To right the wrongs in gold mining, focus on good governance

Every year, according to the World Gold Council, as much as 3000 tonnes of gold are pulled from the earth. The Council estimates that 190 400 tonnes of gold have been mined throughout modern history, with most of it (about two-thirds) extracted since the 1950s.

Despite how much has already been mined — nearly all of which exists in above-ground stores because gold is virtually indestructible and easily recyclable — demand for newly mined gold remains strong. The jewellery sector is the largest industrial user of it, consuming nearly half of all newly mined gold annually. The tech sector uses about 8% annually, but it is the finance sector and governments that take up most of the rest.

In many cultures, gold is a symbol of wealth, luxury and love, whether in the form of a wedding band, a candelabra, ingots or an iPhone. But like so much that we consume, the production process behind gold is rife with negative social, environmental and economic impacts. Far from the exception, injustice, destruction and inequity are systemic traits of this industry.

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Child labour, poverty and terrible working conditions lie behind the sugar you eat

Reach for a packet of sugar in the café, browse the shelves at supermarkets, or take a look at the packaging of your favourite sweet treat, and you are likely to see the Fairtrade label. What’s more, the UK’s Modern Slavery Act requires large companies to publicly report on the steps they take to ensure that forced labour is not a part of their products. The EU’s non-financial reporting requirements broaden out from modern slavery to include many issues related to social responsibility and human rights.

Provisions such as these, as well as a multitude of corporate social responsibility programmes and industry specific commitments, have been put in place as measures to correct the longstanding social risks and challenges faced by the people who produce the goods we consume. To deepen our understanding of the status of those risks and challenges, our team has, for the past nine months, taken a close look at the sugarcane consumed in the UK.

About 25% of the UK’s sugar comes from sugarcane imported from outside the EU, while the rest comes from sugar beet grown in the UK and other EU nations. Consequently, given the prevalence of the Fairtrade mark and supply chain reporting requirements, most of us are likely to have the impression that sugar is produced in a socially responsible way.

But unfortunately, serious problems including forced and child labour, poverty, and dangerous heat-related illnesses persist in today’s sugarcane industry.

Continue reading at The Conversation…

Amazon versus brick-and-mortar booksellers: who’s better for the economy?

News of Amazon’s seasonal hiring of 20,000 temporary workers, reported in various UK news outlets this autumn, is generally heralded as good news for job seekers. The company is expanding. Surely good news all around?

Yet, in light of Amazon’s recent massive reduction in its corporation tax and repeated reports of poor working conditions in its fulfilment centres, one has to wonder if Amazon is all that good for the British economy. A recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) suggests that the UK’s brick-and-mortar booksellers, the retail outlets most at risk from ‘Amazonisation’, might be making a far greater contribution than the online retail giant.

Continue reading at Corporate Welfare Watch…