Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

22.7.04

Analysis: Senior politician praises UN Global Compact, Oxfam begs to differ

Analysis: Senior politician praises UN Global Compact, Oxfam begs to
differ
14 July 2004
Tobias Webb

Lakshman Kadirgamar, the minister for foreign affairs for Sri Lanka,
praised the UN Global Compact last week, but NGOs disagreed.
Kadirgamar made his remarks in a keynote address at the Commonwealth
Business Council's conference on corporate citizenship and the millennium
development goals.

The event was held on Tuesday and Wednesday last week at the Royal
Institute of International Affairs in London.

A business desire for corporate responsibility and accountability was
"inconceivable" a few decades ago, Kadirgamar said. But, while in the past
"commerce and conquest have often marched together", there was now a new
"business orthodoxy" towards corporate responsibility and accountability,
he said.

Kadirgamar also pointed to what he called the "post-Washington consensus"
taking a grip on developing nations as a driver for corporate
accountability.

He noted that as a result of this consensus, many governments are
attempting to strengthen previously weakened institutions and regulators
that govern the way companies operate.

Quoting the much-referred-to comparison between the Danish economy and the
financial size of General Motors (General Motors' economic clout is
claimed to the greater, by some calculations) to highlight public concerns
over the power of corporations, Kadirgamar said that "much-vaunted
globalisation initiatives" promoted by the previous Washington
free-trade-at-all-costs philosophy "are not trickling down to populations"
in certain nations.

Praise for the Compact

Kadirgamar reserved much praise for the United Nation's Global Compact
initiative, which aims to bring companies, investors, non-governmental
organisations, trade unions and cities together around ten social and
environmental principles.

The Compact now has 1,700 members worldwide. Kadirgamar hailed it as "by
far the world's most important initiative on corporate citizenship".

Drawing the audience's attention to a recent report on Compact signatories
by the management consultancy McKinsey, Kadirgamar said the report,
published last month, showed that more than half the compact's members
have altered their policies related to the ten principles as a result of
joining the initiative.

Campaigners claiming that the Global Compact is a toothless institution
when it comes to non-financial performance argue that that still leaves
more than 40% of members lacking in terms of social and environmental
policies.

Jeremy Hobbs, executive director Oxfam International, told Ethical
Corporation that, when it comes to the compact, “impact has been quite
low. You can change a policy but that does not always change performance".

Oxfam’s contention on compact-member performance is that “we don’t know
how much [member companies] are in line with globally accepted standards".


Hobbs says only about 500 companies have adopted the Global Reporting
Initiative guidelines for their reporting world-wide.

The GRI non-financial reporting guidelines are generally recognised as the
best international standard for companies to use for their non-financial
reporting efforts. Yet many Global Compact members have yet to adopt them
in their reporting.

Another senior NGO source, who did not want to be named, said today: "The
Global Compact is just like [Business for Social Responsibility], a self
selected group of companies which don't have to meet any meaningful
[social and environmental] standard or disclosure.”

In response, Gavin Power, senior advisor to the Global Compact, told
Ethical Corporation: “Almost half the 1,500 companies in the Global
Compact joined during the past year, so we would not expect to see
significant change immediately.”

Power urges patience among disaffected campaign groups, saying member
policy development and performance "is a process of change that occurs
over years, not days or months".

He points out that every company that has joined the Global Compact has
made a “commitment to change over time - that's what we look for".

Power says this will be most evident in the “Communications on Progress”
document, “which we now expect (Compact signatory) companies to develop
each year".

In terms of enforcement he says that the Global Compact has instituted a
policy “whereby companies that do not publish a Communication on Progress
over a two-year period will be delisted".

At the conference in London on Tuesday Mr Kadirgamar emphasised the
challenges faced by the Compact's members over its much-discussed tenth
principle on tackling corruption.

He pointed out that some of the best estimates put the current figure on
corruption as costing the global economy $3 trillion a year.

"Many more companies from the Fortune 500 must join the Global Compact,"
he said, pointing out that Governments worldwide spend more than $900
billion on defence and only $50 billion on development.

Another speaker at the conference, who could not be named under the
"Chatham House" non-disclosure rule that he invoked, said that the Global
Compact is a very popular initiative in developing countries and their NGO
communities. The main objectors to its current structure, he said "are
western NGOs in their global headquarters".

