Co-authored by Joey Friedman
After undercover investigations and resulting allegations of underage workers in one of Samsung’s supplier factories, Samsung has quickly made public response to this issue. Repeatedly pledging a “zero tolerance policy”, Samsung has currently suspended their involvement with Shinyang Electronic Co. Ltd, in Dongguan, China. Until recently, Shinyang produced phone covers and parts for Samsung. It’s a South Korean-invested facility which hires about 40% temporary workers, all reportedly under the age of 35.
Although Samsung has conducted its own audits of this factory (three since 2013, the most recent on June 25, 2014), the company uncovered no cases of child labor. China Labor Watch (CLW), however, found at least five children working on one production line in this facility, and estimate there could be as many as twenty children working on that line and more throughout the facility.
Samsung’s failure to notice such gross violations during multiple visits to Shinyang certainly questions the rigor and effectiveness of these audits. In response to the allegations made by CLW, Samsung launched another investigation last week and reported finding evidence of illegal hiring processes. If Samsung’s investigation concludes that illegal hiring practices were indeed used, Samsung is threatening to permanently terminate its involvement with Shinyang.
In an effort to completely eradicate child labor within electronic factories, it is reassuring to see such an adamant response from Samsung’s team. However, the repercussions that could result from termination would leave workers worse off. Most imminently, the reported 1,200 Chinese workers in this facility could immediately lose their jobs, as Samsung is a major purchaser from this facility.
Cutting ties also relieves a lot of responsibility from Samsung. Other major electronics factories have formal child labor remediation policies. Apple, for example, requires that suppliers found to be employing underage workers must return children to school, finance their education and continue to provide income.
Shinyang’s violations reach beyond underage workers. All workers—adults, minors, and children—are underpaid, overworked, malnourished and forced into hazardous situations. A strong child labor remediation process, along with an increased hourly wage, and overtime that respects national limits would go a long way to make Shinyang a better place to work.
As Samsung considers next steps with Shinyang, we strongly urge the company to invest more in Shinyang and reform the factory so that it is a decent place to work. Terminating business with this factory is just a temporary solution to a systemic problem. The high demand and low prices that Samsung imposes on its supplier factories indirectly pushes them to seek out the cheapest labor possible, and in this unfortunate instance, children.
- Another Samsung Supplier Exploiting Child Labor (CLW’s Report)
- Samsung Blog Post – July 14
- Samsung Blog Post – July 10
Never mind that exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian markets would cause U.S. energy prices to rise. Never mind that opening up an export facility on the Maryland Eastern Shore would create incentives to open up Marcellus Shale deposits for gas production in the western region of the state. Even if we look past the massive greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and other environmental catastrophes associated with natural gas production, the planned LNG export facility in Cove Point raises a serious and immediate concern: safety.
In April, the assistant fire chief of the Solomons Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad stepped down from his post after expressing safety concerns over the Cove Point project. The concerns arose from the fact that the department had not received any formal LNG safety training, and was not prepared to deal with a potential catastrophic explosion. While responding to an LNG emergency would first be the responsibility of Calvert County, any volunteer without proper equipment or training is at a serious risk in doing so. A representative from Dominion stated that they were working with the county to educate volunteers on the hazards and risks of LNG.
So what exactly makes LNG so dangerous? Converting natural gas into its liquid form requires chilling the gas to -161.5o C (258.7o F) using massive refrigerant compressors. These compressors, powered by natural gas themselves, circulate the gas at close to atmospheric pressure until it becomes a liquid, making it easier to store and transport by ship. LNG can vaporize and form highly explosive clouds in pipelines and other parts of the facility if its container leaks. In a phenomenon called rapid phase transition, the heat transfer from spilling enough water at room temperature on the subzero LNG can cause a tremendous “cold explosion.”
Explosions in the last decade in Algeria and as recently as this past April in Washington state have left environmentalists, emergency responders, and citizens living near proposed facilities in the U.S. understandably concerned. So far there are two approved export facilities in Louisiana, with one already under construction. While the LNG industry maintains a respectable track record in taking safety measures to prevent explosions, leaks, and spills throughout the process, further expansion of liquefaction facilities situated around populated areas only increases the risk of an avoidable catastrophe. The bottom line is it only takes one mistake to create a devastating explosion, and irreparably harm a community.
