November 18, 2014

Toyota to begin selling hydrogen cars

Toyota announced plans on Tuesday to launch its fuel cell-powered Toyota Mirai model beginning next month. Japanese sales will begin in December, while American and European sales will open in mid-2015. The Japanese automaker is aiming to sell 700 models by the end of 2015 at an anticipated price of $57,600 (USD) before taxes. “In time, the fuel cell vehicle will become mainstream. We wanted to take the first step,” said Mitsuhisa Kato, a Toyota executive vice-president, at the vehicle’s launch Tuesday. “We want to be at the leading edge.” Early adopters will have to contend with limited numbers of hydrogen filling stations in their area, as well as skepticism from electric car enthusiasts that view their technology as superior. Fast Company took a look at the long-term struggle between hydrogen fuel cells and electric vehicles earlier this year.

 

0.5 per cent of world population living in slavery

Almost 36 million humans live as slaves around the world, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index produced by the Walk Free Foundation. This amounts to about 0.5 per cent of the world’s population. Slaves are defined as people subject to forced labour, debt bondage, trafficking, sexual exploitation for money and forced or servile marriage. India accounted for 40 per cent of the total with 14.3 million enslaved adults and children. Also high on the list was Uzbekistan, with nearly 4 per cent of its population considered bound by slavery. Corporate Knights’ senior writer Ashley Renders wrote about the prevalence of forced labour in the Uzbek cotton industry last month.

 

São Paulo charts sustainable course for future

Back in June, São Paulo adopted a Strategic Master Plan that incorporates many sustainable urban development principles. The 12th largest city in the world plans to build more affordable housing across the city, while increasing building density around transit corridors. Most importantly, the new Master Plan eliminates minimum parking requirements for new buildings citywide, making São Paulo the first megacity in the developing world to take this important step toward reducing traffic. Parking minimums, which require developers to build a designated amount of parking to serve housing and commercial uses, increase costs and unnecessarily incentivize the use of personal vehicles. By reducing parking around transit corridors, São Paulo will start reducing traffic, while improving street life and encouraging the use of public transit.

 

The rise of the Corporate Sustainability Officer (CSO)

A new survey by Verdantix suggests that CSOs are gaining more clout in corporate culture. The report interviewed executives from 260 firms in 13 countries around the world and found that 92 per cent of firms now have a sustainability officer who reports directly to the executive committee. However, direct access to the CEO or senior management is not necessarily a barometer of success for sustainability within a company. Author and former BP employee Christine Bader told Corporate Knights earlier this year that the aim for people doing this kind of work is really to embed their work in the core processes of the company. “Leadership access is irrelevant if that occurs, because it has simply become the way the company does business,” said Bader.

 

Two new studies point to benefits, drawbacks of GMOs

Competing studies published on Monday in the journal, PLOS One, shed new light on the advantages and disadvantages of GMOs. The first study analyzed results from 147 studies on genetically modified (GM) soybeans, maize and cotton – the world’s most popular GM products. The two German researchers found that GM adoption increased crop yields by 22 percent and reduced pesticide use by 37 percent. Another interesting outcome was that GM crops were more productive in the long run if they produced their own pesticides. This final data point ties into another study published on Monday by American scientists, which found increased armyworm resistance to GM corn specifically engineered for pest resistance. These two studies are likely to inflame the ongoing worldwide battle over GMOs in food production. Corporate Knights recently caught up with ardent anti-GMO activist,Vandana Shiva, to talk to talk about fair trade, corporate responsibility and, of course, food.

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