The Status Quo of Apple’s CSR

Apple Inc. is the world’s second largest information technology company in the world (by revenue), and largest as a publicly traded corporation internationally [1]. According to the Financial Post last November, Apple became the first US company to be valued at $700 billion [1]Statista reports the company maintains 437 retail location in fifteen countries, and employing almost 73,000 permanent staff [2]. As well as it is doing financially, one may wonder where its corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda lies in relation to its immense economic growth.

It turns out, Apple has quite a comprehensive environmental campaign and CSR policy incorporated into its business model. The company prides itself on continuous improvement and transparency; in this respect, its projects and practices are publicly accessible on the net.

Apple Inc. has two separate pages affirming CSR initiatives: Environment and Supplier Responsibility. The Environment page discloses its annual carbon footprint (in metric tons) according to its facilities, product use, transportation, recycling, and production. Falling under its combatting climate change campaign, it also highlights energy efficiency endeavors, namely its strive towards 100% renewable energy facilities, and its progress thus far switching to solar, wind, and geothermal power (more info). Its Clean Water Program and LEED Platinum certifications are also documented here. Other links provided within the Environment page document toxins reduction and highlight product design improvements as part of Apple’s doing more with less waste reduction campaign. Impressive was Apple’s local recycling campaign which encourages the return of old devices to stores through gift card rewards. Investing $850 million into a solar farm project in California was not too shabby either [3].

Apple products are rated based on four categories: climate change, restricted substances, energy, and material efficiency; all market products (ex: iPhone 6 Plus) are subject to a Life Cycle Assessment and archived accordingly. The process adheres to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool format (EPEAT) [4].

The Supplier Responsibility page addresses supplier accountability, namely environmental effects, worker empowerment, labor and human rights, and health and safety. All such factors are audited. They also claim to map their supply chain for use of harmful chemicals, down to individual smelters; non-compliance with standards to any of the above require corrective action. Allegedly, the monitoring and remediation measures following annual audits take place in 30-60-90 day intervals [5].

Overall, Apple’s CSR initiatives are quite impressive. It seems that in terms of current standards of CSR they are doing everything they need to do. I am just not convinced the supplier responsibility side is any more than a marketing strategy. This is a concern, considering they outsource a lot to China where human rights abuses, pollution and safety violations are notorious. Apple only provides generic figures of number of suppliers audited. Do we really have legitimate information about where and how raw materials are sourced and the actual environmental pollution coming from its production facilities? Are internal audits at outsourced locations sufficient enough to comply with the standards Apple claims to adhere to?

References

[1] “Apple Inc market cap tops US$700B, double what it was when Tim Cook took over as CEO”. Financial Post. November 25, 2014. Retrieved November 25,2014.

[2] “Number of Apple stores worldwide 2005-2014”. Statista. RetrievedDecember 6, 2014.

[3] Reuters, Apple investing $850 million in California solar farm, retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/10/us-apple-cook-idUSKBN0LE2RN20150210

[4] Apple Inc. – Environmental Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/environment/climate-change/

[5] Apple Inc. – Supplier Responsibility. Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/ca/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_Progress_Report_2015.pdf

[6] “Corporate Social Responsibility in the Consumer Electronics Industry: A Case Study of Apple Inc.” [Article] Retrieved from http://lwp.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/Connor-Myers.pdf

Court Ruling Expands Duty to Consult to Law Making Process?


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Late December 2014 the Federal Court ruled that the Canadian Government breached its duty to consult obligations to aboriginal groups when it drastically changed its federal environmental policies in 2012.(1)

The complaint was initiated by the Mikisew Cree of Alberta who argued that they were left out of the legislative development process of the 2 Omnibus Bills in 2012. The bills focused on budget cuts, including cuts in environmental protection, which had the potential to run contrary to First Nations treaty rights and constitutional guarantees protecting their lifestyle and livelihood. This triggered a duty to consult by Canada, the Mikisew claimed, a duty that Canada did not respect.(1)

The duty to consult had not been extended to the law making process before. Hence, I was intrigued when I first heard about it and wanted to see how the case would develop.