Residents of Lusby, Maryland have organized and are demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC conduct a full environmental impact assessment to weigh the risks against the rewards of the Cove Point facility as touted by Dominion Resources. While Dominion dangles the prospect of 3000 construction jobs and 75 permanent positions to local power brokers, Calvert County residents are speaking up in defense of their delicate bay ecology, and the economy that depends on it. The risks posed by sea level rise, potential explosions, and large-scale environmental damage due to expanded fracking operations have many Marylanders in favor of clean energy development, such as offshore wind and solar.
Independent studies often find more hazards associated with the proposed facility than those commissioned by regulatory agencies. While the economic benefits of a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Cove Point have been presented loud and clear, it is also clear that those benefits would do little for a Bay town that’s lost its bay. After picketing the FERC building, submitting thousands of public comments demanding a full risk assessment, and gathering en masse on the streets of Washington, DC to protest the project, Lusby residents remain uneasy about what the future holds for their slice of the Chesapeake.
China Labor Watch’s (CLW) report, Another Samsung Supplier Exploiting Child Labor, documented child labor and other abuses at Shinyang Electronic Co. Ltd. Shinyang is a South Korean-owned company, mainly producing the covers and other parts for Samsung cell phones. The report revealed that five children (under 16) were found to be working in this facility, as well as numerous minors (under 18). These young workers are subject to the same long hours as other workers, and compensated less. These children were also working the night shift, from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am, six to seven days a week.
This news adds to mounting concern regarding Samsung’s labor record. Last month the Washington Post shared that more than 200 former Samsung workers are suffering from grave illnesses, allegedly contracted while working in Samsung plants.
Samsung’s own sustainability reports make no-mention of these issues. It’s most recent report stated stated the company inspected working conditions at over 200 suppliers in 2013 and that “no instances of child labor were found.” The violations found in CLW’s report raise questions about the effectiveness of Samsung’s self-monitoring and the truth of its reports.
In response, Green America and China Labor watch have teamed up to launch a petition to Samsung’s CEO calling on the company to immediately cease abusive labor practices in its supplier factories.
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As we transition into summer, gardeners are relishing in the explosion of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other beautiful plants on the land. Gardeners and farmers recognize that pollinators, such as bees, are essential for growing fruits and vegetables and add plants that are supposed to attract bees. However, what many of us do not know is that many of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at many garden stores contain pesticides that actually harm and kill bees.
GMO Inside ally, Friends of the Earth, released a report today about their study showing that over half of the garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers (Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained pesticides called neonicotinoids. More and more evidence is indicting these pesticides as one of the causes for bee colony collapse disorder. All of the samples where neonicotinoids were detected could cause sub-lethal effects (on immunity, memory, reproduction) and death in bees. Forty percent of the positive samples contained two or more neonicotinoids, and some samples contained very high levels in excess of the lethal dose for honey bees.
Also concerning is none of the plants had labels stating they contained pesticides. Therefore, people who are trying to decorate their yards, enjoy nature, help the bees, and increase pollinators might actually be unknowingly harming bees.
While “bees” often annoy us at cookouts buzzing around our food and offering a sting, we must realize those are usually not even honey bees but are yellow jackets or wasps. Honey bees are relatively docile and are extremely important to our food supply. Bees and other pollinators are essential for two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday such as almonds, squash, cucumbers, apples, oranges, blueberries, and peaches. One out of every three bites of food we eat is pollinated by honey bees.
Beekeepers have lost an average of 30% of their hives in recent years, with some beekeepers losing all of their hives and many leaving the industry. Farmers are unable to meet their pollination needs for popular crops such as almonds and berries. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world (manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta) and are increasingly implicated for bee deaths. These insecticides can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens, and other stressors while impairing their foraging and feeding abilities, reproduction, and memory. Neonicotinoids are widely used in the US on 140 crops and for cosmetic use in gardens. They can last in soil, water, and the environment for months to years to come.
