Amazon is investigating the working practices of one of its key suppliers in China - Hengyang Foxconn factory after they were found to have illegally recruited hundreds of student interns aged 16-18, many of whom were also working overtime. These students worked long hours to meet production targets. Those working overtime were only paid the normal hourly rate instead of time-and-a-half which is required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
China has taken further steps to reduce the burden of social insurance on employers by implementing new policies and rules. On production safety, the government issued a policy titled ‘Measures on Coordination Between Administrative Enforcement and Criminal Proceedings in Production Safety Crimes’, which will mean tighter enforcement in this area. Some new updates on workplace sexual harassment and personal data protection have also been put forward by government. Employers are asked to review these newly issued policies and any forthcoming national and local policies to ensure their practices are in line with the regulations.
The European Commission set out a new framework of actions to protect and restore the world's forests, which addresses both the supply and demand side of forest products. It introduces measures for enhanced international cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, promotion of sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and targeted research and data collection. It also launches an assessment of possible new regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and forest degradation.
SPOTT released their 2019 timber and pulp assessment results, which show the tropical forestry sector needs to improve public disclosure of policies and practices. Although average scores were just 20.4%, compared to 31.1% in 2018, companies assessed since 2017 have, on average, increased their score over time, showing some progress towards transparency. A full summary of this year’s assessments is available at this link.
An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
Governments agree landmark decisions to protect people and planet from hazardous chemicals and waste, including plastic waste
Around 180 countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention at a meeting on 10th May 2019. The amendment means that plastic waste is now included within the legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that it’s management is safer for human health and the environment.
Other far-reaching decisions included the elimination of two toxic chemical groups, which together total about 4,000 chemicals, listed into Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, namely Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds.
Ministers attending the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC adopted the 'Ministerial Katowice Declaration on Forests for Climate', which highlights the significant role of sustainable forest management in achieving climate change commitments in the Paris Agreement.
Hamleys and Amazon took the Frootiputti slime toy off their shelves after the product failed safety tests for boron, a substance that can impair fertility. The test, by consumer group WHICH?, found the product had four times the EU limit for boron in toys.
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.
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
FSC has sent a "come clean" ultimatum to APP and its billionaire Indonesian owners, the Widjaja family, following evidence it continues to cut down tropical forests and operate through corporate proxies. A letter was sent to the pulp and paper giant on Monday which sets out the demands FSC expect APP to meet if they want to be readmitted to the council. The ultimatum comes after Greenpeace ended a five year truce with the company earlier this month following an investigation that revealed the company had been destroying tropical forests the entire time the two parties were cooperating on conservation. FSC have demanded APP respond to their letter by Monday, stating publicly their high level commitment to the council’s standards and proposing remedies to Greenpeace’s evidence of deforestation. By June 11th the company will also have to fully disclose their corporate structure and any other violations of the standards.
Canadian company Catalyst Paper Corp. is selling its US operations, including a pair of paper mills in Maine and Wisconsin, to a Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper. Nine Dragons Paper is paying US$175 million for the mills and an operations centre in Dayton, Ohio. There are no plans for lay-offs at the mills, which employ about 610 workers in Rumford, Maine, and 380 workers in Biron, Wisconsin, a spokeswoman said.
The article introduces the shortage of skilful (mid to high level) workers in printing industry due to the decreasing graduates in this major from universities and vocational schools in China. Universities and vocational school has less students applying for the printing major, some universities have even cut out the printing major, while the others try to change the name of the major from ‘printing’ to ‘digital media’, ‘image propagation’ and ‘propagation engineering’ but still losing attraction to young people.
The main reason is the overall attraction of the labour-intensive manufacturing industry is decreasing in China due to the rise of internet and service industries, which means more opportunities for young people. The stereotype of printing industry is another reason. Although printing industry is moving forward into digital era, in many people’s mind, printing industry is still a ‘uncool’ traditional industry lagging behind, plus the recent increasing news on its environmental impact since the new environmental protection law, the industry’s image needs to be improved. The last reason is the most practical one – average salary level of printing industry is not competitive compared to other industries. The article gives some statistics: in 2016, the average employee salary of 8,936 publication printing companies is RMB 3,742/month, which is lower than the national average level in all industries (RMB 4,783). Even for the senior management, the salary is not competitive compared with the internet and finance industries.
