All the latest facts, stats and numbers from the world of sustainable business
Trafficking policies in place
Fifty-four of the Fortune 100 companies – the biggest companies in the US – have publicly available policies on human trafficking, and two-thirds have policies on forced labour, according to a survey by the American Bar Association. When companies without major supply chains are removed from the analysis (such as insurance firms and banks), then the remaining 79 companies are shown to be more likely to have policies on human trafficking (66%) and forced labour (76%).
A far lower proportion (37%) have policies on conflict minerals. This is because of the relatively reduced supply-side exposure to the issue among the Fortune 100, the American Bar Association says.
Renewables resurgence required
The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) claims that the world economy could be $740bn per year better off by 2030 if volumes of green energy were to double during that intervening period. If solar, wind and other clean energies were to meet 36% of total energy demand by the end of the next decade, it would reduce the world’s reliance on oil and gas by 15% and on coal by 26%, according to Irena’s Renewable Energy Roadmap. A green energy hike of this magnitude would also help limit the increase in global temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, as well as create a net gain of nearly 1m jobs by 2030.
Fish stocks under threat
Fish accounts for 16% of the world’s animal protein intake, increasing to 20% in low-income, food-deficit nations. Yet overfishing, especially in south-east Asia, is potentially putting future fish stocks in jeopardy. An investigation by Australia’s James Cook University picks out Indonesia and China, which have overfished their wild marine fisheries by 4.7m and 3m tonnes respectively over the past six decades. At present, 57% of fisheries production in low-income countries comes from marine capture, about half of which is by small-scale fisheries. In 1950, only 12% of global fish catch was from wild marine stocks.
The giving gap
Nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds would be more incentivised to buy a product or service from a company that makes donations to charity, a survey from the Charities Aid Foundation finds. This compares with only half of the general public. The survey also finds that 61% of young adults say they are more likely to want to work for a business that supports charities. Only 3% of UK adults currently give through their payroll, the report reveals – not helped by the fact that 45% of PAYE employees are unable to give this way. Nearly one in three UK employees say they would be likely to use payroll giving if their employer offered the service. It is a different story with volunteering, with 70% of FTSE 100 companies having employer-supported volunteering programmes.
Irish clean energy boom
The clean energy sector in Ireland is currently attracting about €1.5bn a year in investment, according to a study by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. SEAI estimates that the clean energy sector now supports about 18,000 jobs. This could rise to 30,000 if Ireland achieves its EU-mandated goal of delivering 16% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. If successful, the supply chain for clean energy could amount to €2.5bn a year by the end of this decade, SEAI predicts.
US gas and Chinese coal
The rush for shale gas in the US has been heralded as an opportunity to offset coal-based electricity generation, thus reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, a report from the US Energy Department suggests that the GHG benefits of switching from coal to gas are largely offset by methane leaks during the gas extraction process. Emissions associated with converting natural gas to liquefied natural gas and subsequent export-related transport emissions are also problematic.
The best-case scenario envisioned by the report is that exported US gas could feasibly reduce emissions from Chinese power plants by 25% over the next two decades. China’s coal-powered power plants are the subject of another, unrelated study, this time by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia. Their joint investigation concludes that China’s thermal coal demand will peak between 2015 and 2030, potentially leaving 40% of the country’s 437GW predicted capacity as surplus to requirements by 2020.
The reasons given for “peak coal” include a slowdown in Asia’s largest economy, policy responses to air pollution, the piloting of emissions trading schemes and strong growth in China’s green energy sector.
Resource constraints will destabilise prices
Long-term price data indicates a future of high volatility as available resources become increasingly constrained. Statistics from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reveal that metal prices and energy prices climbed 176% and 260% respectively between 2000 and 2012. UNEP argues for the adoption of best-of-class technologies, which it maintains can lead to efficiency gains of between 50% and 80% in most production or utility systems.
It sees particular potential for energy and water efficiency improvements, which could reach between 60% and 80% in high-use sectors such as construction, agriculture, hospitality and transport. UNEP also calls on governments to remove subsidies valued at $1.1tr a year that prop up the continued use of wasteful technologies.
EU cuts emissions
The European Union's greenhouse gas emissions continued to fall in 2012, dropping 1.3% on the previous year, the latest figures from the European Environment Agency reveal. Total emissions across the EU’s first 15 member states (the EU15) are now 19.2% below 1990 levels. This represents a reduction of 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The EU has a target of reducing overall emissions by 20% on a 1990 baseline by 2020. Italy alone accounted for 45% of the total EU net reduction in emissions in 2012, largely due to lower emissions from transport and industry. The second largest reduction, in Poland, came mainly from a decrease in solid fuel consumption. The EU15 reduced emissions by an average of 11.8% during 2008-2012. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the EU have decreased by almost a quarter since 1990, from 12 to 9 tonnes, the report finds.
Cost of rising seas
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has put the financial cost of rising sea levels and temperatures at just under $12tr. At most risk are the world's 52 small island nations, where climate-change-induced sea-level rise is up to four times the global average. If sea-level increases are not halted, UNEP predicts that 34m hectares of coral will be lost over the next two decades.
HP publishes first water report
US technology company HP is directly and indirectly responsible for the use of 505m litres of water every year, the company’s latest “Living Progress” report reveals. Water used in the generation of electricity represents the bulk (72%) of the company’s water use. Of this, more than half is consumed by HP customers when using the company’s products. In total, customers represent 77% of the company’s water footprint. The manufacturing of paper that HP customers use in printers and other HP products accounts for around one fifth of the company’s water consumption.
The remainder of HP’s water consumption occurs in its supply chain (18%) and its own operations (5%). With regard to the latter, the IT giant has reduced its water use by 9% in areas designated as experiencing “water stress”.
MillerCoors footprint shrinks
MillerCoors, the second largest brewer in the US, decreased the water footprint of a barrel of beer by 9.1% between 2012 and 2013. The company’s 2014 sustainability report reveals that it now uses 3.48 barrels of water per barrel of beer. Many US brewers use 6 or more barrels of water per barrel of beer.
From 2011 to 2013, MillerCoors saved more than 1.1bn gallons of water as a result of efficiency measures. Other resource reductions during 2013 include a 15.6% drop in energy use (saving 1.6bn megajoules of energy) and a 9.2% decrease in waste sent to landfill (a cut of 1,300tonnes). Last year, the US brewer also provided more than 311,000 hours of employee training through its in-house university and generated $11.37m for charity via employee and corporate fundraising initiatives.
M&S marks workplace milestones
UK retailer Marks & Spencer took on more than 1,450 young unemployed people for work experience during 2013, according to the latest update of its Plan A campaign. More than 1,000 of these went on to find work within three months of their placement. The company reached another employment-related milestone, reporting that 500,000 have passed through its training programme for workers in its general merchandise supply chain since it was established in 2010. The diversity of Marks & Spencer’s workforce is worthy of note too. Of its nearly 86,000 direct employees, 73% are women.
Only 11% are from ethnic backgrounds, however. Women occupy 58% of management roles, although women are outnumber by men by a ratio of 61% to 39% when it comes to top management positions.
Kingfisher’s first Net Positive report
Kingfisher saved £450m through energy efficiency measures during the first full year of its “net positive” strategy. The company, which counts B&Q and Screwfix among its brands, has adopted a “restorative approach” in which it seeks to cut its energy intensity by 45% by 2020. By the same date, the UK-based retailer also aims to buy 100% of its timber and paper products from responsible sources. Currently, 87% of its timber derives from certified forests.charity support Conflict minerals fish stocks greenhouse gas emissions human trafficking renewable energies sea levels shale gas