The European Union realizes the importance of bees and the danger of neonicotinoids and has put a two-year suspension on the most widely used neonicotinoids in an effort to protect bees. A majority of the UK’s largest garden retailers have already voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids. Here in the US, at least 10 nurseries, landscaping companies, and retailers are taking steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores. More than half a million people have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot to stop selling neonicotinoids. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received more than a million public comments urging swift protections for bees. US Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.) and John Conyers (D, Mich.) introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act” to suspend the use of neonicotinoids until the EPA reviews all of the available data. It has 65 cosponsors and is a bi-partisan bill.
You can help the bees and our food.
- Demand that Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other retailers stop selling pesticides and plants pre-treated with pesticides that are poisoning bees.
- Urge Congress and EPA to act to protect bees.
- Buy organic or from farms using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) since organic farming supports 50% more pollinator species than conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture.
- Start plants from seeds that are open-pollinated, have not been treated with pesticides, or choose organic plants for your garden. Get bee-friendly gardening tips at www.BeeAction.org and www.garden4bees.com.
- Avoid the use of systemic bee-toxic pesticides in your garden by using alternative approaches such as providing habitat to attract beneficial insects that prey on pest insects in your garden. If pest pressure is too high, you can use insecticidal soaps or oils and other eco-friendly pest-control products. Get more tips and resources at www.BeeAction.org and www.garden4bees.com.
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Growing Cities: A film about urban farming in America
Growing Cities, a new documentary film about urban farming in America has the opportunity to be broadcast on PBS nationwide this fall — if the filmmakers can raise the funds to make the broadcast possible.
InGrowing Cities, filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette travel the country, visiting everything from rooftop farms to backyard chicken coops. They discover urban farming is about more than simply good food. It’s about growing stronger and more vibrant communities, too.
Growing Cities has been an official selection at more than 25 film festivals and screened in more than 200 communities worldwide. A national PBS broadcast would give the film exposure in millions of homes across the nation.
The hurdle the filmmakers now face is to raise $30,000 to sponsor the film’s airing nationally on public television this fall.
“We are so thrilled for this opportunity,” Susman said. “We’d love to continue encouraging people to plant a seed and grow wherever they are. But we need help. We’re young independent filmmakers, so we really depend on others to get this message out there.” They’re enlisting help across the globe by running a Kickstarter project. Their project, which launched June 9, will run for 30 days. It’s the second Kickstarter the team has run; the first, in 2012, was the most successful Kickstarter project ever run in Omaha, NE.
Since Kickstarter is all or nothing, the project must meet its goal of $30,000 by July 9 for the filmmakers to receive any of the funds pledged.
“If this Kickstarter is successful,” Susman said, “we believe this is the chance to spread the Good Food Movement further than ever.”
Learn more about their Kickstarter here. The film must raise $30k in 30 days.
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The season of charcoal smells and checkered tablecloths has begun. It’s a great time to get together with family and friends to share laughs and delicious food. However, there may be an uninvited guest at your picnic or BBQ – GMOs. Unfortunately, almost everything on our typical plate is likely to have some GM ingredients, from the ketchup to the bun. Sometimes these GMOs are disguised and, unfortunately, often overlooked.
Adding to the discreet infiltration of GMOs is the fact that meat, dairy, and eggs– even though not genetically modified themselves–are produced using GMOs. Corn and soy make up the majority of animal feed in the US. With 88% of corn and 93% of soy in the US grown genetically modified, our farm animals are raised on GMOs. Animals, like humans, are deeply impacted by the quality of their diets. A 2013 study showed that pigs fed an entirely GMO diet suffered from severe stomach inflammation when compared to pigs given non-GMO feed. Their GMO-fed bodies are then turned into food for us.
