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SAN BRUNO, CA: January 31, 2017. In a bid to compete with Amazon Prime, Walmart has introduced free two-day delivery on over two million items without a membership fee. The retail giant has also lowered the minimum purchase ceiling from US$50 to US$35.

Walmart's two-day shipping is available on household essentials, beauty products as well as electronics and toys.

"I couldn't be more excited. We are moving at the speed of a startup," commented Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, and former CEO of eCommerce company Jet.com.

Wal-Mart acquired Jet in August 2016 for US$3.3 billion in cash and Wal-Mart stock. The company was co-founded in 2014 by Lore, CTO Mike Hanrahan and COO Nate Faust after they'd sold their previous company Quidsi to Amazon for US$545 million in 2010.

JET people"Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth," he said.

In addition to offering two-day shipping to stores, Walmart said it continues to offer same-day merchandise store pickup at more than 4,600 stores and grocery pickup at 600 sites.

"In today's world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes. It no longer makes sense to charge for it," explained Lore.

The people at Jet.com (right) combine a rewards-based eCommerce platform with Walmart's retail expertise, purchasing scale, sourcing capabilities, distribution footprint and digital assets to reduce supply-chain and logistics costs.

In a related development UK eCommerce grocer Ocado could be a target for Amazon following the release of its latest 12-month results showing sales up 13.6 percent and revenue up 14.8 percent to £1.27 billion.

David Jinks, head of Consumer Research at UK parcel consolidator Fastlane International commented: 'Rumors still persist that Amazon or another retailer might actually take over Ocado lock, stock and barrel-aged feta cheese.

"Ocado doesn't have the economies of scale that traditional brick and mortar supermarket chains have and always seems a likely candidate for acquisition because of its net debts, which rose to nearly £165 million," he added.

AMSTERDAM: January 24, 2017. With the Netherlands committed to a circular economy by 2050, Dutch social enterprise Circular Economy and Rotterdam-based Erasmus University are conducting research into defining the key jobs and skills that will enable the transition.

Currently 8.1 percent of all jobs in the country are based on circular principles that ensure the use of resources to guarantee the highest level of long-term economic, environmental and social value.

Circular economyWith 70 percent of all global resources used in cities and 50 percent of the world's population living in urban areas, Circle Economy is developing a Dashboard that measures the circularity of cities and regions.

The dashboard aims to quantify the key elements of the circular economy, such as employment, resource efficiency, air quality and climate change and enable cities to link the circular strategies they are implementing with explicit data.

Annerieke Douma, director Programme and Business Development for Circular Economy said: "Implementing the circular economy is as much about people as it is about resources and sustainability."

To accelerate the transition to complete circularity, defining key roles will need to be adapted and developed, she explained: "The first three are the architect to design for the future, the appliance technician to extend the lifetime of products, and the courier to enable reverse logistics processes for circular businesses."

In October 2016 a partnership of AkzoNobel, the Port of Rotterdam, recycler van Gansewinkel, Air Liquide and technology company Enerkem, announced plans to build a waste-to-chemicals plant that would produce methanol from synthesis gas generated from residual waste.

The plant will be based on technology developed by Enerkem to create the methanol for conversion into acetic acid used for fibres and adhesives, thickening agents and dimethyl ether – a clean propellant gas. The result will be a facility providing a sustainable circular replacement to sourcing from fossil fuels.

According to Erasmus University research, current governmental commitments are only able to achieve half of their climate goals, prompting the need for extra effort in order to stop the earth's temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees above its current state.

BERLIN: January 25, 2017. Corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index showing that of the 176 countries measured, 69 percent scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

While no country scores a perfect 100, not for the first time New Zealand joins the four Scandinavian countries plus Switzerland at the top of the list. Singapore, The Netherlands, Canada and a three-way tie between Germany, Luxembourg and the U.K. round out the top ten.

TI Corruption perception index 2016Out of the top group are Australia (13), the U.S. (18) and Japan (20). Unsurprisingly, Syria joins South Sudan, North Korea and Somalia at the bottom of the index.

The Gambia, which awaited the arrival of a new president this week after his defeated predecessor finally left the West African country with a reported US$11.4 million in government assets, placed equal 145 on TI's list.

TI said its findings reinforce the principle that systemic corruption and social inequality go hand in hand, resulting in a feeling of distrust with the political status quo and providing a platform for right-wing politicians.