Analysis: Engagement needed to tackle the big issues

Analysis: Engagement needed to tackle the big issues
13 July 2004
EC Newsdesk

While cynics argue that corporate responsibility is a fleeting trend,
there are good reasons to assume otherwise, says Georg Kell, executive
head of the Global Compact.

Untold numbers of corporate social responsibility initiatives have emerged
in recent years. Often described as going “beyond law” – a frequently
erroneous characterization – the CSR movement is largely a reaction to
demands and needs that governments are unwilling or unable to meet.
Indeed, CSR is arguably more essential in environments where laws are
weakly enforced or do not exist at all. Still, where law-based frameworks
do exist, CSR complements regulatory approaches and its flexibility and
innovative character can bring about significant change with few
resources.

But the question remains: Can CSR, as it exists today, impact the “big
issues” that are often advanced to justify its existence in the first
place? In other words, how can CSR positively affect vexing issues such as
poverty, climate change, and corruption while at the same time contribute
to improved social cohesion?

True, CSR can improve the working and health conditions of millions of
employees, induce better environmental performance at the factory level
and contribute to improved human rights and governance performance through
measures such as transparency pacts and active progressive policies in the
global supply chain. And good partnership projects can bring hope and
better living standards to many.

However, we must face the reality that CSR activities have so far failed
to impact environmental, social or related challenges in a significant
manner. The positive change achieved thus far so far is largely limited to
the operations of a few actors and, overall, the change induced is small
compared to the challenges at hand. A study that the Global Compact
commissioned with SustainAbility – Gearing Up – confirms that CSR in its
current manifestation cannot bring about fundamental, systemic change.

Cynics might be tempted to argue that this confirms that CSR is a fleeting
trend, a short-term reaction to economic liberalization and the ascendancy
of market approaches. However, there are good reasons to assume otherwise.
CSR has all the ingredients it takes to bring about positive change on a
much larger scale and to impact contemporary challenges in such a way that
root causes of dilemmas are effectively addressed. But to get there, the
CSR movement will need to focus on two things simultaneously: 1) achieving
critical mass across all industry sectors; and 2) connecting private
actions with public policy efforts so that root causes of problems are
tackled.

Achieving critical mass

A recent report by McKinsey & Company on the Global Compact shows that
voluntary CSR initiatives can indeed bring about positive change. However,
so far only a small portion of private-sector actors has embraced human
rights, labour principles, environmental responsibility and
anti-corruption as explicit policies and operational goals. Clearly, if
CSR is to become a global force then critical mass needs to be achieved
across all sectors of industry. This is not only about numbers of actors
involved. It is also about quality and how market signals recognize good
efforts:

Horizontal Diffusion

So far, only a small fraction of business actors have embraced CSR
approaches. For instance, the Global Compact, probably the most global
initiative at this point, has approximately 1,500 corporate participants
from 70 countries. While this figure may sound impressive, it is small
when compared to the over 60,000 transnational corporations that do
business abroad and to the millions of small- and medium-sized companies
that provide the bulk of employment in most countries. CSR will need to
expand efforts beyond conventional domains if tipping points are to be
achieved. Working through multipliers such as global production and supply
chains is one way forward. Another is to focus on key industry sectors and
to more aggressively target the “fence sitters”. In other words, CSR must
now go after the “unusual suspects”, rather than continuing to celebrate –
most visibly at conferences – the usual suspects.

Vertical Deepening

Numbers matter but quantity alone will not be sufficient. Equally
important is how deep social and environmental priorities penetrate the
texture of companies. Leadership commitment is a precondition to bring
about organizational change. But a commitment must be followed through
with management practices, concrete actions and public accountability. To
sustain continuous improvement, CSR must move center stage within
companies, involving leadership, management and employees in an ongoing
process of improvement. Equally important, governance bodies – that is,
corporate boards – must be included.

Waking Up a Sleeping Giant – High Finance

The basic assumption underlying many CSR initiatives is that, over time,
doing the right thing makes good business because markets will reward such
action. However, a crucial shaper of expectations about the future – the
financial markets – does not yet incorporate social and environmental
criteria on a scale and with a clarity that would tip preferences of
decision-making. Within the Global Compact we are trying to accelerate
this trend by targeting mainstream investment analysts and capital markets
with our hope being that financial markets will take a stand on these
issues and thereby provide a much-needed impetus towards mainstreaming
social and environmental actions.

