Drivers for Uber and fellow taxi company Lyft have long argued they are employees rather than contractors, and a US court this week agreed with them. A Californian appeals court ruled that the two ride-hailing companies had likely broken the law by refusing to classify workers as employees, which meant they were not entitled to employment benefits and the minimum wage. The court’s decision has serious implications for Uber and Lyft, both of which have ferociously fought drivers’ claims in a lengthy legal battle. The companies will be forced to comply with recent legislation passed in the US – AB5 – which means they canRead More →

Forget the grey pound or the pink pound, it is the vegan pound companies are after. As PIRC has reported before, plant-based eating is on the rise and even the dairy manufacturers want a slice of the vegan pie. The most recent boost to the growth in veganism comes from the way we are responding to Covid-19. As more of people eat at home during the ongoing lockdown restrictions, US Census Bureau figures reveal that sales of fresh plant-based meat alternatives have nearly doubled every month this year. Online news site Fooddive reports that in March, grocery stores sold 231% more fresh plant-based products thanRead More →

The UK’s ‘starkly unequal labour market’ will get much worse as the coronavirus pandemic continues unless more is done to redistribute wealth and redress the imbalance for those at the wrong end of the pay scale. This is according to a report from think tanks Autonomy and the High Pay Centre which suggests applying a wage cap to the highest earners and using the savings to improve salaries for the rest of the workforce. The report’s authors say that as the ‘UK economy buckles and growth crawls to a halt, the government – and business leaders – need to consider mechanisms by which existing cashRead More →

It’s no secret in the responsible investment world that progress on the S in ESG has been weakest and many investors continue to give it less attention than it deserves. But recent developments give us hope that things are changing, and we’re committed to playing an active role. The cases of Rio Tinto and boohoo this year provide different and important examples of both the materiality of S issues and the emerging willingness of investors to really challenge companies over them, but also some of the issues that remain. The destruction of the Juukan Gorge caves in Australia by Rio Tinto has focused more attentionRead More →

It’s time to try something different in executive pay. Almost 30 years of well-meaning reform has left us with a plethora of incentive schemes for executives embodying increasingly numerous targets, and voluminous commentary and data on remuneration in annual reports, much longer than reporting on employees, climate change or other far more significant ESG issues. We hugely doubt that most executives pay much attention to their incentives until it comes close to a calculation point, belying the idea that there is any long-term incentive effect, and making a mockery of attempts to ’reform’ the system by adding even more targets into schemes. And in aRead More →

PIRC has been engaging with companies and other stakeholders in the sector in the UK and elsewhere since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and held an investor webinar on the topic earlier in the year. This sector note summarises a number of our findings, and concerns about reporting of cases. It also makes a number of recommendations for investors in the sector. PIRC_sector_food_processingRead More →

There is nothing like hitting multi-billion-dollar companies right in the P&L when it comes to major health and safety failures. And certainly nothing like that happened when the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined two of the biggest meat processing companies USD29,000 (£24,200) for allowing more than 42,000 workers to contract Covid-19 while at work. This works out at USD0.68 per infected employee across the entire industry, or USD126 per death. To give this risible fine some context; the two penalised firms Smithfields and JBS made USD14bn and USD57.1 bn in revenues last year. As PIRC has reported for several months, the globalRead More →

Another online retailer in hot water recently is, of course, Boohoo. The company faces allegations that suppliers may not have paid the minimum wage, but the case has also exposed investors. This week the FT reported how some investors have grown increasingly dependent on rating agencies when it comes to guiding investment decisions, especially when selecting companies for responsible investment portfolios. Yet heavy reliance on ratings alone is looking far less credible as a number of highly rated companies have been relevaled to have poor environmental, social or governance behaviours. Earlier this month, PIRC reported on the downgrading of mining firm Rio Tinto which heldRead More →

Southern Water will find itself in the dock next week after pleading guilty of dumping tonnes of noxious substances – including raw sewage – into UK waterways. The utility company faces millions of pounds in fines after admitting 51 charges from the Environment Agency of breaching pollution laws on various dates between 2010 and 2015. Each charge against the company relates to many months pumping noxious materials into rivers at notable beauty spots in Kent and Hampshire. The news should prove a worry for investors in Southern Water, which has already shelled out £126m in fines following an investigation by industry regulator Ofwat. The SouthernRead More →