Publication of the Panama Papers last year exposed the marriage between corruption and inequality, noted TI, and the ease in which the rich and powerful are able to exploit the global financial system "using the backs of the public good as a ladder to elevate themselves".

Shocking displays of human rights violations continue as conspiracies between businesses and politicians go unchallenged from Petrobras and Odebrecht in Brazil to Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, said the watchdog.

"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary," declared TI chairman José Ugaz. "Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems."

An end to corruption is only possible if citizens are empowered and able to hold accountable those who are in power, added Ugaz. He noted that Brazil has shown that with support from independent law enforcement bodies it is possible to hold to account those previously considered untouchable.

"Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully," he concluded.


LONDON/NEW YORK: January 24, 2017. A survey of 300 companies by Bain & Co says only two percent of corporate sustainability programs achieve or exceed their goals compared to 12 percent of other transformation programs.

In additional interviews with heads of Sustainability at Nestlé, Novozymes and Coca-Cola, Bain said it has discovered that while corporate sustainability programs are often viewed as "greenwashing", even companies with the best of intentions fall victim to a few key "change traps" that keep them from achieving their goals.

Coca ColaMore than 60 percent of survey respondents cited public reputation as the key driver for sustainability change, while employees deprioritize it because of perceived business trade-offs and an absence of incentives.

Lack of resources and competing priorities are the two top obstacles corporations said threaten to derail sustainability programs, and less than a quarter of respondents acknowledged they are held accountable for sustainability through incentives.

"Too often, sustainability gets stuck in first gear, while the need for change is accelerating," said Jenny Davis-Peccoud, head of Bain's Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility practice. "Once companies learn to navigate common roadblocks, they open the door to a transformational journey and the potential to leave a legacy, prompting companies to redefine what it means to be a leader in their industry."

Not for the first time, the survey found that corporate sustainability leaders could overcome organizational resistance and confront a prevailing mindset that sees sustainability as bad for business.

To avoid committing "millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of management time to the effort [and] then momentum fades", Bain makes four recommendations that have been used by other consultants, experts and practioners for years:

  1. Make a public commitment. Many executives hesitate to make their goals public, fearing reprisal from third-party watchdogs if they fall short.
  2. CEOs lead by example. Research shows senior leadership support is the most important factor contributing to success, and visible actions—not just words—make the difference.
  3. Highlight the business case. Sustainability leaders help employees understand the business case that links sustainable products and processes with success, and there's no shortage of proof.
  4. Hardwire change through incentives and processes. Companies that achieve ambitious Sustainability goals embed behaviors and processes throughout the business and make line managers responsible for delivering results.

WASHINGTON, DC: January 12, 2017. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has contracted with the University of Trento, Italy to verify the effectiveness of the IACC MarketSafe Expansion Program that supports copyright enforcement on Alibaba's eCommerce platforms.

Last year a report by the OECD and the EU's Intellectual Property Office concluded that imports of counterfeit and pirated goods are worth nearly $500 billion a year to criminals with U.S., Italian and French brands the hardest hit.

Up to five percent of goods imported into the EU are fakes with most originating in middle income or emerging countries with China the top producer, said the report.

Last month the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman published a list of physical and online markets that are reported to be engaging in and facilitating substantial copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting.

Included in its latest Notorious Markets report is the Alibaba Group subsidiary Taobao because copyright holders continue to report serious challenges to reducing high levels of counterfeit and pirated goods on the site that is one of the top five in China, and ranked 15 globally.Taobao.com 1

"Tens of millions of American jobs and several trillion dollars of our gross domestic product rely on American creative and innovative industries," said ambassador Froman. "Our Notorious Markets List highlights key examples of online and physical markets all over the world that are linked to significant infringement of American businesses' intellectual property rights," he added.

The USTR said Alibaba claims to have proactively removed more than 380 million product listings and closed approximately 180,000 Taobao stores in the 12 months to August 2016. However, it added: "One large motor vehicle manufacturer reported that at least 95 percent of the merchandise bearing its company's brand names and trademarks found on Alibaba platforms is suspected to be counterfeit."

This week Alibaba Group CEO Jack Ma met Donald Trump in New York and promised one million new jobs if U.S. SMEs used his eCommerce platforms to sell their products.