Harmonizing Approaches

There are literally hundreds of voluntary CSR initiatives. Much
experimentation and healthy competition has occurred at country and
industry-sector levels. Many specialized interests seek to make their
voices heard. Some are motivated by commercial interests, some by ideas of
social justice, and some by old ideologies. However, this very
multi-faceted movement is running the risk of fizzling out at worst and
not adding up to a coherent whole at best. Markets will undoubtedly sort
this out over time. But, at present, there is a great opportunity to
connect individual approaches with universal legitimacy. If indeed CSR is
to become a truly global force that transcends narrow national or
group-specific interests, then there is a need to align CSR initiatives
with robust and universally recognized principles. It is our hope that CSR
initiatives will ultimately converge and reinforce one another around
universal principles and values. .

Linking CSR With public policy

Achieving critical mass across all industry sectors may not be sufficient
to ensure that CSR becomes a viable and global force. A second, and in
many ways more fundamental precondition, must be met: CSR must be linked
with governance questions. Why? Because many of the challenges that CSR
tries to tackle can only be solved if governments play their part as well.


Consider that CSR and voluntary initiatives are basically pragmatic
responses to governance failure. Complicity in human rights abuses,
environmental degradation, poverty, corruption – all of these have much to
do with what governments do or do not do. As such, CSR approaches are
merely partial and temporary solutions. So long as the underlying
governance issues remain unresolved, CSR cannot bring about lasting
change. The degree to which government failures are a root problem of
issues that impact CSR is, of course, a question of judgment. But clearly,
governance deficiencies are significant both at the global and at national
levels

At global level, governments remain local. The notion of shared
responsibilities often remains lip service that does not translate into
real action. Governments often do not honor the pledges they make at UN
conferences. Economic framework conditions for trade and investment follow
national interests where the weaker players are often sidelined. From
agricultural subsidies that deny poor an opportunity to earn a living to
the unfinished debt agenda and the lack of finance for priority issues
such as HIV/AIDS, our today’s problems are essentially an expression of a
lack of global responsibility of governments.

At the national level, two types of government failure hinder economic and
social improvements. First, poverty itself makes it difficult to create
effective public framework conditions. Social and environmental
imperatives cannot evolve so long as public institutions are absent or not
effectively working. Second, corrupt and despotic leadership, civil war
and other forms of abuses of state power can render meaningless CSR
efforts. Where national and local governments do function responsibly,
representatives remain focused on responding to the narrow domestic issues
of their constituencies – issues such as taxation, education and policing.
The truth is that for many citizens of the world, the global village – and
its related problems – remains a distant and abstract concept.

Thus, connecting CSR to public policy is a crucial endeavor. Some thoughts
on the way forward:

At the Global Level

First, we must recognize that global companies, global NGOs and
international labour have similar interests. Overcoming narrow national
priorities and acting in support of a broader common good is the only way
forward. Governments continue to hold the key on all issues that affect
CSR: the environment, poverty and human rights. Unless governments
demonstrate more responsibility on their side, these issues cannot be
solved by private actors alone. And private actors involved in CSR issues
are well positioned to pressure governments to move in the right
direction. But has the time arrived already for global actors to make the
case for global concerns? Already, we see initial steps in this direction.
Global advocacy for HIV/AIDS and climate change today bring together
business and other actors. Such alliances are still nascent and small but
clearly, if we are to improve broad framework conditions, then CSR
activists are well positioned to recognize that micro solutions alone
won’t do it. Taking a stand on macro issues and pressuring governments to
perform better is the next logical step to take for all concerned global
stakeholders.

At the Local Level

There are many promising leverage points to help ensure that CSR can
impact more systematically on government performance. First, in many
countries, as was mentioned, CSR is – contrary to widely held views – not
about doing more than complying with the law. CSR therefore must take on a
very different direction. It must be linked to making the rule of the law
work since the absence of the rule of law is the root cause of the
problem. Already, there are good examples how this can be done: integrity
pacts to induce less public-sector corruption; making public health and
education a public-sector priority by demonstrating what can be done; and
taking a stand on universal principles within one’s sphere of influence
even when governments are not ready to do so.

Corporate social responsibility has great potential. It has already proven
it can bring about real improvements. But much needs to be achieved if CSR
is to become a global force for good.

