Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability

Gas Company Forced to Pay Substantial Costs for Water Contamination

Oil and Gas Online reports that a settlement negotiated by the US Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Cabot Oil and Gas Co (Cabot) will force Cabot to pay residents of Dimock Township in Pennsylvania, whose drinking water supplies have been contaminated by natural gas, a share of $4.1 million. DEP secretary John Hanger reportedly stated that the financial settlement “will allow [the affected residents] to address their own circumstances in their own way”. Reportedly, Cabot will also pay for the installation of whole-house gas mitigation devices in each of the 19 affected homes, as well as $500,000 to the DEP to compensate for the state’s expenses in investigating the gas-related cases for nearly two years.
Oil and Gas Online: Dimock, Pennsylvania Residents To Share $4.1M, Receive Gas Mitigation Systems Under DEP-Negotiated Settlement With Cabot Oil And Gas (17 December 2010)
(Source: Oil and Gas Online)

One Nation’s Epidemic, One Firm’s Opportunity
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Guardian reports that amid “the worst-ever African meningitis epidemic”, Pfizer flew in teams of pharmaceutical researchers to trial antibiotics on affected Nigerians. In 1996, the company reportedly commandeered part of the Kano hospital, “dosed 200 children …[and] left, leaving behind some surplus drugs and equipment for the hospital”. Given that they were struggling to keep scores of people alive, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) doctors were reportedly “appalled” by an “opportunistic and inappropriate” exercise. Former MSF president Jean Hervé Bradol reportedly said that the Kano team was “shocked that Pfizer continued the so-called scientific work in the middle of hell”.

As 189 of the children survived, Pfizer reportedly regarded the trial as a success. However, The Guardian reports that the trial also left profound mistrust of pharmaceutical companies, which some people suggest has hampered vaccination rates. Families of the children who did not live have reportedly attempted to sue Pfizer, with little success, though the Kano state government achieved a US$75 million settlement of criminal and civil charges in relation to the drug trial. Conversely, federal lawsuits were reportedly dropped in October 2009, months after Pfizer allegedly “hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop the case”.
The Guardian: As doctors fought to save lives, Pfizer flew in drug trial team (9 December 2010)
The Guardian: WikiLeaks cables: Pfizer ‘used dirty tricks to avoid clinical trial payout’ (9 December 2010)
(Source: The Guardian)

Top Retailers Sullied by Sweatshop Claims
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The Guardian reports that War on Want and Labour Behind the Label have alleged that some of Britain’s top retailers – including those which vaunt ethical practices – have used Indian sweatshops “which pay poverty wages and break labour laws to keep costs to a bare minimum”. Amongst a number of allegations, factories reportedly paid pitifully low wages, imposed gross levels of unpaid and unreported overtime, generated a “climate of fear”, and used tactics like “violence and systematic exclusion from rights”. War on Want policy director Ruth Tanner reportedly decried British retailers’ failure to make good longstanding promises of fair treatment, and further stated that government intervention was necessary.

Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next reportedly advised that they regard the allegations as “serious”, whilst Arcadia Group stated that “it welcomed research into labour standards and was working on new management systems and on tackling the issue of a living wage”. 
The Guardian: Britain’s high street chains are named by sweatshop probe (12 December 2010)
(Source: The Guardian)

Electronics Firm Seeks Green Suppliers
Asia Pacific

The Korea Herald reports that LG Electronics (LG) will give preference to parts suppliers who participate in a greenhouse gas reduction scheme. From 2020, LG will reportedly purchase US$57.3 billion in parts from vendors with carbon reduction goals, with the top performing 1,500 companies to be shortlisted. Although LG itself has reportedly taken steps to reduce its 1.4 million ton carbon emission footprint, it is aware that this is dwarfed by the 12 million tons emitted by suppliers and vendors.
The Korea Herald: LG Electronics urges suppliers to go green (13 December 2010)
(Source: The Korea Herald)

Companies Failing to Reduce Energy Use
Europe, Middle East and Africa

Reuters reports that the Carbon Trust Advisory has found that large British businesses are losing £1.6 billion each year because they have failed to use energy efficient measures. More than 1,000 firms were reportedly analysed and finance directors at 100 companies with large annual energy bills were quizzed, the latter group vastly underestimating the average return on energy investments (less than 20%, when it is closer to 48%).

Carbon Trust Advisory managing director Hugh Jones reportedly expressed astonishment that companies had not recognised the financial benefits of energy efficiency, observing that “[f]ew other investments get anywhere near that rate of return”, and such measures can boost profitability. The Carbon Trust Advisory reportedly estimates that companies can save an average of 15% on their energy bills simply “through heating and lighting upgrades and staff training”.
Reuters: Firms waste £1.6 billion a year on energy – report (13 December 2010)
(Source: Reuters)