Archives for posts with tag: activism


What created these dramatic headlines? A simple law known as Sara 313, or the Superfunds Amendments and Reauthorization act. Tim Mohin, an author of the law, writes in The Guardian about how the required reporting mechanism asking companies to simply tell how much they released certain toxic substances and release that information to the public created a media frenzy. The key was that the information was concise, comparable, and addressed a specific issue. You could get your hands around how much mercury a company was releasing every year and think: how is that happening in my back yard?!?

Mr. Mohin goes on to despair of the current proliferation in sustainability reporting. While he sees benefits to the increased transparency, the movement also has its pitfalls, as he writes:

While transparency can drive comparison – and action – too much transparency can, ironically, work against the end goal of improving performance. Today’s sustainability ratings address factors ranging from environmental emissions to the diversity of the workforce to the compensation of the CEO. These myriad measurements, summed up under the umbrella of “environmental, social and governance” (ESG) metrics, are rarely presented in a way that enables easy comparison between companies. In essence, when we measure too much, we can lose the signal in the noise.

One good example of this is the Global Reporting Initiative, which advertises as the de-facto global standard for corporate sustainability reporting. It encompasses about 90 “key” performance indicators, which require companies to gather together reams of information. To put this in context, the 2014 survey for the Dow Jones Sustainability Index was 129 pages long!

Not only are these reports a lot of work, but their complexity makes them inaccessible to most people.

He then goes on to cite the organic food movements culmination in the USDA Nutrition Label as a good way forward. And that may be correct, maybe we do need a nutrition label for sustainability products as I wrote about earlier this year.  But perhaps part of the issue is that sustainability is so broad, so all-encompasing, that we need a series of more focused approaches to deal with different issues. In this way, sustainability reporting will always be 100+ pages when you are truly engaging the issue… but again, it circles back to whether or not these reports have the impact and ability to change companies. What do you think readers? Is sustainability reporting the way forward or are we diluting issues and only serving up another distraction in the form of green washing?


Chico and his family

Today marks the 25th anniversary of death of Chico Mendes, a union leader and environmental activist who fought for the protection of the Amazon and pioneered the use of extractive reserves. In a tale that is familiar today, Mendez fought for sustainable use of the forest while cattle ranchers sought to clear the land. As The Guardian reports:

Mendes was an obvious target. As well as lobbying successfully to end international financing for Amazon clearance, he organised the rubber tappers in non-violent resistance. Men, women and children would form human barricades known as “empates” to prevent the bulldozers from tearing down trees. His success made him many enemies and he knew he was a marked man.

His killer was from a family of cattle ranchers, whose efforts to expand their pastures was held up by the empates. Darcy Alves, 22, and his father Darly were convicted in 1990 and jailed for 19 years. Although they are now free, former associates of Mendes said the assassination backfired. “Those who killed Chico got it wrong. They thought by killing him, the tappers’ movement would be demobilised, but they made him immortal. His ideas still have a huge influence,” said Gomercindo Rodriquez, who came to Xapuri as a young agronomist in 1986, and later became Mendes’s trusted adviser.

Mendes wanted the forest to be used sustainably rather than cut off from economic activity (as some environmentalists wanted) or cut down (as the farmers wanted). He proposed the establishment of extractive reserves for tappers, Brazil nut collectors and others who harvested nature in a balanced way. After his death the first of many such reserves in Brazil, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, was created, covering 1m hectares of forest around Xapuri.

After years of decline, the demand for latex from a local condom factory has boosted the price of rubber, and many tappers, who had turned to raising cattle, have returned to the forest. “This is Chico’s legacy,” said Gomercindo. “The extractive reserves have meant the preservation of the forest – all around it has been destroyed for cattle pasture. They have become an example, they now exist in other areas of Brazil.”

A day to remember and reflect on those who fight for the voiceless forest and her downtrodden people. Read more at The Guardian.