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New European reporting rules, Adidas publishes supplier list and Ontario goes coal-free
EU disclosure rule
The disclosure by large listed companies of their environmental, social and human rights “policies, risks and results” will be mandatory in the European Union from 2017. The European parliament ratified the rule in an April vote, applying it to listed companies with more than 500 employees, of which there are between 6,000 and 7,000 in Europe. The requirement was watered down during the EU legislative process – when it was proposed in 2013, it was planned to require disclosure from all large companies, not only listed ones. An obligation to disclose revenues and profits by country was also dropped. UK Labour MEP Richard Howitt noted that the law had been adopted shortly before the April 24 anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. “I genuinely believe this new law will help prevent such tragedies from happening again,” Howitt says.
Adidas, one of the six top “partners” for the Fifa World Cup in Brazil, has published its list of suppliers for the event. Adidas is an “official sponsor, licensee and outfitter” for Fifa, and says it has published the list of factories manufacturing products for the World Cup “in a spirit of transparency”. The list also includes a note about trade union and worker representation at the factories. Most of Adidas’s suppliers are in China, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam, but facilities in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Germany and Italy, among others, also feature. Worker trade unions in China and Vietnam are the “single government-mandated union”, and are not independent, the list notes.
The generation of power from solar panels could be boosted by an army of robots wielding microfibre cloths, judging from an installation in the Israeli desert. Solar arrays in desert areas can lose up to 35% of their efficiency because of dust building up on the panels, leading to shutdowns several times a year to allow the panels to be cleaned. At Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel, however, a kibbutz known for its environmentalism, robots have been installed that glide up and down the panels each night to brush dust off. It is, says Israeli company Eccopia, which provides the robots, the “world’s first completely autonomously cleaned solar energy park”. The robots work without water, another important environmental aspect in desert areas. The modest site, jointly owned by Siemens and Israeli power company Arava, can generate 9m kilowatt hours per year, enough to power about 1,000 households.
Conflict minerals confusion
Companies covered by the conflict minerals provisions in the United States Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act have been left uncertain by a US court ruling that found that parts of the rule could contravene the first amendment to the US constitution. Dodd-Frank Section 1502 requires companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals, but a specific requirement for companies to publicly declare if products cannot be guaranteed free of conflict minerals was like compelling a company “to confess blood on its hands”, the US Court of Appeals said in April. The court upheld other parts of the conflict minerals rule, including that companies should make disclosures to investors about gold, tantalum, tin or tungsten that might have come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was unclear if the ruling, which comes soon before the first date for filing conflict mineral disclosures at the end of May, would have to be referred to another court, or if the case would be reconsidered by the appeals court.
No to coal
Canada’s Ontario province, where about 40% of Canadians live, says it has become the first North American jurisdiction to wean itself entirely off coal as a source of power. During April, its last and oldest coal-fired plant, at Thunder Bay, completed a switch to biomass as a fuel source. Another power station near Thunder Bay, the Atikokan Generating Station, is already North America’s largest biomass-fuelled power plant, according to its owners, Ontario Power Generation. More than half of Ontario’s electricity comes from nuclear plants, and hydro supplies another quarter. Ontario’s coal phase-out was completed ahead of the province’s stated deadline of the end of 2014. Ontario’s government has introduced a bill to ban any return to coal in the future, saying the health and climate change costs are just too high.
Ban the bag
European Union countries will be obliged to cut the use of supermarket carrier bags by 50% by 2017 and by 80% by 2019, after an April European parliament vote. Countries can choose how they do it, but most will probably opt for a levy on plastic bags – a move that dramatically cut use of carrier bags when introduced in Ireland in 2002. In the UK, there are already small charges in Northern Ireland and Wales, and in Scotland a charge will apply from October. In England, plans to introduce a levy in 2015 are under discussion. The European parliament vote would also make it mandatory for lightweight plastic bags used to wrap fruit or vegetables to be biodegradable or compostable by 2019. However, the EU bag ban must be signed off by member states before it can come into force.
Britain’s biggest potato supplier, Lincoln-headquartered Branston (not to be confused with the pickle makers) has scored a first: it is the only company from the food and agriculture sector to qualify for the three Carbon Trust Standards, in carbon reduction, and waste and water management. The most recent certification, finalised in April, was for waste. Branston has staff education programmes in cutting waste, and sends potatoes it can’t use, because they do not fit the supermarket standard, to anaerobic digestion to generate electricity. The company was a pioneer in achieving the Carbon Trust water standard in 2013 – it recycles 60% of the water it uses. It follows in the footsteps of Marks & Spencer, which in March became the first retailer to achieve the triple certification. Branston says it takes its environmental performance seriously because it “relies on nature for its product”.
Adidas Adidas supply chain carrier bags Conflict minerals EU robots solar power World Cup
May 2014, London, UK
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