Before you head off to your Fourth of July picnics and BBQs, review the items below for likely GM ingredients and tasty non-GMO alternatives. Then, share the knowledge. While the topic of GMOs has hit the mainstream, not everyone knows all the facts or understands the destruction GMOs are causing to our planet and our bodies. Use this picnic season as an opportunity to talk to your loved ones about GMOs.GMO Picnic Items (and Better Options) Buns – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cottonseed Fiber, Vegetable Oil (Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oils), Distilled Vinegar (often derived from corn), Mono and diglyceride (often derived from soybean, cottonseed, corn, canola), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (stearic acid maybe from soy), DATEM (usually derived from soy or canola oil), Maltodextrin (maybe from corn), Corn Starch, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour
- Non-GMO/organic option: Rudi’s Bakery, Berlin Natural Bakery, Pamela’s Products, Ener-G Foods, Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery, local bakery
Veggie Burger (meat-free) – Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Protein Concentrate), Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Dextrose, Soy Protein Isolate, Natural And Artificial Flavors From Non-Meat Sources, Maltodextrin, Soy Sauce, Soy Lecithin
- Non-GMO/organic option: Sunshine Burgers (also wheat-free and vegan!), Hilary’s Eat Well Burgers (also gluten-free and vegan!), Amy’s Veggie Burgers (also vegan options)
Meat Burger - Cows Fed Corn and Soy Silage
- Non-GMO/organic option: Cows raised on an actual farm, allowed to graze, and fed roughage. Applegate Organic Beef and Turkey Burgers, Organic Prairie Organic Burgers (Organic Valley), check out your local farmers market
Hot Dog – Mechanically Separated Turkey (fed GMOs), Mechanically Separated Chicken (fed GMOs), Pork (fed GMOs), Corn Syrup, Flavor
- Non-GMO/organic option: Applegate Organic Beef and Pork Hot Dogs, Organic Prairie Organic Hot Dogs (Organic Valley), check out your local farmers market
Veggie Hot Dog (meat-free) – Corn Syrup Solids, Methylcellulose (sometimes from corn), Dextrose, Egg Whites, Natural Flavors, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Protein, Soy Protein), Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Soy Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Soybeans, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Soybean Oil, Citric Acid
Sweet Corn – GM varieties entered the market in 2012
- Buy organic!
Ketchup – Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup
- Non-GMO/organic option: Annie’s Organic Ketchup
Mustard – Distilled Vinegar, Natural Flavors
Pickle Relish – Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vinegar, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 80
Mayonnaise – Soybean Oil, Whole Eggs And Egg Yolks, Vinegar, Sugar, Natural Flavors
- Non-GMO/organic option: Hampton Creek Foods Just Mayo, Woodstock Mayonnaise, Earth Balance Mindful Mayo
Processed Cheese – Milk (cows fed GMOs), Whey, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Enzymes
- Non-GMO/organic option: Organic Valley cheese, Rumiano Family cheese, Daiya Dairy-Free cheese (vegan!), any organic cheese
Chips – Soybean oil and/or Canola oil; Corn if corn chips; possibly Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, and many more depending on chip flavor
Soda – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor
The Fossil Free Index tracks the stock market’s performance, minus the oil, gas, and coal industries.
Given the link between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, financial professionals are increasingly searching for investment opportunities that exclude oil, gas, and coal companies. Fossil-Free Indexes LLC (FFI), an environmental, social, and governance index and research company released its first broad American market fossil-free index last week. The announcement of the new index is a timely contribution to the growing fossil fuel company divestment movement across the country. Market indices represent the value of an entire stock market at a single moment, and may be used to track changes over time. The Fossil-Free Index is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, omitting any fossil fuel companies identified by FFI’s “The Carbon Underground 200,” a proprietary list cataloguing some of the most carbon-intensive investment options.
The release of the index, coming in the same week as the Rhodium Group’s “Risky Business” report on the broad economic effects of climate change, strengthens the message that a warming globe is most certainly not good for businesses. As rising temperatures and more intense weather events become commonplace, so do the risks of damage to critical infrastructure and natural resources. By seeking out opportunities for economic growth while minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions (by decentivizing them altogether), investors can help shift focus away from climate- damaging fossil fuels, and towards efficient, clean, and renewable sources of energy.
The release of the index supports the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, with concerned investors of all ages urging the managers of pension funds, university endowments, and other large institutions to cease investment in companies that continue to burn fossil fuels as if there were no negative consequences. Divestment has been a powerful agent of change in the past – in the mid-1980s, enough global pressure was applied to South African companies that the government was compelled to end its policy of racial apartheid. Advocates tout the effectiveness of withholding investment from companies that support harmful practices and building a broad movement for change.
