Unocal Settlement Seen as Precedent for Corporate Accountability
Unocal Corp. in December reached an agreement in principle to settle
human rights lawsuits against the company stemming from a pipeline
project in Myanmarformerly known as Burmaduring the
1990s. According to a statement released by all involved parties
Dec. 13, Although the terms are confidential, the settlement
in principle will compensate plaintiffs and provide funds enabling
plaintiffs and their representatives to develop programs to improve
living conditions, health care and education, and protect the rights
of people from the pipeline region.
The lawsuits against Unocal were filed in both state and federal
courts in California by anonymous Myanmar residents, seeking compensation
from the company for forced labor, murder, torture and rape carried
out by Myanmars military during the construction of the pipeline.
The suit claimed that Unocal, one of the major investors in the
pipeline project, knowingly allowed the Myanmar military to perpetrate
human rights abuses while carrying out the project. Unocal has denied
knowledge of the abuses.
The federal suit settlement is seen as potentially important in
setting a practical precedent, being the first settlement reached
in a case brought against a U.S. company using the Alien Tort Claims
Act, a law passed in 1789 that allows foreigners to sue companies
in U.S. courts for alleged human rights violations abroad. Because
the case was settled out of court, however, it will set no legal
precedent. In May 2003, the Department of Justice submitted a brief
to the court arguing against the use of the Alien Tort Claims Act
in this way, urging the court to dismiss the case.
President Creates Committee to
Oversee Ocean Policies
In December President Bush signed an executive order establishing
the Committee on Ocean Policy, which was created in response to
increased attention to the state of the worlds oceans. The
committee will be led by James Connaughton, chairman of the White
House Council on Environmental Quality, and will include a number
of White House Cabinet members.
The Pew Oceans Commission in June released a comprehensive review
of U.S. oceans policy during the last 30 years, and in September
the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy delivered to the President and
Congress An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, a
comprehensive and coordinated national ocean policy framework. Creating
an ocean policy committee was one of the 212 recommendations in
the Commission on Ocean Policys report.
The action plan highlights a series of legislative, administrative
and regional actions that we will immediately undertake, Connaughton
said. Theres a whole list of actions that were ready
to go right away; we got all the interagency clearances on that.
And then this high-level committee is going to be charged with taking
up the development and implementation of plans for the significant
longer-term agenda that the commission gave to us in their more
than 200 recommendations.
Roger T. Rufe, president and CEO of The Ocean Conservancy, responded
positively to the development. The time is now for ocean leaders
to step forward, to build on this wave of momentum and, with help
from the President's new oceans committee, embrace true reform,
Rufe said. We eagerly await congressional action, and look
forward to working with our legislative leaders.
Starbucks and Collaborators Develop First
FDA-Approved Recycled Content Packaging
Starbucks Coffee Co. announced in November that the U.S. Food &
Drug Administration granted Starbucks supply chain member Mississippi
River Corp. the first-ever approval to use recycled content in food
packaging, specifically Starbucks hot beverage cups. Starbucks
said it expects to convert its hot beverage cups to 10 percent-recycled
material, an industry first.
Beginning to use post consumer recycled content hot beverage
cups is an important milestone for Starbucks in addressing the environmental
impact associated with our paper-buying practices, said Jim
Donald, Starbucks CEO designate. Starbucks goal is to
convert hot cups in our U.S. company-operated retail stores by the
end of calendar 2005. We will continue to explore ways to include
recycled content in all Starbucks-branded paper goods in our stores.
Starbucks collaborated for more than two years with suppliers Solo
Cup Company, MeadWestvaco and Mississippi River Corp. to obtain
FDA approval for the product. In September the FDA granted its consent.
Starbucks said it expects to introduce the recycled-content cups
into U.S. retail stores after completing testing to validate performance,
quality and safety issues. The hot beverage cups will look and perform
the same, but the new cup is expected to lower the companys
dependence on tree fiber annually by more than five million pounds.
As Starbucks continues to grow and expand its presence around
the globe, we are actively working to incorporate environmental
considerations in our business operations, said Ben Packard,
Starbucks director of environmental affairs. We hope to have
other future firsts as we continue to look for innovative
ways to improve our environmental performance.
LEED Committee Issues PVC Draft Report
The U.S. Green Building Council in December issued a draft report
from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Technical
and Scientific Advisory Committee on the technical basis for a PVC-related
materials credit in LEED. The draft follows two years of research
by the committee, and represents what USGBC believes to be the
first (study) internationally to reconcile the occupational and
environmental health impacts together with the life-cycle analysis
(LCA) impacts over all major life cycle stages.
The report is in response to a charge from USGBC to the LEED Technical
and Scientific Advisory Committee to review available evidence as
a basis for a reasoned decision about the inclusion of a PVC-related
credit in the LEED rating system. Using both LCA and risk-assessment
methods, along with other analyses, the committee concluded that
the available evidence does not support creating a LEED credit for
the elimination of PVC.
