  CR Cheat Sheet  CR Stats  electric car  Ikea  Novo Nordisk  pay  solar industry  trust barometer 

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