from Ethical Consumer Issue 162, September/October 2016
Churches and fossil fuel divestment
We were glad to see Ethical Consumer dedicating an issue to the question of carbon divestment, and that you began your article on the divestment movement by quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Faith communities have a strong voice in climate campaigning – as was seen at the Paris climate summit last year – and increasingly within the divestment movement as well.
Churches that have committed to divestment from fossil fuel companies include Quakers in Britain in 2013, the United Reformed Church in Scotland in 2015, and individual congregations such as Brighthelm United Reformed Church. Other Churches have gone part of the way: the Church of England and Methodist Church divested from coal and tar sands companies in 2015; the Church of Scotland took the same decision earlier this year.
This means that the list in your article of ‘carbon-divested UK institutions’ is only partially accurate. It includes the Church of England and Methodist Church but both continue to invest in oil and gas companies, which means they have a long way to go before they can be classed as fully carbon-divested. In 2015 the Church of England had more than £190 million invested in Shell and BP alone, as well as investments in ExxonMobil. The Methodist Church had £52 million invested in oil and gas companies.
Operation Noah is a Christian charity campaigning on climate change. Our Bright Now campaign, launched in 2013, calls on Churches and the Christian community in the UK to divest from companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels, take a leading and influential role in the national debate on the ethics of investment in fossil fuels, and support the development of clean alternatives to fossil fuels through their investment policies.
If Ethical Consumer readers would like to know more about Church divestment, please go to www.brightnow.org.uk for further details.
James Buchanan, Operation Noah
No to hunting
I would like to respond to Rory Jones’ email in the Letters page in EC161. I feel strongly that there is no place for hunting of any animal, in any country. In the UK we are hugely overpopulated and an accepted solution is not to control this problem by shooting human beings. I do not accept that we should be speciest in our solution, applying a different action to animals and simply shoot them.
I’m sure people living in NZ would also agree that shooting human beings is not an answer to overpopulation or to nuisance human beings. Therefore this is not the solution for animals either.
Don’t buy second hand books
I work as a writer. My royalty is usually 7% of the cover price of the book, which comes to about 60p - that’s if the book’s not discounted. Thus if I sell 10,000 books - which is a rare enough thing these days – I make £6,000, which is some way from being a living wage. All but a very few writers find it difficult to survive in an increasingly hostile commercial climate, but they keep going because they love their work and they believe in the power of books to change minds and bring people together.
When you buy a book second-hand, the writer receives no royalty at all. If you buy my book second-hand, a book which took me five years to write, I get nothing. If everyone bought second-hand books exclusively, no living writer could afford to continue doing what they do while trying to feed their family and put a roof over their head. So that’d be the end of books, or contemporary books anyway.
I appreciate where you’re coming from when you advise readers to buy second-hand books in your Reports, but you might think further about the ramifications of it. You’re recommending that people get writers’ work for free. Is it fair that readers’ should benefit from the years of work that writers put into a book, while ensuring that the book’s creator be impoverished?
My last book took five years to write.
Green Mobile sale
I am a long-term subscriber who uses your reports to inform any major purchases, and used your report on broadband about 3 years ago to sign up with Green Mobile. I just wanted to make you aware that in April of this year Green Mobile were bought out by Excell Group (and incidentally their customer service for Green Mobile customers has thus far proved to be pathetic - apparently my router, provided as part of my Green Mobile package, is ‘not one that they maintain’, so they won’t help me with my wireless connection problems to it!) I therefore feel very strongly that, assuming Excell Group don’t have similar credentials to Green Mobile, it should no longer be anywhere near the top of your list! (Actually, the web address you have listed doesn’t seem to work, so I’m not even sure it is still possible to sign up with them.) This is a real shame, but it looks like I’m going to have to shift to one of your other top providers.
Thank you so much for the research and hard work you continue to do in keeping consumers informed about the strengths and weaknesses of companies’ proclaimed CSR policies. One day, I should hope this becomes unnecessary because we will overcome the neoliberal ‘deregulationist’ ideology and will legally oblige them to act responsibly and have independent scrutiny to make sure of this. In the meantime, your work really is invaluable!
Ed: Thanks for the information. We will be updating our broadband guide this year.
One thing that I hadn’t understood until now is that supermarkets were rated across their entire range, which I feel is a little bit misleading. I read the article on clothing because I’d been buying things from the Sainsbury’s Tu range and noticed that a lot of them were made in Bangladesh. I assumed that the ratings applied specifically to Sainsbury’s clothing, and didn’t necessarily reflect their ethics with regard to other products. I guess you could have a situation where a large retailer was brilliant about sourcing sustainable fish, but really bad with clothing, and an overall score wouldn’t necessarily be that helpful if you were purchasing either of these, for example. I appreciate it must be very difficult to gather all the information but if perhaps it could be made more explicit that retailers who sell a variety of products are assessed across the entire range...or I have I missed it somewhere?
Ed: It’s a difficult one this one. On balance we feel that supermarkets should be held responsible for all their ethical decisions across their entire range. Perhaps we should state this more explicitly more often. When they are making exceptional progress in one area, we do tend to note this in the text of each guide.
Don’t retire your nuclear power column!
I’ve just read your editorial and must point out that HM Government is still dedicated to nuclear power - both for weapons at Trident and electricity at Hinckley C and elsewhere. HM Government’s position regarding what we might call domestic nuclear power from Hinckley C is part of their ‘deliberately mixed low carbon approach’ and I’ve also seen suggested that there are plans for another two such plants on the East Anglian coast.
Also, you might like to note that it has been reported that DECC has almost destroyed official support for insulation (sometimes called or known as ‘the fifth fuel’) which is vitally important in helping make the most of energy, especially in the UK’s largely old & energy inefficient building stock!
Thus, whilst I abhor Palm Oil this is just not the time to “retire Nuclear”
Ed: the use of the word ‘retire’ was perhaps misleading. It is still one of the issues that we will be rating companies on (in a new Controversial Technologies column) but it will not have its own column on the tables as before.
Wi-fi with my little eye...
In reply to a letter from Jon Jones in EC161 July/Aug, might I alert him, and other readers, to just a few sources.
- Electromagnetic Sensitivity and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: A Summary, by Michael Bevington, (from ES-UK, BM Box ES-UK, London WV1N 3XX). Overview with 1828 scientific references.
- The Bioinitiative report, updated 2012. States that biological effects are clearly established and occur at very low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radio frequency radiation from just minutes of exposure to mobile phone mast, wi-fi and wifeless, utility smart meters – see: www.bioinitiative.org/conclusions
- Overpowered: What science tells us about the dangers of cell phones and other wifi-age devices, by Martin Blank PhD, Seven Stories Press, 2014
- Video Presentation by Dr Mallery-Blythe – see video: tinyurl.com/drEMB
Guy Wood, by mail