Scaling private-led solutions, achieving critical mass in all sectors and
linking private actions with public policy making offers a roadmap for the
future. Indeed, these themes were underscored at the Global Compact
Leaders Summit on 24 June. Whether we will succeed and the extent to which
we will succeed will, however, depend on global stakeholders working
collaboratively, with hands firmly clasped.
by EC Newsdesk

U.S. News: McDonald ’s faces lawsuit over fat promises

U.S. News: McDonald’s faces lawsuit over fat promises
14 July 2004
Lisa Roner

A public interest group is suing McDonald’s over what it says was false
advertising, in which the company promised it would cut the “bad” fat used
in its cooking process.
BanTransFats.com, a California-based non-profit group, filed a federal
lawsuit on Thursday, claiming McDonald’s delay in its promised reduction
of trans fatty acids in its cooking process constitutes false advertising.

The group said it did not seek monetary damages, but wanted the court to
order McDonald’s to inform its customers about its failure to make the
change. BTF also asks that McDonald’s follow through with its original
plans as soon as possible.

McDonald’s announced in September 2002 it would use “improved cooking oil”
to cut trans fats in the deep fried products on its menu, including french
fries.

The company said the switch would cut trans fatty acid levels in its fries
by 48%, reduce saturated fat by 16% and increase polyunsaturated fat by
167%.

“In February of 2003, we made a broad public statement that the change in
our cooking oil was taking longer than anticipated and would be delayed,”
McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa Howard said.

“Since that time, we have been successful in reducing TFA levels in
McNuggets and other chicken offerings. We continue to work hard to achieve
our ambitious goals for reduction of TFAs in our cooking oil and we're
committed to getting it right for our customers.”

Howard said that because McDonald’s had not yet seen the lawsuit, it could
not respond to any of its specific allegations.

BTF said the suit is not related to obesity, but to other medical health
problems, including premature deaths from heart disease caused by trans
fats.

BTF filed a lawsuit against Kraft Foods earlier this year, seeking an
injunction to stop the company from marketing and selling Oreo cookies to
children in California until partially hydrogenated oil and other trans
fats were eliminated from the cookies.

When Kraft pledged to reduce or eliminate trans fat in Oreos, the group
dropped the lawsuit.

20.7.04

UNEP, Investors Launch New Responsible Investment Initiative

UNEP, Investors Launch New Responsible Investment Initiative
Source: GreenBiz.com
LONDON/NAIROBI, July 16, 2004 - The United Nations Environment Program
will work with major institutional investors to develop a set of globally
recognized principles for responsible investment by September 2005.

The new principles will protect both the planet and long-term shareholder
value by integrating environmental, social and governance concerns into
investor and capital market considerations.

The launch of the so-called "Responsible Investment Initiative" follows a
meeting of more than 40 investors and fund managers held last month in
Paris. At the meeting, organized by the UNEP Finance Initiative and hosted
by Groupama Asset Management, participants proposed a global alliance of
investors to guide responsible investment best practice.

The initiative is being launched by UNEP in response to this proposal and
the results of a 14-month study published last month by UNEP on the
financial impacts of sustainable development.

"The time is now right to develop principles to guide best practice in
responsible investment decisions worldwide", said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's
executive director. "The world's largest banks have the Equator Principles
to guide their actions in a manner supportive of sustainable development.
We believe the investor community is now ready for similar principles to
assist with the complex process of responsible investment that meets
investor expectations", he said.

The global public and private investor community, which has a duty to
protect long-term asset values, is a key sector in bringing environmental,
social and governance disciplines to the heart of capital market
considerations.

"The short-termism inherent in our markets is a critical challenge when it
comes to addressing environmental and broader sustainability issues", Mr.
Toepfer continued.

"Many investors, at best, view environment and social issues as a mid- to
long-term concern and, therefore, of little relevance to the cut and
thrust of modern capital markets. This is why asset owners can play such
an important role. While investing in our capital markets, asset owners
and their advisors are beginning to appreciate the importance of retaining
a long-term view that anticipates new opportunities and threats."

Sir Graeme Davies, chairman of the Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd,
the third largest pension fund in the United Kingdom, said: "Pension funds
have liabilities which last several decades so it's inevitable that the
serious social and environmental issues which the U.N. system seeks to
address will increasingly become material investment issues as well.