However the USTC noted that Alibaba's 'Good Faith' program to enforce copyright and discourage counterfeit selling "reportedly remains out of reach for the vast majority of right holders, particularly SMEs, due to stringent eligibility criteria that must be met and maintained over a period of time".

In a related development, Alibaba.com has agreed to integrate approved members of the WCA forwarder network into its BtB platform from this month for shipments to the U.S., India and the UK.The two organizations said they have agreed a standard of service and will offer a protection scheme for all participants.

Director of Alibaba Logistics Steve Su commented: “We are committed to offering premium services to global SMEs on our platform who are looking to scale up their business presence through cross-border trading. We are confident partnering with a leading global logistics alliance such as WCA will help us achieve that goal.”

DAVOS: January 24, 2017. Coincident with Donald Trump's move to restart the Keystone XL and Dakota access fossil fuel pipelines, a report says the U.S. is now consuming 6.8 Terrawatts (TWh) of electricity per annum from renewable energy sources - more than any other country.

To put this number into perspective, one TWh is the equivalent of one billion Megawatts. One Megawatt equals 1,000 Kilowatts. The average American household consumes 11,500 kilowatts per year – equal to burning 4.7 tons of coal or sourcing from a wind turbine for one day.

RE100RE100, a collaborative initiative of the world's most influential companies committed to 100 percent renewable power, says the record for unsubsidized power from solar is now below US$30 per megawatt hour (MWh). By comparison, generation costs of most coal-fired power plants range between US$35 and US$60 per MWh, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

RE100 says its members, who include Apple, Microsoft, BMW, Tata Motors, Unilever, H&M, HP and Goldman Sachs, are now creating demand for approximately 107 TWh of renewable power annually; approximately the same amount of electricity consumed by The Netherlands.

Paul Simpson, CEO of the Climate Disclosure Project that leads RE100 with the Climate Group said: "From the U.S. to China, the global energy landscape is transforming before our eyes. The RE100 report shows this change is in no small part thanks to an increasing number of corporations demanding renewable energy. This powerful market signal should embolden investors to shift capital and spur policy makers to ensure an enabling environment to meet the growing appetite for renewable power."

General Motors, another RE100 member and one of Donald Trump's automotive 'America First' targets, reports a US$35 million annual saving from the use of renewables and expects the figure to go much higher.

Three new members joined the group during the World Economic Forum last week: Gatwick Airport, Danske Bank and Dutch health technology company Royal Philips. Speaking at Davos, president and CEO Frans van Houten commented: "We are the first generation that can really feel the impact of climate change and we believe we are the last generation that can do something about it."

WASHINGON, DC: January 10, 2017. In an open letter to Donald Trump and the new Republican Congress, more than 530 companies with combined revenues of US$1.14 trillion are calling for the U.S. economy to be powered by low-carbon energy.

During his campaign for the presidency, Trump called repeatedly for the expansion of America's coal industry and opening up federal lands for oil and gas extraction, claiming the move would create jobs.

In marked contrast to Trump's 1980s-era plans and his claim that climate change is a "hoax", the signatories say failure to build a low-carbon economy puts the country's prosperity at risk while the right action will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.

Business backs low-carbon USA"Creating jobs, and establishing the United States as an innovative world leader in creating a clean energy economy is a no-brainer for the Trump administration," said Aspen Skiing Company CEO Mike Kaplan. "If we stick to the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan, we're well on our way to growing the manufacturing sector and protecting jobs in the US$650 billion outdoor industry."

Other companies to endorse low-carbon economics are DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hilton, HP Inc., IKEA, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, The Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L'Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Pacific Gas and Electric, Schneider Electric, Sealed Air, Starbucks, VF Corporation and Unilever.

Headquartered in 44 states, they already employ 1.8 million people.

"It's imperative that businesses take an active role in meeting the goals set out by the Paris Climate Agreement," said Anna Walker, senior director of Global Policy and Advocacy at Levi Strauss & Co. "It will be critical that we work together to ensure the U.S. maintains its climate leadership, ultimately ensuring our nation's long-term economic prosperity."

Also part of the group trying to get Trump's Twitter attention are 100 investors with more than US$2 trillion in assets under management - including the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the California State Teachers Retirement System, Westpath Benefits and Investments, and Trillium Asset Management.