USGBC has posted the draft report for public comment on its Website,
along with an official form for use in submitting comments. Public
comments submitted by e-mail must be received by USGBC before midnight
EST on February 15. Visit www. usgbc.org/LEED/tsac/pvcvinyl.asp
to download the draft report and the official comment form.
Projections Show EU on Track to Meet Kyoto Targets
The European Union and most individual member states should be able
to achieve their greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets under
the Kyoto Protocol on the basis of policies, measures and third-country
projects currently planned, according to a progress report adopted
in December by the European Commission. The latest emissions projections
from member states suggest that a combination of existing domestic
policies and measures, additional policies and measures that already
are in an advanced state of planning, and emissions credits gained
through the Protocols project-based mechanisms will deliver
a total emissions cut of 8.6 percent by 2010 in the EU-15 (the 15
EU member states prior to the European Union expansion of 2004).
This is despite the fact that some EU-15 member states are projected
to have emissions in 2010 exceeding their legally binding targets.
All new member states with targets are on track to meet their Kyoto
Protocol targets on the basis of existing and additional policies
Stavros Dimas, European Environment commissioner, said, This
progress report gives grounds for optimism that both the EU-15 and
the new member states are well on course to meet their Kyoto targets.
This is vital if the EU is to maintain its leading role in combating
the global challenge of climate change. But the report also reminds
us that emission reductions by 2002 were insufficient. Policies
and measures, both the existing ones and the additional ones planned,
have to be effectively implemented if we are to achieve the further
The projected EU-15 emissions reduction reaches 8.6 percent when
plans by six EU-15 member states to obtain emissions credits through
the Protocols project-based mechanisms, Joint Implementation
and the Clean Development Mechanism are factored in. These mechanisms
enable industrialized states to invest in emissions-saving projects
in the more than 100 non-EU countries that have ratified the Protocol.
The resulting credits can be used toward meeting their Kyoto targets.
More member states currently are finalizing plans to use the mechanisms.
The projections for 2010 do not account for some important measures
that will soon start to bring further emissions reductions, such
as the emissions trading scheme, nor does it account for the use
of carbon sinks like as forests to offset emissions.
Green Power Group Announces Renewable Energy
The World Resources Institute and members of its Green Power Market
Development Group in December announced 62 megawatts of new renewable
energy purchases and projects, bringing the total purchases by the
Green Power Group to 174 megawatts during the span of three years.
The 62 megawatts enough to power 46,000 homes represent
purchases made in the past year for more than 80 facilities in 18
states. The purchases include 39 megawatts of renewable energy certificates,
21 megawatts of landfill gas, and two megawatts of wind and solar
The Green Power Group is a unique commercial and industrial partnership
dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. Its members
are Alcoa Inc., Cargill Dow LLC, Delphi Corp., The Dow Chemical
Co., DuPont, FedEx Kinkos, General Motors, IBM, Interface
Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Pitney Bowes and Staples. The Green
Power Groups goal is to create 1,000 megawatts of new cost-competitive
green power for corporate markets by 2010.
Renewable energy is available, affordable, and offers companies
economic and environmental benefits today, said WRI President
Jonathan Lash. Natural gas prices, electricity reliability
issues, and environmental concerns are all driving companies to
diversify their energy purchases.
As the announcement demonstrates, big businesses are also deploying
these technologies. Johnson & Johnson is one of the countrys
largest users of wind and solar power, and five Green Power Group
members now purchase green power for 10 percent or more of their
Shaw Ends PVC Use, Ramps Up Recycling System
Shaw Industries Inc., the worlds largest carpet manufacturer,
ran its last production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) carpet backing
on Dec. 8. The PVC production line will be replaced with new tile-manufacturing
equipment designed to increase capacity while decreasing energy
consumption. Additional recycling capacity also will be added to
The backing for Shaws PVC tile products will be replaced with
EcoWorx, a cradle-to-cradle product that can be sustainably recycled,
has less embodied energy than traditional PVC carpet tiles, and
maintains equal or greater performance. Since introduced in 1999,
customers have preferred EcoWorx to PVC backing, driving the new
technology to more than 80 percent of Shaws total carpet tile
New recycling equipment is being installed that can break down EcoWorx
into its original components through an elutriation process. This
material will be reassembled into new product at the tile manufacturing
facility. The new equipment will prepare Shaw for the large volumes
of post-consumer tile that will begin to flow back to its buildings
as it reaches the end of its useful life. Shaw encourages customers
to recycle by offering the benefit of an environmental guarantee
on its EcoWorx products, which will ensure that Shaw picks up EcoWorx
after use, at no charge to the customer, and recycles it into more
The capacity of the elutriation system initially will allow Shaw
to recycle 1.8 million square yards of carpet a year. This equipment
will enable the company to separate the backing and fiber in a single
pass, and meet the anticipated future growth capacity requirement
of returned post consumer material for the next five to 10 years.