Includes company responses, the latest jobs and events announcements.
• Declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus impacts workers’ rights around the world as employers seek to protect business and supply chains.
• Migrant workers from Malaysia reportedly return home without owed wages as employers try to force them to stay.
• Employees of American Airlines concerned about unknown health threats file a USA lawsuit to halt flights to China; airline has stated it is “taking precautions”.
• Technology firms allegedly maintain manufacturing operations despite government calls for companies to halt work to stop coronavirus spread.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Inconsistent business action in response to Covid-19 (novel coronavirus), first reported from Wuhan, China
Includes company responses, the latest jobs and events announcements.
A new report by Human Rights Watch finds that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a lucrative business largely driven by criminal networks that threaten and attack government officials, forest defenders and indigenous people who try to stop them.
The OECD is drawing up a set of criteria that will define a ‘sustainable’ plastic from a chemical perspective. The criteria will promote the design of products with sustainable chemistry in mind at each stage of the lifecycle of plastics – feedstocks, production and manufacturing, product use and end-of-use – as well as assessing the entire product compared to similar non-plastic products. They will also aim to discourage the use of hazardous chemicals. Some recommended tools for business decision makers will be added too. The report will be expected before the end of 2020.
Around 150 Yong’an residents are suing the local government and its partner forest management company, Guangxi Lee & Man Forestry Technology Ltd, for violating a clause in contract law where a business must not damage public interests. Villagers claim the eucalyptus, a thirsty plantation species, is draining the local water supply from three mountain springs, leaving very little for farming and domestic use in the village. This is the first case of this kind in China.
The Australian Modern Slavery Act passed in December 2018. The Act sets a Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement to require certain large businesses and other entities in Australia to make annual public reports - Modern Slavery Statements - on their actions to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.
Indonesia is making it easier for foreigners to work here — but they will have to study as well. A decree by President Joko Widodo that is set to take effect on June will simplify Indonesia’s procedures for issuing work permits to foreigners, which are often hampered by delays, arbitrary denials and revocations, not to mention compulsory bribes to civil servants just to stamp the paperwork. Buried inside the order is a section requiring all expatriate workers to undergo formal Indonesian language training, an apparent first for any nation in Southeast Asia. The foreign business community has been caught off guard by the new requirement.
On January 1, 2018, the Chinese government implemented a new environmental tax policy, effectively ending the pollutant discharge fee that had been in effect for the past 40 years. The Environmental Protection Tax marks the beginning of a slew of new policies aimed at getting China’s pollution under control and will undoubtedly affect businesses, especially manufacturing firms.
During a high-level session at World Water Week in Stockholm, H&M group and WWF announced a new initiative to help Turkey tackle its water challenges, particularly pollution, and ensure sustainable, clean water supplies for businesses, people and nature. The project will focus on improving water management methods and policies in in the Büyük Menderes river basin, which is home to large-scale agriculture and industry, including textile operations, as well as rich biodiversity.
Due to the changes of international landscape for businesses and user feedback, the new version SMETA report 6.0 has published since April 2017 and took effect from 1 June 2017. The document outlined the main differences between SMETA 5.0 and the new SMETA 6.0 in terms of UNCP, modern slavery, business ethics, company codes and simplified SMETA.
The Marketplace, launched by NGO ChemSec on 17 May, hosts marketing materials from suppliers and requests for products, as well as guidance and case studies on substitution. It makes it easier for businesses to find less problematic alternatives to toxic chemicals. Both the ChemSec and other initiatives had hitherto focused on informing the industry of what not to use, as described in its ‘SIN list’, rather than suggesting suitable substitutes. The Marketplace should help improve the visibility of alternatives.
The UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has just published its Human Rights and Business 2017 report calling for “stronger legislation, stronger enforcement and clearer routes to justice” to protect workers’ human rights. ETI gave written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for the report – and helped facilitate the committee’s visits to Turkish and Leicester garment supply chains, which were used as case studies.
The Co-op has announced to offer jobs to victims of the modern slave trade as part of a new scheme. The group has teamed up with charity City Hearts, which offers support and accommodation to vulnerable people, to provide 30 survivors of modern slavery with paid work experience in its food business. Following the placement, the survivors will be given a non-competitive interview and, if it is successful and a position is vacant, be offered a job.