"With tens of billions of dollars of U.S. renewable energy investment in the works this year alone, and far more globally, the question for American political leadership is whether they want to harness this momentum and potential for economic growth," said Jonas Kron, senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management. "It is critically important to realize this is an opportunity that state policymakers can take advantage of, too, not just national leaders."

Trump and his eventual cabinet will find more information at www.lowcarbonusa.org.

LONDON: January 16, 2017: As Donald Trump continues his social media ejaculations against multinational corporate employers, 35 CEOs and civil society leaders say sustainable business models can create 380 million jobs and US$12 trillion in additional economic activity by 2030.

However it won't happen without a radical change in attitude from the business and investment communities, according to a report from the Business & Sustainable Development Commission.

"Real leadership is needed for the private sector to become a trusted partner in working with government and civil society to fix the [global] economy," say the commissioners who include Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching; Women's World Banking CEO Mary Ellen Iskenderian; Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman, The Alibaba Group; Daniel Pinto, Corporate & Investment Bank CEO JP Morgan Chase; and Unilever CEO Paul Polman.

Business  Sustainable Development CommissionThe Commission claims that while globalization has lifted "hundreds of millions out of poverty", it has also led to unequal growth, increasing job insecurity, more debt and greater environmental risks. This has resulted in an anti-globalization movement championed - at least in the U.S. - by the self-brand marketeer and reality TV personality Donald Trump.

In a bid to dispel rising levels of xenophobia, the new report reveals 60 sustainable and inclusive market "hotspots" in four key economic areas that could create a 10 percent increase in global GDP over the next 10-15 years: Energy US$4.3 trillion; Cities: US$3.7 trillion; Food & Agriculture US$2.3 trillion; Health & Well-being US$1.8 trillion.

Beyond the US$12 trillion directly estimated, conservative analysis shows potential for an additional US$8 trillion of value creation across the wider economy, according to the report: "We are on the edge and business as usual will drive more political opposition and land us with an economy that simply doesn't work for enough people," explained former UN deputy secretary-general and Commission chairman Mark Malloch-Brown. "We have to switch tracks to a business model that works for a new kind of inclusive growth," he added.

The Commission's study is based on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - 17 objectives to eliminate poverty, improve education and health outcomes, create better jobs and tackle key environmental challenges by 2030. "At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the [UN] SDGs offer us a way out," said Polman.

While it notes the future opportunities are compelling, the Commission's report says two critical conditions must be met to realize them: First, innovative financing from both private and public sources will be needed to unlock the US$2.4 trillion needed annually; and second a "new social contract" between business, government and society must be established to define the role of business in a new, fairer economy.

"The promise of the [SDGs] and the Paris Climate Agreement is a zero-carbon, zero-poverty world," said Sharan Burrow, Commission member and general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation: "We need to rebuild trust. A new social contract for business where people, their environment and economic development are rebalanced can ensure that everybody's sons and daughters are respected with freedom of association, minimum living wages, collective bargaining and safe work assured.

"Only a new business model based on old principles of human rights and social justice will support a sustainable future," she added.

The report can be downloaded: http://report.businesscommission.org/report

SEATTLE: January 04, 2017. Amazon reports its 'Fulfillment by Amazon' (FBA) service delivered more than two billion items for its marketplace sellers in 2016.

The company said FBA items shipped worldwide grew more than 50 percent during last year's holiday season while Amazon Prime members ordered millions of items from its Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program that offers free two-day or next-day shipping.

Greetings from Florida by Amazon"2016 was a record-breaking year in sales worldwide for sellers on Amazon," said Marketplace vice president Pater Faricy. "In fact, according to our economic studies, sellers have created over 600,000 new jobs outside of Amazon."

The company said sellers from more than 130 countries fulfilled orders to customers in 185 countries
 while units shipped under the FBA program rose 80 percent.

During 2016 the SFP program added six million Prime items for delivery in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan while 
sellers that reached UK$100,000 in sales grew 30 percent.

Amazon Business generated more than US$1 billion in sales in its first year and now serves more than 400,000 customers in the U.S. as well as in Germany, its first international expansion. The Amazon Lending program, that offers business loans to invited sellers, grew sales by an estimated US$4 billion, according to the company.

