With lots of emphasis laid on the environmental matters, social and anti-corruption matters gain insufficient attention. Evidence shows that current transparency and voluntary regimes are not yielding strong human rights due diligence by companies. Europe’s leadership in the next year on human rights and environmental due diligence legislation has never been more needed.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
A large fire has swept through a bag factory in the Indian capital Delhi, killing 43 workers. A local fire chief claims that the building did not have a proper fire licence and was operating illegally as a factory. The owner of the factory has been arrested. An electrical short circuit may have caused the fire.
Latest UN Emissions Gap Report finds world must ramp up climate ambitions at least threefold to meet Paris goals
The Emissions Gap Report 2019 finds that total greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent per year over the past decade, and that even if all current commitments made under the Paris Agreement were implemented, global temperatures would rise by 3.2°C. Countries would have to ratchet up their emissions reductions commitments threefold to meet the 2°C target by 2030.To reach the 1.5°C target, it would require a five-fold increase in countries’ emissions reduction commitments.
The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, has published a list of over 21,000 REACH-registered substances mapped in its 'chemical universe'. The substances have been divided into five pools based on the regulatory actions in place, initiated or considered for them. It also highlights that there are still thousands of substances for which possible actions have not yet been determined. The chemical universe does not indicate whether a substance’s use is safe or not – it is mainly to help authorities focus their actions. The assignment to a pool is also not permanent – substances will move from one pool to another over time when new information becomes available or priorities change.
The trend of setting up a national inventory of chemicals – already seen in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – is moving south. The Philippines and Vietnam have existing inventories, while Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia also have plans for one.
Despite regulatory hurdles that might have caused due to disparate regulations and approaches across the region, the overall trend – if slower than other regions – is a shift in focus from primarily GHS-based requirements towards more comprehensive, risk-based chemicals management regimes that mandate registration before use.
Early December, over 100 NGOs, trade unions and networks stress their demands for binding rules on corporate respect for human rights and the environment. They point out that although some companies are taking actions to meet their responsibilities in their global operations, there are many others linked to serious abuses, including modern slavery, gender discrimination, corruption, deforestation, etc. Current EU policy and legislation fails to adequately address this challenge. They propose that 1) companies and investors are required to carry out human rights andenvironmental due diligence; 2) new binding EU legislation that increases protection for individuals and communities, workers and their representatives, human rights defenders, and the environment, is passed.
The US Customs Border Authority has banned the import of products from certain companies accused of modern slavery violations. The law came into effect in 2016 but this action shows that it can have teeth.
One of the five products/companies was a garment factory in Xinjiang, China, and another one a Malaysian rubber glove factory. The latter was accused of withholding wages, excessive recruitment fees and withholding of passports in a Guardian report back in December 2018 here.
Growing demand for timber as construction material, fuel and charcoal is devastating Cambodia's forests. In 1975, forests covered 73 per cent of the country’s surface; last year it was down to only 46.84 per cent. Cambodian government has recognised the importance of forests and extended the natural protected area, under the Cambodian Environment Ministry, to 7.2 million hectares – the equivalent of 41 per cent of the Kingdom’s land surface.
China, the world’s largest timber importer, issued a new draft of its first Forest Law update in 20 years that adds a prohibition on buying illegally sourced timber. It will be effective on 01 July 2020. Issues around enforcement, such as the burden of proof being on government departments, traders being out of scope, and low penalties, remain.
Please find more details about the law here. (EH&CH)
P.S. Recently, we attended an APEC region workshop hosted by APEC Expert Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (EGILAT) in Malaysia on forest law governance. This table captures the major and emerging forest law regulations in the region.
Metsä Group's Äänekoski mill in Finland now calls itself a ‘bioproducts mill’ as it makes paper and wood for recyclable drinks cartons, clothing and building materials. They re-use the chemical additives and by-products of the production process to make sure they are not wasted. They also deploy drones to digitally map the forest area so they can monitor trees using a mobile phone app and then arrange remotely for contractors to thin or harvest an area when the trees look ready. For more information, please visit Metsä Group's website.
In late May, Toxics Free China and the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation published a report on the safety of plastic toys being sold online, warning of hazardous plasticisers and loopholes in their regulation on e-commerce sites. Most of these plastic novelties lack safety certificates and required information on date and place of manufacture. Of the 12 rubber ducks purchased and analysed for the study, nine contained 123 to 312 times the permitted levels of plasticisers. These items were bought on Taobao, JD and Pinduoduo, three big e-commerce sites.
A coalition of NGOs send an open letter to the Consumer Good Forum calling on them to act on their 2020 deforestation commitments
Ten years ago, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) made a commitment to end deforestation in member companies’ supply chains by 2020. As 2020 approaches, the companies will inevitably miss the deadline. An international coalition of NGOs called this out CGF members and relayed the following expectations in this open letter:
• Communicate a mandatory requirement ensuring suppliers comply with ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments.
• Ensure human rights are respected and compliance with international standards of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).
• Establish comprehensive, proactive, and transparent monitoring systems that rapidly detect non-compliance across supply chains and require implementation of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) for agricultural development involving land-use change. Assessments should use the Integrated High Conservation Value (HCV)- HCSA Assessment Manual and be approved by the High Conservation Value Resource Network (HCVRN) Quality Review Panel before development
• Publish guidelines to address non compliances, including thresholds for suspension and grievance mechanisms
• Provide incentives and support to upstream suppliers to manage risk
• Publish public facing reports on progress
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.
Indonesia is facing its worst annual fire season since the tragedy of 2015. Close to 700 hotspots have been identified in fire-prone regions in Sumatra, Kalimantan and the Riau islands.
Fires are raging at a record rate in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, and scientists warn that it could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change. According to INPE, more than 1½ soccer fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed every minute of every day and the fires are burning at the highest rate. Environmental activists and organisations accuse Brazil's president -Jair Bolsonaro of relaxing environmental controls in the country and encouraging deforestation.
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.
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.
IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems
The IPCC released a special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. The report addresses greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in land-based ecosystems, land use and sustainable land management in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation, desertification, land degradation and food security.
China’s Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) has completed its consultation on two mandatory guidelines for local authorities that explain how to investigate safety risks at chemical industry parks and hazardous chemical facilities. The guidelines for facilities not only include best practice, it also contains safety checklists. The guidelines for chemical industry parks set out the criteria for authorities to grade them. The next round of activities will focus on reviewing facilities with certain safety issues.
This August, Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF), the national member of PEFC from India, has released the voluntary certification standard for Trees Outside Forests (TOF) in India after three years' development. In the Indian context, TOF refers to agroforestry, urban trees and forests and scattered trees in farmland and homesteads, trees along roads, canals, railway lines and in orchards and gardens. These trees are mostly privately owned, even by small and marginal farmers. TOF resources play a very important role in meeting the demand for wood fibre in India, especially for the pulp and paper, plywood and composite products, handicrafts and furniture industries. Currently, TOF resources are estimated to meet more than 85% of the industrial wood requirements. We anticipate that NCCF will seek the endorsement of TOF certification standard by PEFC and will keep following its development.