"The focus of the investment system -- on relative returns over the short
or medium term -- can mean both the impact of institutional investors on
these wider issues and the investment opportunities they present get less
attention than they deserve. That's why I welcome principles which focus
attention on material but currently 'extra-financial' issues, principles
which each fund can interpret and implement as it judges to be
appropriate."

Commenting on the importance of UNEP's involvement, Sir Graeme said: "The
UN and its sister organizations (e.g. the World Bank, OECD and IMF) have
the international legitimacy and expertise to lead this work, as well as
considerable clout as investors in their own right. That is why USS is
participating in this important initiative."

Keith Jones, CEO of Morley Fund Management, agreed, commenting: "It is
clear to us that success for companies focused on consistent progress over
time means embracing the concept of sustainable economic growth. And an
aspect of Morley's success has been our use of SRI expertise to identify
companies that are successful because they adopt environmental, social and
corporate governance best practice as part of their own idea of winning.
We look forward to working with UNEP on this."

Michaeal Hölz of Deutsche Bank and chair of the UNEP Finance Initiative
added: "UNEP FI is the largest and oldest public private partnership
between the U.N. and the financial sector, with 226 member companies
worldwide. As chair of this Initiative, Deutsche Bank firmly believes in
the potential of public private partnerships to develop and ensure
governance, environmental and social performance. The results of UNEP FI's
Asset Management Working Group, which form the basis for this
announcement, are an example of the success of this network."

UNEP will now convene a group of major investors in a learning process to
jointly explore how to best develop and disseminate the principles.

At the Paris meeting on June 16 investors also encouraged UNEP to
coordinate its work with relevant international organizations including
the World Bank, the OECD, the CFA institute, the International Corporate
Governance Network and the Carbon Disclosure Project. Regional groups
pinpointed for collaboration included the Investor Network on Climate Risk
in the United States and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate
Change in the United Kingdom.

The new UNEP initiative is framed in support of the U.N.'s Global Compact.
It also builds on the recent launch of a UNEP study that warned of a
threat to stock markets if environmental, social and governance issues are
ignored by financial analysts and the broader investment community.

The study, "The Materiality of Social, Environmental and Corporate
Governance Issues to Equity Pricing," was launched at the U.N. Global
Compact Leaders Summit on June 24 in New York. To compile the study, UNEP
worked with a group of 21 fund managers and brokerage houses to explore
the impact of environmental, social and governance issues on share prices.


UNEP and the asset management companies, working under a public-private
partnership called the UNEP Finance Initiative, concluded the work by
calling upon investors, government and business leaders to embed
environmental, social and governance best practice at the heart of our
markets. The new initiative to develop a responsible investment approach
to guide investors is a response to that call.


Visions of a nuclear future: experiments are about to begin on a new form of nuclear power that even eco-warriors might tolerate, if not welcome.