Back to the Mikisew, they were not merely speculating on the implications of these legislative proposals passing without adequate scrutiny. In the name of economic prosperity Bills C-38 and C-45 drastically skinned and gutted the protective substance of environmental legislation people like the Cree relied on as buffer from western development projects. These included the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and the Canadian Environmental Impact Assessment Act. For the Mikisew, legislative alterations implied reduced protection of freshwater, impacting Treaty 8 territory, and in turn, Mikisew livelihood. Their dependence on generations of traditional fishing, trapping, and travel was now in jeopardy.(2)(3)

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It is not the first time groups have turned to the Courts to reaffirm civil rights. The government’s duty to consult obligation is something that was established in the Haida Nation v. BC Minister of Forests case back in 2004, when the Supreme Court extended aboriginal rights considerations to contemplations by the government that have the potential to affect native or treaty rights (4).  Clearly, contemplations with wide sweeping results as those in question here ought to have triggered such a duty.

The Federal Court’s decision on this matter is kind of a big deal. It officially declared to have shared the opinion that the Crown ought to have consulted with the Mikisew when the bills were introduced into Parliament due to the sweeping consequences argued. This reaffirms the potential of the mandated policies to have negative consequences and paves the way for further scrutiny on future legislation approval in favour of aboriginals and the environment.(1)(3)(5)

It is unfortunate though, that the Court did not go further. The Court drew a distinction between legislation development and legislation approval and emphasized its stance not to meddle with legislative matters as far as bills are still being drafted.(3)(5)

In my past experience studying judicial politics and constitutional legal matters this reluctance makes perfect sense. Courts are often cautious about tampering with Parliamentary jurisdiction. Judicial remedies on questions of rights breaching government conduct that some claim valid judicial mandates(6) and proper dialogue, are accused by others of judicial supremacy.(7) Issues of policy get especially controversial.(7)

This implies that the core of the controversy in passing an omnibus bill – namely the decision making process on its content – remains backdoor politics; aboriginal groups only get access to a legislation document (bill) already produced, with no chance to really influence what goes in the design that potentially impacts their lives.

At least though, as JFK law corporation also pointed out, it was a progress nevertheless: “This is the first time a court has squarely addressed the issue of whether the duty to consult attaches to any part of the law making process”…and concluded that it is in fact triggered once a completed bill is introduced.(5)

References

  1. West Coast Environmental Law. (2014, December 22). Federal Court: Canada Acted Unconstitutionally in Ramming Through 2012 Environmental Law Changes. Retrieved February 1st 2015, from http://wcel.org/media-centre/media-releases/federal-court-canada-acted-unconstitutionally-ramming-through-2012-envir
  2. Shared Value Solutions. (2014, December 21). 5 Reasons Why the Mikisew Legal Victory a Victory for Canada’s Environment. Retrieved February 4th, 2015, from http://info.sharedvaluesolutions.com/blog/5-reasons-the-mikisew-legal-victory-a-victory-for-canadas-environment
  3. Federal Court of Canada. (2014, December 19). Mikisew First Nations v. Canada, Judgement and Reasons. Retrieved February 1st, 2015, from http://wcel.org/sites/default/files/T-43-13%20RJJ%20RHD%20%28%20Dec%2019%202014%29.pdf
  4. Maria Morellato. Research Paper for the National Centre for First Nations Governance. (2008, February). The Crown’s Constitutional Duty to Consult and Accommodate Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Retrieved February 8th, 2015, from http://fngovernance.org/resources_docs/Crown_Duty_to_Consult__Accommodate.pdf
  5. JFK Law Corporation. (2015, January 18). Legislative Changes to Federal Environmental Laws – Duty to Consult Triggered. Retrieved February 8th, 2015, from http://www.jfklaw.ca/legislative-changes-to-federal-environmental-laws-duty-to-consult-triggered/
  6. After all, Section 52 of the Constitution and more precisely S. 24(1) of the Charter affirm judicial authority by claiming, interested parties may turn to a court of competent jurisdiction to have any matter of law reviewed and grant discretion for remedies rendered.
  7. James Kelly, Governing with the Charter: Legislative and Judicial Activism and Framers’ Intent (Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2005
  8. Retrieved February 10th, 2014, from  https://www.google.ca/search?q=duty+to+consult&biw=1280&bih=923&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=6NnaVJXtDYGgyATY2YGgDg&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgdii=_&imgrc=3P2-HmGJwGLCCM%253A%3BfBjIrDvA5iloXM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.troymedia.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2014%252F11%252Fcircle_gavel_head.png%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.troymedia.com%252F2014%252F11%252F16%252Fcommon-misconceptions-about-the-duty-to-consult%252F%3B280%3B207   
  9. Retrieved February 10th, 2014, from https://www.google.ca/search?q=athabasca+river&biw=1280&bih=923&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=zt3aVKiFDI78yQSH3YK4BQ&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgdii=_&imgrc=bp5m4hIBjP2XgM%253A%3BbyExlTcdURE5uM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.ramp-alberta.org%252F_system%252FThumbnailCache%252FUserFilesImageAthabasca~downstream~of~Muskegjpg.700.-1.2091386766.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.ramp-alberta.org%252Friver%252Fgallery.aspx%3B700%3B525