A RM1.2 billion takeover has saved about 1,500 workers’ jobs at ailing India-owned pulp and paper mill Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd, which was owned by India-based Ballarpur Industries Ltd previously. The takeover by Pelangi Prestasi Sdn Bhd entails the transfer of all SFI assets, land titles and timber licenses and is made possible by strong support of the Sabah state government. The takeover is targeted to be completed by end of this year. Pelangi Prestasi committed to retain all SFI workforce and undertake workers’ back-wages, providing training and support as well as enhance access to basic amenities. For the next five years, it will focus on sustainable development of the forest concession area to maximise value through integrated processing and diversification of products.
A union of palm oil smallholders is challenging the allocation of a billion-dollar fund that they say fails to help them rejuvenate their low-yielding oil palms and instead unfairly subsidizes large biofuel producers. Only 1 percent of the fund went to the smallholder replanting program last year, while 89 percent went to the biodiesel subsidy. The government has promised to amend the split to 22:70 this year. But the government has also defended the subsidy, saying it needs to artificially boost the price of crude palm oil, to make biodiesel competitive with the regular diesel sold in the country — which is also subsidized by the state.
Ukraine has adopted legislation aimed at harmonising its toy safety regulation with that of the European Union. Cabinet ministers approved the new Technical Regulation on the Safety of Toys in February. It becomes effective on 21 September. The law establishes requirements on the safety of toys and their placement on the market, and defines the obligations of manufacturers, importers and distributors. It replaces the existing regulation, which was approved in 2013 and took into account the EU's 2009 Toy Safety Directive. The EU has subsequently made a number of amendments to its legislation. Ukraine's latest regulation slightly diverges from the EU Directive, in that it applies to products that have been developed or intended for children up to 14 years of age.
Hardwood Dimensions, a timber importer in the U.K., violated the EU Timber Regulation by not properly verifying the legality of a shipment of Cameroonian ayous in January 2017. A judge ordered Hardwood Dimensions to pay 4,000 pounds ($5,576) plus court costs in the case. The case calls into question the effectiveness of Forest Stewardship Council certification, which Hardwood Dimensions has held since 2000.
In a recent referendum, 67.5 percent of Ecuador’s voting population voted in favor increasing Yasuní National Park’s Intangible Zone by at least 50,000 hectares and reducing the oil extraction area in the park from 1,030 to 300 hectares. Ishpingo Field, which forms part of Block 43 of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) Initiative, is the only field that has not yet been exploited. Drilling was slated to begin there in mid-2018, but the referendum’s “yes” vote may prevent exploitation. Ishpingo is located on Yasuni’s Intangible Zone, which protects Indigenous communities living in voluntary isolation. Environmentalists hope that a technical commission will be formed to define where the Intangible Zone will expand.
The Summit is going to take place on Tuesday 24th April 2018, which brings together organisations across the pulp, paper and publishing supply chain. The Summit will focus on learning about the latest developments in responsible forest sourcing, and an opportunity to share practical advice for paper makers on sourcing fibre responsibly. A wide range of attendees including paper mills from across Asia, participating publishers of Book Chain, NGO’s, representatives from certification schemes (FSC and CFCC) and technology providers will be invited. To register for the event, please sign up here.
An Iranian oil tanker that collided with a Hong Kong bulk freighter in the East China Sea is creating a new problem now that it has sunk. The oil tanker was carrying close to 150,000 tons of condensate, a light oil, when it crashed. It is unclear how much of the oil had burned off or spilled when it sank. Unlike crude oil, which can create chronic environmental problems by sinking to the deep ocean and lingering there for years, hydrocarbon condensate is much lighter, evaporating or dissolving into water. That means short-term toxicity might be a bigger concern with this spill.