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Microsoft has become the latest technology company to commit to reducing its environmental footprint, today announcing that it wants to make its data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings carbon neutral. The software giant’s new initiative will begin from July 1 (also the start of its fiscal year 2013), introducing a new “accountability model” that will make every Microsoft business unit responsible for the carbon that they generate — providing rewards for increasing efficiency, purchasing renewable sources of energy, and reducing their environmental impact. Microsoft is going to create a new “carbon fee”, which will “place a price on carbon”.
If companies had to pay for the full environmental costs of their production, they would lose 41 cents on average for every US dollar in earnings, according to a new study published by KPMG. The research finds that the external environmental costs of 11 key industry sectors jumped 50 percent from $566 to $846 billion in 8 years (2002 to 2010), averaging a doubling of these costs every 14 years. Currently, these costs are rarely shown on financial statements, because companies generally do not have to pay for them directly. The KPMG study, Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World , identifies 10 “megaforces” that will significantly affect corporate growth globally over the next two decades. It explores issues such as climate change, energy and fuel volatility, water availability and cost and resource availability, as well as population growth spawning new urban centers.
Academics have spent decades studying in great detail whether responsible companies are also more proﬁtable companies, and three decades of evidence suggest that betterness yields greater equity returns, asset returns, and proﬁtability. Researchers Marc Orlitzky, Frank L. Schmidt, and Sara L. Rynes found that responsibility was signiﬁcantly positively correlated with ﬁnancial performance: “corporate virtue,” in their words, “is likely to pay off.” Their work ( PDF ) was a meta-analysis of 52 studies, with over 33,878 total observations. Whew, that’s a whole lotta outperformance.
By: Maggie Winslow, Presidio Graduate School Increasing labor productivity is generally hailed as a positive outcome of technological innovation. The production of more goods and services with fewer hours worked allows for both higher standards of living and decreased inflationary pressure, since wage increases can result from increased productivity and are not translated into higher costs for goods and services. Increased labor productivity has been promoted through government policy, such as tax breaks for capital investment and direct investment in technological innovation. It has also been promoted ideologically by both the left (Karl Marx for example) and the supply-siders. However, in a world of limited natural resources, and high unemployment, perhaps increased labor productivity is too much of a good thing.
In a comprehensive piece of reporting, The New York Times has laid out a strong case that Apple has not pursued safe and fair working conditions at its supplier factories in China as strenuously as it could have. Citing both current and former Apple executives, the NYT details dangerous labor conditions at Apple suppliers and lax oversight from Apple itself. The core of the problem stems from a fundamental conflict between Apple's demand for low margins and fast turnaround with suppliers' need to cut corners to meet those demands — often doing so by sacrificing worker safety. In one example, after an explosion at a Foxconn factory caused by aluminum dust, Apple did not require consistent ventilation standards across all its supplier factories, which arguably allowed another explosion to occur at a different factory. A safety expert cited by the NYT called Apple's policy here "gross negligence," adding "We solved this problem [of properly ventilating dust] over a century ago."
UPDATE: We did it! We hit 120,000 signers. Can we get to 150,000 now? Every day, tens of millions of people will swipe the screens of their iPhones to unlock them.
This is really important. No matter where you stand in the green debate, the threat posed by the systemic over valuation of carbon intensive firms and assets is a critical issue that should concern you - really, really concern you. Regardless of whether you are the most committed eco-warrior, the most pragmatic business leader, or the most unyielding climate sceptic, the failure to acknowledge the inherent risks of slapping triple A ratings on carbon intensive firms and assets that are incompatible with governments' climate policies and scientists' climate warnings risks fuelling a "carbon bubble" that could make the on-going fall out from the most recent global investment bubble look like a boom time. That is the warning currently being sounded by the recently launched Carbon Tracker Initiative, which last week released its second report on the scale of the so-called "carbon bubble" and wrote to Bank of England Governor Mervyn King urging him to take action.
BASF, via European Pressphoto Agency BASF will no longer try to sell genetically modified products, including its Amflora potato. “There is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe — from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians,” said Stefan Marcinowski, a board member with responsibilities for plant biotechnology. “Therefore, it does not make business sense to continue investing in products exclusively for cultivation in this market.”
Companies must give a living wage to workers everywhere if they are to merit the “CSR” label. By Álvaro J. de Regil After decades of evolution, CSR remains a useless societal instrument to make business responsible for the impact of its economic activity on its sphere of influence.
Richard Branson said the airline industry should aim for 50% sustainable fuels by 2020. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP The world's 7,000 airlines could switch to low-carbon jet fuels much faster than other transport because aeroplanes have very few "filling stations", says Richard Branson . "Unlike cars where there are millions of filling stations, there are only about 1,700 aviation stations in the world. So if you can get the right fuel, like mass-produced algae, then getting it to 1,700 outlets is not so difficult," Branson said in an interview with the Guardian from the British Virgin islands. Branson, who announced last month he hoped Virgin would soon be able to use waste gases from industrial steel and aluminium plants as a fuel, said the industry should aim for 50% sustainable fuels by 2020.
It’s very hard to report on the good things you’ve done, when not everyone is sure that those things are actually good. Cutting CO 2 emissions is pretty unambiguously good, as is working to reduce fire hazards in your suppliers’ factories. But in the realm of corporate responsibility reporting, there’s still lots of room for controversy. Case in point: I recently had the chance to indulge in a careful reading of Walmart Canada’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report . Here’s a bit from the document’s intro, by CEO David Cheesewright:
Is it possible that a memo is going around among CEOs instructing them to engage more seriously with stakeholders in general and NGOs specifically? Just look at the list – Adidas , Nike , Puma and H&M have all made commitments to eliminate all toxic pollution throughout their supply chain following the Greenpeace Detox campaign . The Rainforest Action Network reported yesterday that Disney executives finally agreed to meet with them and they’re working now together on a comprehensive paper policy, and now it’s Apple’s turn. Yes, even Apple, a company that is not well-known for listening to NGOs, held talks last month with Chinese environmental groups after these groups accused some of the company’s suppliers in China of various environmental violations.
Liz Parle can't drive. "I did try to learn," says the 24-year-old, Birmingham-born cafe owner, "but I failed my test a few times." Then she moved to London, where running a car can be a nightmare.
Maybe it’s time t0 do away with corporate social responsibility (CSR). Not merely the words and the idea but the infrastructure: CSR departments, CSR reports, CSR conferences and CSR executives. And, as long as we’re at it, let’s think about ditching the triple bottom line , the pursuit of shared value , corporate citizenship and especially, yuk, the idea that stakeholders deserve a say in how to run a business. All of these are, at best, distractions and, at worst, ways of thinking about business that create a separation between a company’s core business and its impact on the world. Both ought to be life-enhancing .
“The neglect of women’s rights means the social and economic potential of half the population is underused. In order to tap into this potential, we must open up spaces for women in political leadership, in science and technology, as trade and peace negotiators, and as heads of corporations.” –Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director, speaking at the UN Women Launch Celebration on February 24, 2011–