The founder and CEO of FFI, Stuart Braman, states that “Our products will be common-sense, accessible, low-risk options for institutions and individuals to help protect the planet along with their investments.” A reliable fossil-free index is a crucial step in today’s divestment movement. It comes at a critical moment for renewable energy in our country – in the first third of 2014, the US produced 14% of its electricity from renewable sources. The FFI will ensure that protecting your money and your planet are not mutually exclusive, and that we continue on a path with fewer fossil fuels, and more clean energy. To learn more about fossil-free investing, visit www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree
Momentum is building around the country – and on July 13 our nation will see its first national mobilization against the export of fracked natural gas and in support of the clean energy economy we so desperately need.
Green America is proud to join our allies in supporting the rally and march on July 13 in Washington, DC: Stop Fracked Gas Exports: Cove Point and Beyond!
Green America members and colleagues have taken a firm stand against the development of a fracked, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant at Cove Point, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. The plant has known threats to human and environmental health – and yet the government has failed to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be conducted before proceeding with plans for the facility.
We have urged the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the Cove Point LNG export facility. Water pollution, air pollution, explosions, increased likelihood of earthquakes, and increased gas costs here at home are key reasons to oppose the export of fracked gas.
Now more than ever we need to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will serve us for generations to come. Every dollar that goes to dirty energy is a dollar taken away from a clean energy future.
Having delivered our statements signed by thousands of concerned individuals and business leaders, we’ll next make our views visible with a major coalitional rally and march in the nation’s capital. Our message is simple: No gas exports from Cove Point and beyond; Invest now in renewable energy and energy efficiency!
Sign up for the rally and march today! And meet fellow Green Americans at noon at the northeast corner of 3rd St, SW and Independence Ave., SW — look for the Green America sign!
For smartphones and other electronics, the best way to ensure your next phone does not contribute to worker abuse is to buy a used or refurbished phone. Before you make the choice to buy though, you may try to fix the phone you have (if broken) or simply pledge not to upgrade needlessly. Phone manufacturers and service providers like to encourage customers to upgrade their devices at least every year, but phones can in fact work for much longer.
We put together a flow chart to help you choose your next phone.
iFixit is also a great resource to learn how to repair your electronics and order needed parts.
Mobile Karma is a great resource for used phones, and they help to divert phones from ending up in landfills.
If and when your phone does stop working, recycle it with an e-Stewards recycler.
e-Stewards recyclers are certified monitored by the nonprofit Basel Action Network to ensure that they recycle e-waste responsibly and do not ship it overseas where workers in scrapyards are exposed to dangerous work with without protection.
Green Americans know that when we make purchases we are voting with our dollars, and we want to know that our spending does not finance unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment. By pledging not to upgrade, fixing your phone, or buying you are helping to curb the ever-growing demand for new, exploitative phones.
Do you have any other tips for choosing electronics responsibly?
Last Friday, the US State Department released its 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Report—an annual report that documents human trafficking around the world and each country’s efforts to combat the issue. In this report, State downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, demonstrating that the Thai government is not compliant with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to its treatment of migrant workers. This is especially evident in the fishing sector.
In fact, there are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand. The majority of them, 80 percent, came from Myanmar and work in the most dangerous, dirty jobs, including seafood harvesting and processing, manufacturing, and domestic work.
This decision came after Green America and our allies sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to make this decision so that economic sanctions could be imposed to influence the Thai government’s efforts in preventing human trafficking.
While it’s not good news that Thailand has fallen to Tier 3 status, we hope that this decision will lead to urgent action in Thailand to improve the situation for migrant workers.
In the last year, reports from, CNN, BBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and The Guardian have drawn unprecedented attention to the issue and consumer pressure campaigns have also launched to push companies to be accountable as well.
We believe the Tier 3 ranking, as well as the research and recommendations contained in the report, will be an important informational tool for international and Thai institutions, companies and investors that continue to press Thai authorities to move beyond their current approach. Its our hope that by next year Thailand can be revoked of its Tier 3 status.