Visions of a nuclear future
Financial Times, 16 July 2004 - How do you turn a Green bright red? Just
mention nuclear power, judging by the response of environmentalists to the
growing use of the N-word in debates about future energy sources.
Last week, Tony Blair told a committee of senior parliamentarians that
America was pressing Britain to re-examine the case for building a new
generation of nuclear power stations and that nuclear power could not be
removed from the agenda.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's minerals and energy minister, last
month incurred the wrath of environmental campaigners for suggesting that
nuclear power might give her nation greater energy diversity and security
of supply.
A few weeks earlier, Professor James Lovelock, the British environmental
guru, had provoked outrage with his apparent apostasy in calling for huge
investment in nuclear power to help combat global warming.
Sir Crispin Tickell, a leading British environmentalist, has even managed
to annoy both eco-activists and ministers by accusing the UK government of
failing to make the case for nuclear power in tackling global warming.
At first sight, it is hard not to share the frustration of
environmentalists at being presented with a bleak choice between climatic
disaster or reliance on the technology that gave us Three Mile Island, the
Chernobyl disaster and thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste.
Yet it is a false dichotomy, based on a view of nuclear technology as
outdated as the cold war. Whisper it quietly, but experiments are about to
begin on a new form of nuclear power that even eco-warriors might
tolerate, if not welcome.
It is radically different from the traditional reactor designs that prompt
fear and loathing: for one thing, its safety is underwritten by the laws
of physics, rather than human ingenuity.
Better still, it can use a range of different fuels - including some that
would minimise the risk of weapons production by "rogue" nations. But best
of all, this new form of reactor can incinerate waste from other reactors,
turning today's noxious stockpiles into energy.
Such are the prospects held out by the new reactor, the Accelerator-Driven
Subcritical (ADS) system. First proposed in the 1990s by scientists at the
Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and Carlo Rubbia, the Italian
Nobel prize-winning physicist, the idea behind ADS is more elegant than
its name.
Conventional nuclear power exploits the energy released by the splitting -
"fission" - of uranium atoms. Along with energy, this fission process
releases neutrons capable of splitting further uranium atoms, triggering a
chain reaction.
If the numbers of neutrons are just sufficient to keep the reaction in
balance, the result is a "critical" reactor - and a steady flow of power
that today provides about 17 per cent of the world's electricity demand.
But if the chain reaction runs out of control, the reactor could explode
as an atomic bomb does. This has compelled designers to devise measures to
prevent a disaster - yet these are no guarantee of safety. The ADS system
adopts a different approach to nuclear safety - one that even Homer
Simpson could not undermine.
As its name implies, the ADS reactor is "sub-critical" - that is, its fuel
simply does not generate enough neutrons to sustain a chain reaction.
Instead, the reactor is fed with neutrons created by a particle
accelerator.
Cut off this supply of neutrons - deliberately or accidentally - and the
reactor reverts to its natural, somnolent state. An explosive chain
reaction is not just unlikely: it is prevented by the laws of physics.
Moreover, as chain reaction stability no longer depends on the type of
fuel used, the ADS system is a nuclear omnivore, able to work with fuels
that are wholly unsuited to weapons production. To cap it all, an ADS
reactor can even consume radioactive waste from conventional reactors.
This holy trinity of advantages has made the ADS the subject of intense
theoretical research for more than a decade. Now the theory is to be
tested in experiments by an international team of scientists at Italy's
Casaccia Research Centre, near Rome.
A small research reactor at the centre has been modified to make it
sub-critical, and a particle accelerator is to be built to feed the
reactor with neutrons knocked out of a tantalum target.
The first experiments, expected to start within two years, will focus
simply on gaining experience in the art of feeding neutrons to a reactor.
Once these are completed, the team plans to use a more powerful reactor
and accelerator system to create an ADS system capable of waste
incineration. A pilot plant could be completed within five years.
That is the plan. In reality, the ADS approach may still harbour an
unexpected problem that stops it realising its potential. Most concern
surrounds the creation of the neutrons needed to feed the reactor.
A commercial power station consuming substantial amounts of waste will
require an accelerator substantially more powerful than any now available.
However, the biggest cloud hanging over the project is the same one that
has dogged nuclear power for decades: economics. No matter what its
benefits, if the electricity ADS generates costs too much, it will have no
role to play in future energy policy.
With the public rightly chary of the return of old-style nuclear power,
but a growing belief even among some environmentalists that renewables
alone are not enough, a lot is riding on the success of those experiments
near Rome.
Copyright 2004 The Financial Times Limited


