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German Chancellor Angel Merkel addresses the Bundestag in September. Photo by Tobias Koch.

Ontario takes lead on pollinator health

The Ontario government announced plans on Tuesday to regulate the use of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides thought to be associated with pollinator decline in Canada and elsewhere. The goal is to reduce the acreage of farmland planted with neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent within two years. The regulations will kick in this summer. Farmers that wish to continue using seeds treated with neonicotinoids will be required to seek third-party verification justifying the decision, as well as attend pest management training provided by the province. “Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy,” said Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment in a statement.

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to target the use of neonicotinoids. The European Union announced a two-year moratorium last year on the use of certain forms of the pesticide while more research is conducted. Corporate Knights reported earlier this year on steps already being taken to reduce neonicotinoid sourcing in the private sector, as well as useful background regarding the onslaught of threats facing pollinators worldwide.

 

Germany agrees to gender quotas for corporate boards

Following up on an agreement made a year ago during coalition talks, Angela Merkel’s three-party grand coalition agreed on Tuesday to institute a 30 per cent minimum gender quota on certain German companies by 2016. The law will apply to over 100 public companies in which employees are represented on supervisory boards, a common practice in German corporate culture. It will not apply to the thousands of German companies that do not have supervisory boards, which tend to be medium-sized corporations. In addition, all listed companies in Germany will have to set targets for increasing the number of women on their management boards, although the specific number they settle upon will not be mandated by the state. “We can’t afford to forgo the competence of women,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers in the lower house of the German parliament yesterday. “We’ve decided to do this and it will happen.”

 

The importance of rapid corporate sustainability disclosure

An often-overlooked problem with sustainability reports is that companies are slow to release them. This is partly because regulators do not enforce strict disclosure timelines, and partly because companies spend a lot of time and money producing reports for public consumption. The Corporate Knights Capital Sustainable Stock Exchange report found that only 63 per cent of qualifying companies had disclosed their sustainability performance a full six months after their financial year-end. By comparison, almost 100 per cent of companies had already released their 2013 financial data by this time. Reporting sustainability data in a timely manner is vital to investors because it provides important information they need to make responsible decisions.

 

Oregon GMO labeling referendum headed to recount

Vote totals released this week indicate that Measure 92, an Oregon ballot measure that would mandate labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), lost by 809 votes. This margin of 0.06 per cent means that the vote is headed for an automatic recount, which will be counted by hand in the first week of December. If the measure does pass, Oregon will join Vermont as the only other state to have passed a GMO labeling law. A similar ballot measure in Colorado was defeated by a two-to-one margin in November.

 

Koch Brothers target state legislatures

At least 40 bills aimed at weakening or eliminating clean-energy mandates have failed in legislatures across the United States over the past two years. Much of the opposition to repealing these measures has come from business-friendly Republican lawmakers themselves, which run counter to the broad anti-green energy consensus among their counterparts in Washington. Yet, the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and other influential conservative groups are continuing to push these bills, buoyed by the significant gains made by Republicans in dozens of statehouses across the country in the midterm elections. The National Journal’s Clare Foran digs into the intra-party dispute. “For now, at least, the Republican Party’s state and local green shoots remain in place,” she writes. “They’re faint, and they’re sparse, but they’re resilient.”

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