In a related development, Amazon will open a second fulfillment center in Jacksonville, Florida covering one million sq. ft. The facility will add more than 1,000 full-time jobs to an existing number of 4,000 full-time employees in the state.

Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity commented: "Amazon's expansion to the Jacksonville area is a great opportunity for North Florida job seekers to get a job in Florida's competitive logistics industry."

During the past three years, Amazon has opened multiple facilities in Florida including four fulfillment centers, two sort centers as well as 'Prime Now' hubs in Miami, Tampa and Orlando.

In addition to an employee benefits package that includes healthcare, a 401(k) plan, company stock awards, maternity and parental leave, the company also offers to pre-pay 95 percent of tuition fees for its full-time staff. Amazon said that since the program's launch four years ago, over 7,000 employees in 10 countries have pursued degrees that include game design and visual communications, nursing, IT and radiology.

SEATTLE: January 12, 2017. Following Donald Trump's assertion this week that "I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created", Amazon has announced plans to actually create 100,000 full-time U.S. jobs over the next 18 months.

This number adds to a workforce that grew during the Obama administration from 30,000 in 2011 to 180,000 by the end of 2016.

Amazon logistics services 1The company said the job openings would cover all types of experience, education and skill levels - from engineers and software developers to entry-level positions and on-the-job training - with many positions in new fulfillment centers under construction in Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey.

"We plan to add another 100,000 new Amazonians across the company over the next 18 months as we open new fulfillment centers, and continue to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning, and advanced logistics," declared Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

"Innovation is one of our guiding principles at Amazon, and it's created hundreds of thousands of American jobs. These jobs are not just in our Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley - they're in our customer service network, fulfillment centers and other facilities in local communities throughout the country," he added.

Amazon now has over 40,000 employees at corporate offices and fulfillment centers in its home state of Washington; 11,000 in Texas with the completion of its eight facility; a total of 17,000 in California after the construction of four more fulfillment centers; 7,000 in Illinois by the end of 2017; 11,000 in 11 sites across Kentucky; 6,500 in Florida; and 13,500 employees with the addition of more fulfillment centers in New Jersey.

The company also employs over 10,000 military veterans and last year pledged to hire and train an additional 25,000 over the next five years.

As the U.S. Senate begins its attempt to repeal the country's Affordable Heath Care Act, or "Obamacare", without determining a replacement, Amazon said all its full-time employees get the same health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plan, company stock and up to 20 weeks paid leave for new parents.

Meanwhile a new Greenpeace USA report on the energy footprints of nearly 70 of the world’s most popular websites says Amazon Web Services, Netflix and Samsung are “lagging behind” Apple, Google, Facebook and Switch.

"Amazon continues to talk a good game on renewables but is keeping its customers in the dark on its energy decisions,” said Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook. “This is concerning, particularly as Amazon expands into markets served by dirty energy.”

The IT industry’s energy footprint is forecast to reach 17 percent of global electricity consumption this year from seven percent in 2012. 

DELFT, the Netherlands: December 20, 2016. ABN AMRO, Delft University and 14 other partners have formed a 'TKI Dinalog' cooperative to apply blockchain technology to the logistics industry for the first time.

Port of Rotterdam containerbargeThe technology, which is the main innovation behind Bitcoin, utilizes an open network of databases and functions as a public, digital and distributed ledger.

In addition to ABN AMRO and Delft University, the other participants are the Port of Rotterdam, Windesheim, the SCF Community, TNO, Centric, Exact, SmartPort, Royal FloraHolland, FB Basic, Cirmar, BeSCOPE Solutions, NBK, Innopay and Transfollow.

The project is an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and is part of a broader effort to set up a Netherlands Blockchain Centre of Excellence.

According to ABN AMRO, the group's objectives will be to construct the infrastructure so blockchain technology can be applied to logistics and then tested in real transactions.

Bank program manager Supply Chain Finance Martijn Siebrand explained: "We are applying block chain technology to the financial routes in logistics. But that's just the start. I can see this development culminate in the logistics sector of the future, more coherent and smooth all across the chain."

Over the next two years the 16 partners will be designing, developing, and implementing a new information infrastructure rooted in blockchain technology that connects operational information, financial flows and contracts.

Project leader and Delft University associate professor Johan Pouwelse added the group would be applying the technology to three "real world" environments: supply chain finance, inventory finance and the circular economy.

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