Child labour, organics and Bowie – News Round-Up

BATTERY CHILDREN

Major electronics brands, including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and Vodaphone, are failing to do basic checks to ensure that cobalt mined by child labourers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a report published on Tuesday.

The report traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where children, some as young as seven, and adults work in perilous conditions.

Traders buy cobalt from areas where child labour is rife and sell it to Chinese-owned Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM) which processes it before selling to three battery component manufacturers in China and South Korea. In turn, they sell to battery makers who claim to supply technology and car companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Daimler and Volkswagen.

Amnesty contacted 16 multinationals listed as customers of the battery manufacturers that source processed ore from Huayou Cobalt. One company admitted the connection, while four were unable to say for certain whether they were buying cobalt from the DRC or Huayou Cobalt. Six said they were investigating the claims. Five denied sourcing cobalt from via Huayou Cobalt, though they are listed as customers in company documents. Two multinationals denied sourcing cobalt from the DRC.

None provided enough details to independently verify where the cobalt in their products came from.

ORGANIC ADD-ON

A study of everyday organic grocery items at five of UK’s biggest supermarket chains has highlighted the extra cost of eating healthily, with organic shopping for basic essentials alone estimated to cost almost £900 extra annually.

Organic items are on average 89% more expensive than non-organic products at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose according to the research by money saving website Voucherbox.co.uk. The products compared were own-brand items, where available, from the supermarkets in each instance.

A total of 19 weekly essentials were price checked – including apples, bananas, beef, butter, chicken, milk, orange juice and tomatoes – with an additional average weekly cost of £16.74, equating to an annual additional cost of £870.

Carrots showed the largest increase, at 208% more expensive if purchased organic, equating to a yearly additional cost of £49.25. This was followed closely by broccoli, (an additional £48.17).

Coffee showed the smallest difference in price, with a medium range 227g bag costing only 28% more if an organic product was purchased. However, over the course of a year, this could still equate to close to £35 in extra expense.

NUDGE ECONOMICS

HSBC has begun trials of a new app that acts like a “financial personal trainer” in order to help users save money and be more aware of their spending habits. The app, called Nudge, applies a theory of the same name developed by the London School of Economics and “nudges” customers about their spending, providing notifications designed to help achieve long-term financial goals.

There are 38 different nudges, including alerts on how much money a customer spent on groceries the previous week, and updates on how much they are spending and saving compared with others in the same income bracket.

HSBC previously introduced a text message system that warned customers when they were reaching their overdraft limit, a service it says has saved customers £85 million in charges.

FACEBOOKED TO DEATH

FRIENDS Reunited, one of the original social networking sites, is to close.Steve Pankhurst, a founder, said it is still used by a small number of people but merely as a “message board”, with many users’ details out of date.The site launched in 2000 and was bought by ITV for £175million in 2005, reaching more than 10 million users globally.

However, its popularity has suffered due to the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks.

ITV sold it to Dundee publisher DC Thomson for £25m in 2009, and two year slater it was valued at £5m.

Mr Pankhurst said the decision to shut the site, which he had reacquired, came because it could no longer cover its own costs. “I knew it was near impossible to re-boot something that was old and in decline,””he said, describing user numbers as “a handful”.   Facebook currently has around 1.4 billion users.

TAX ODDITY

David Bowie is likely to pay no inheritance tax on his fortune, worth £135million at a conservative estimate.

Experts suggest that by keeping a home in Switzerland, and spending only limited time each year in the UK and US, he would have been able to pay a an annual Swiss tax based on the value of his property there.

If he was deemed to be domicile din Switzerland at the time of his death – wherever he actually died – his estate would not be liable for any tax on assets held there in a secret bank account.

He will have copyright on compositions for 70 years in the UK and US, with a potential £40m a year from royalties flowing into his estate possibly for decades.

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