Oil Pipelines and Sneaky Business

by Thomas Turoczi
Loophole in NEB legislation
Pipeline operators are benefitting from an apparent loophole in the Canadian National Energy Board Act. Oil companies must apply for regulatory approval under section 52 of the legislation and are subject to an environmental impact assessment. [1] As long as the responsible authority is the National Energy Board an EIA is mandatory. The scope of the assessment however, is limited to the capacity the proponent is applying for. [2] In other words, the full output potential of a new pipeline project does not require disclosure. Subsequent applications to modify output require “far less scrutiny” under a different section of the legislation. [2] Companies know this and never apply with their design capacity. Instead, they bid to export at acceptable levels and once their project is approved, they can request to expand production. [1] The post-decision requests to increase/maximize capacity fall under section 58 of the Act, a process which is a walk in the park in comparison. [1, 2] Design capacity expansion happens under the radar and though both terrestrial and marine spill risk increases (across the entire system), landowners do not get a say at all and the environment is only marginally considered. By this stage, the EIA is limited to pumping vicinities. [1]

 

Companies like Kinder Morgan, and Enbridge are calling the shots and having a ball. When in June, the Ontario Pipeline Landowners Association complained about not being notified of Enbridge’s 20% increase in crude transport from Sarnia to Hamilton, their public hearing request was denied. Enbridge claimed those residents did not fall in the immediate area to be considered “affected parties,” and the Board played along. [1] During Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project review, it was revealed their pipelines were designed to ship far more oil and condensate than the “applied for” capacity they submitted. [2] Putting the new figures into perspective: “50 per cent more oil tanker traffic than the (initial) marine spill risk assessment considered.”[2] The Gitga’at were unable to have the scope of the EIA adjusted to project additional biophysical impacts with future expansion.  Apparently, the rules are set in stone: “the board elects to assess ‘applied for,’ not designed capacity.” [2]

 

Similarly, the presence of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline is already causing public outcry based on the company’s track record of past spills. What the public might not know, is that tankers in BC waters are nowhere as many as could be once it decides to expand to full capacity.[2]
Root of the problem
The National Energy Board has been criticized in the past for its conflicting responsibilities. The Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations had suggested a mandate to simultaneously facilitate economic growth, police industry, and represent landowner interests is a joke. Reform is necessary because “one regulator cannot discharge three contradictory and competing mandates.”[3] Perhaps this is true. But the problem does not start nor stop with the Energy Board. The “toleration” of loopholes like this one is a reflection of a broader federal agenda. Currently, economic growth priorities fully overshadow environmental concerns at the Parliamentary level. [4, 5] They do so and in the name of efficiency they do – just consider the recently passed Bill C-38 and the range of legislation it amended to make resource extraction more feasible. Among the many, it made changes to the National Energy Board Act…and no, not for the better. [5, 6]

 

References
[1] The Tyee (2014). “The Loophole Big Oil Uses to Pump More Crude” Retrieved from http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/03/03/Big-Oil-Loophole/ Accessed October 3, 2014.
[2] Burnaby Pipeline Watch (2014) “Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion Designed to Carry Much More Oil” Retrieved from http://www.burnabypipelinewatch.ca/content/kinder-morgan-pipeline-expansion-designed-carry-much-more-oil Accessed October 4, 2014.
[3] Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (www. caepla.org) (2011) “Canada’s National Energy Board & the Need for Its Reform” Retrieved from http://www.landownerassociation.ca/rsrcs/CanadasNationalEnergyBoard_NeedForItsReform.pdf  Accessed October 4, 2014.
[4] CBC News (2014) “Northern Gateway pipeline approved with 209 conditions” Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/northern-gateway-pipeline-approved-with-209-conditions-1.2678285 Accessed October 5, 2014
[5] Green Party of Canada (May, 2012) “May Clarifies Deliberately Confusing Bill C-38” Retrieved from http://www.greenparty.ca/media-release/2012-05-10/may-clarifies-deliberately-confusing-bill-c-38 Accessed October 5, 2014
[6] Mondaq (2012) “Canada: National Energy Board Act Amendments Impose Timelines for Project Approval” Retrieved from http://www.mondaq.com/canada/x/189194/Environmental+Law/National+Energy+Board+Act+Amendments+Impose+Timelines+for+Project+Approval Accessed October 5, 2014