Environment Forum

The Green Gauge: Sinar Mas under fire

An aerial view is seen of a cleared forest area under development for palm oil plantations in Kapuas Hulu district of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province

Indonesia’s Sinar Mas came under heavy fire last week from non-government organization Greenpeace as a report named and shamed some of its biggest clients for their role in the destruction of rainforest and peatlands.

Following is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines July 3 to 16 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity, led by Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

bot25 Sinar Mas, Wal-Mart, Tesco, WH Smith, Hewlett Packard, Paperlinx

Greenpeace has named these companies as sourcing products from Sinar Mas’ APP subsidiary, which the NGO has demonstrated in a recent report is responsible for extensive deforestation in Indonesia through the destruction of rainforest and peatlands.  Deforestation is responsible for 20 percent of CO2 emissions globally, and Greenpeace has called on international companies to ban sourcing from Sinar Mas.  In response to the report, HSBC indicated last week that it has divested all of its shares from Sinar Mas.

A copy of the report is available here.

bot25 Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd.

Chinese environmental authorities confirmed that nearly 2,000 tons of fish have been poisoned by over 9,000 cubic meters of leaking sewage in the Tingjiang River in Eastern China, which led to a temporary shutdown of one of the largest mines in the country.  Late last week, Chinese authorities also announced that three senior managers at the mine had been taken into custody as a result of the incident.  Shares of the Chinese mining giant have fallen more than 20 percent since the news of the leakage first emerged in early July.

“The other oil disaster”


Forget the BP oil spill for a moment. An international PR war is heating up this week between environmentalists and the oil industry over an entirely different sore spot: The Alberta oil sands in northern Canada.

Billboards targeting the region with the largest crude reserves outside the Middle East sprang up in four major U.S. cities this week in the launch of a multi-million dollar, multi-year campaign led by NGO Corporate Ethics International.

The campaign, supported by a network of foundations including Polaris Institute, Friends of the Earth and Earthworks, is scheduled to also run in Europe and Asia.

Power utilities want less of your business

Tarya Seagraves-Quee loads laundry into the washing machine at a laundromat in Cambridge, Massachusetts July 8, 2009.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Avoid mopping your floor, laundry and washing your dishes during the day and save energy in the process – that’s what power utilities in the U.S. are telling customers this summer.

Heard this before?

The difference is this year, heat waves have already caused blackouts and power-grid strain across the country, and it’s only mid-July. This begs the question: Do power utilities want less of your business?

Heat waves last month meant increased cooling needs – up as much as 76 percent in some regions – which adds in turn to the threat of power outages.

Are Americans bullying BP?


With all the comparisons to the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, there’s at least one arena where BP appears to be head and shoulders above its oil-spill predecessor — suffering public mockery.

They can thank the age of social media.

There’s the fake Twitter account, BPGlobalPR, posing as the public relations mouthpiece for an arrogant powerhouse. Today it tweeted its 184,466 followers: “Attention lazy fishermen! If you won’t clean our mess, we’re taking your money. Fair is fair.” They also produced this fake press conference.

YouTube, not around in 1989, is brimming with satirical videos targeting BP. There’s BP spills coffee, now at more than 9 million views.  Spoof ads are also hot contenders for “viral” status:  Oil is natural and the slickly produced BP Bringing People Together are two of the more popular.

BP, oil and seabirds — Baltic Sea ducks had worse luck

gannetBP’s vast and spreading oil disaster is killing ever more birds and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico — but one of the worst spills for birds was a harmless-sounding 5 tonnes of oil in the Baltic Sea in 1976.

That spill from a ship killed more than 60,000 long-tailed ducks wintering in the area after they fatally mistook the slick for an attractive patch of calm water, according to Arne Jernelov, of the Institute for Futures Studies in Stockholm, writing in today’s edition of the journal Nature.

By contrast, he writes that fewer than 1,200 birds have  so far been recorded killed after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which has led to a leak of a gigantic 250,000 to 400,000 tonnes of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  About 60,000 birds were killed off Alaska in 1989 by the accident usually known as the Exxon Valdez spill (…Exxon’s website calls it The Valdez Oil Spill ), previously the biggest spill off the United States at 37,000 tonnes.

from The Great Debate UK:

Oliver Lowenstein on making Cyclestations work


There's nothing new or unusual about the idea of using bicycles to replace cars to help combat the effects of climate change on the environment. Neither is there anything new or unusual about it taking so long to put the concept into practice.

Oliver Lowenstein has spent several years in pursuit of what he says could become an environmentally sustainable network structured around economically viable "cyclestations" or covered rest points, which would help make long-distance travel more feasible for cyclists.

A touring exhibition titled "Riding on Empty: Designing our travel infrastructure for the end of oil" on show in Bermondsey Square until July 4 as part of the London Festival of Architecture includes models of shelters designed by architects Steven Johnson and Alex de Rijke.

from The Great Debate UK:

Heather Rogers on fixing “Green Gone Wrong”


How can human production be transformed and harnessed to save the planet? Can the market economy really help solve the environmental crisis?

Author Heather Rogers argues in a new book that current efforts to green the planet need to be reconsidered.

The growth-based economy can't help but add to the problems the planet faces, Rogers writes in "Green Gone Wrong" published by Verso.

Showcase, don’t shun, economics of climate at G20


– Dr. David Suzuki is a Canadian scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.  Any views expressed here are his own. –

For the past two years, the global economy has been at the top of peoples’ minds. And so has the environment.

Indeed, most people probably care about both. The fact is these two issues are inextricably linked. As we’ve seen after the economic meltdown, we tend to focus on them as if they are separate.

from The Great Debate:

Smart grid skepticism derails Baltimore plan

Maryland Public Service Commission highlighted the political resistance smart-metering advocates must overcome when it shot down proposals for compulsory smart metering submitted by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE).

Smart grids are essential for the Obama administration's and power industry's plan to meet rising electricity demand while integrating more renewable generation into the grid.

Creating flexibility on the demand side to match increased intermittency in supply is the only way to maintain reliability without having to build enormous amounts of expensive back-up gas-fired generating capacity and disfigure the landscape by installing thousands of miles of transmission lines.

The Green Gauge: Chevron slides on oil spill news


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico strikes close to home for Chevron as it faces a $27 billion lawsuit brought on by the indigenous people in the Amazon region of Ecuador for water pollution, and a fresh Chevron oil spill in Utah, a bi-weekly analysis of companies in the news by ASSET4 data providers shows.

Company selections were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Here is a breakdown of the companies that made headlines June 5 to June 18 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.