HP, Office Depot Launch PC Recycling Program

HP, Office Depot Launch PC Recycling Program





By Small Business Pipeline



Office Depot and Hewlett-Packard yesterday launched the country's first
free, nationwide, in-store electronics recycling program.
Under the Office Depot-HP program, which runs through Sept. 6, customers
can drop off any brand of unwanted electronics at any of Office Depot's
more than 850 U.S. stores. Office Depot will collect and recycle
computer-related and electronic entertainment goods, including desktops,
TVs, and cell phones. All products collected from Office Depot stores will
be recycled at HP facilities in Roseville, Calif., and near Nashville,
Tenn.
Dell, which began a similar recycling initiative in August 2002, offers
free shipping for its customers that want to recycle their old computers.
HP and Dell each recycled more than 100 million pounds of unwanted
computer products globally in 2003.
Such programs reflect the growing concern with the huge volume of
electronics -- many of them containing hazardous materials such as
mercury, cadmium, and zinc -- being dumped in the world's landfills. The
European Union in December 2003 finalized the Waste Electrical and
Electronic Equipment Directive, which makes manufacturers of electrical
goods, including PCs and printers, financially responsible for collecting,
recycling, treating, and disposing of products. European Union governments
have until Aug. 13, 2004, to implement the directive, and producers are to
be financially responsible under the WEEE Legislation beginning in August
2005.
Domestically, many states, Massachusetts foremost among them, have been
restricting the dumping of electronics waste. Massachusetts, which began a
program in the spring of 1999 to promote the recycling of PCs, estimates
that discarded electronics account for 75,000 tons of solid waste each
year in the commonwealth, including 25,000 tons of cathode-ray-tube
monitors. It anticipates that approximately 1 million PCs and televisions
will become obsolete in the next few years and that by 2006 the volume of
discarded electronics will rise to 300,000 tons per year. Since April 1,
2000, Massachusetts law has barred residents from dumping PCs and other
products with CRTs in landfills or combustion facilities.
Nationally, recycling statistics are similarly staggering. The National
Safety Council, for example, estimates that by 2007 about 500 million
computers will need to be disposed. And the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency estimated that in 1998 alone 20 million PCs became obsolete in this
country but that only 13 percent were reused or recycled.


EU says Australia cannot ignore Kyoto

EU says Australia cannot ignore Kyoto
Australian Financial Review, 12 July 2004 - Europe's chief negotiator on
the Kyoto climate-change agreement has warned that Australia's opposition
will become untenable when Russia signs, possibly before the end of the
year, and has called on Australians to demand stronger political
leadership on the issue.
The European Union's environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, says she
understands that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the drawing
up of the instruments for Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a move that
will achieve the critical mass required for it to come into effect.
She says that Australia and the United States the last opponents of the
Kyoto agreement will be wise to prepare for the likelihood that the rest
of the world will go-ahead with implementing the provisions of the treaty
immediately it is signed by Russia.
"I expect they will still continue to hold out. There is a lot of prestige
and there are a lot of vested interests involved," Wallstrom says in an
interview with The Australian Financial Review.
"But I think in the end, so many countries will adopt Kyoto the pressure
will be too strong for the United States and Australia. The pressure will
come from their business communities.
"Already we have many US companies coming to us because we are going ahead
with emissions trading from early next year. They want to trade with us. I
think that pressure will increase greatly after Russia signs. If
leadership does not come from politicians, it will come up from
underneath."
Wallstrom says she is sure that Australians, with their recent experience
of severe summer bushfires and extreme weather conditions that get worse
each year, understand something is wrong with the climate and urgent
action is needed.
"There is still a debate in Australia. But if citizens are asked about
what they believe the priorities for governments should be, climate change
is among the top issues. So people are concerned and they do want
leadership."
She contrasts the Australian government's stand with that of Canada,
saying that because of its proximity to the US it may have been expected
that Canada "would follow or be forced to follow" the US. Instead, Canada
has adopted a very independent position.
"Canada established their own policy. That was much more impressive
leadership."
But she says it seems that issues other than just the climate change issue
were involved in the Australian government's decision to join the US in
refusing to sign up to Kyoto. Broader issues of the alliance relationship
influenced Australia's decision.
"The contacts with and the history it has with the United States maybe
puts Australia closer to the US," she says.
"I think it is the same thing that also Russia will have to decide in the
end where do they feel most politically at home."
Wallstrom was a member of a recent EU delegation that negotiated directly
with Putin in Moscow on the Kyoto issue at the same time as the EU was
negotiating a deal to support Russia's entry into the World Trade
Organisation.
She says Putin has shown he has a highly detailed knowledge of the Kyoto
proposals, indicating that he is taking a very close personal role in
Russia's deliberations about whether to ratify the protocol.
Wallstrom says she is very hopeful that Russia will announce its decision
to sign before the meeting of Kyoto-committed countries in Buenos Aires in
December, the so-called COP 10 meeting.
Referring to the Howard government's recently released energy policy,
Wallstrom says she applauds the commitment to finding technological ways
to combat greenhouse-gas emissions, including carbon dioxide sequestration
(extracting CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere and pumping it
underground).
"But it is not enough," she says.
The only possible way to develop an international commitment to combating
climate change is through multilateral action, and the only prospect of
effective multilateral action is through the implementation of the Kyoto
Protocol, she says.
Wallstrom's five-year term as Europe's Environment Commissioner ends in
October.
She has indicated that she would like to be reappointed for another five
years.