A report by WWF and ISEAL has stated that standards for supply chains and businesses can help accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while delivering direct benefits for companies and small-scale producers. These benefits can include minimising risk, efficiency gains, and improved transparency throughout the supply chain.
A new CDP study released that a substantive portion, 24% on average, of the revenue of 187 international companies depend upon commodities linked with deforestation, which are cattle products, palm oil, soy and timber products. Moreover, only about 40% of the studied companies have evaluated how the availability or quality of these commodities can impact their business growth strategy over the next five or more years. However, on the positive side, more and more companies become to recognize the benefits in scaling up their forest-protection efforts.
In November 2016 WWF Indonesia suspended its membership of APRIL's Stakeholder Advisory Committee because of a lack of progress implementing their sustainable forest management plan, failing to abide by government policy on peatland protection, and a lack of transparency on business operations.
WWF have called on APRIL to have independent, third party verification on their progress with the forest management plan, as well as filling policy gaps to address deforestation in High Conservation Value forest and High Carbon Stock forest, as well as social issues and peat development.
Vietnam has largely succeeded in reforestation within its border. Started in the 1980s, accompanying the transition to a market-driven economy, forestry management moved to a multi-sector approach with NGOs, businesses, local communities and management boards involved from originally government control. In 2008, Vietnam become a REDD pilot country, and both Forest Trends and FAO have recorded the increase in forest cover in Vietnam. However, challenge still exits. The demand for wood products in Vietnam is high, and now the country imports much from Cambodia, where illegal and unsustainable loggings happen frequently.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resource of Australia has decided that certified businesses are required to maintain an equivalent due diligence system under PEFC Chain of Custody standard, and also AFS (Australia’s PEFC-endorsed national forest certification system), which means that PEFC-certified companies in Australia are now recognized as automatically meeting the due diligence requirements in the illegal logging regulation of Australia, and no separate due diligence system prepared for the illegal logging regulation specifically is not required.
Greenpeace have released a publication outlining the economic exploitation issues of the Amazon rainforest and is demanding that the Brazilian government cancel hydropower projects such as the São Luiz do Tapajós (SLT) dam. This dam alone is expected to cause 2,200km2 of deforestation and to drown 400km2 of rainforest. Previous projects have led to huge habitats being wiped out causing significant impacts on the populations of fish, aquatic reptiles and the life cycles of local mammals.
According to satellite data analysed by researchers at Michigan State University, tree cover increased significantly on about 1.6% of China’s territory between 2000 and 2010, while tree cover dropped on only 0.38% of China’s land. The researchers attributed the forest gain to China’s Natural Forest Conservation Program, which has banned logging in many of the country’s forests and set up systems to prosecute illegal logging. The NFCP also compensates businesses and households for monitoring forest health and conserving trees rather than cutting them down.
The think tank Innovation Forum held a two-day conference in Washington DC entitled “How business can tackle deforestation” attended by 160 representatives from companies, NGOs and investors. Whilst multiple major consumer goods companies have declared their commitments to achieving zero deforestation in their supply chains many others have raised concerns over the term and what the policy actually means in practice.
Rainforest Alliances’ recent position paper, ‘Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability’ warned that zero deforestation commitments may not be enough to protect the world’s forests, due to two reasons. Firstly, though many major companies have signed up for these commitments, many other producers and buyers will not. These companies will continue to rely on deforestation to produce their goods, unless a way is found to address underlying issues, such as growing worldwide demand for forest products. Secondly, focusing solely on deforestation risks drawing attention away from other business practices within the commodities supply chain which may deserve equally urgent attention e.g. water scarcity and labour laws. In addition, the use of ‘zero deforestation’ as a catchphrase is problematic because there remains no clear agreement over what the term means. Rainforest Alliance emphasises the need for greater education, auditing and transparency so that consumers know the impact of what they are buying and are able to trust companies’ sustainability claims. Though a commendable step in the right direction, ‘zero deforestation’ commitments need to be backed up with comprehensive action plans if they are to deliver credible results.