Connect with us


Post-Brexit Zero Tariff Trade Policy Called For By Textile Trade Coalition



a stitch in time


The UK government has today been called on by a coalition of ethical fashion producers and retailers to maintain tariff-free access for African goods after Brexit. The request comes as an attempt to strengthen the nascent African garment and footwear industry, which has the potential to become a major ethical source for the UK market. They presented a compelling business case for trading sustainably and ethically in Africa, at an event organised by Proudly Made in Africa and Soul of Africa at the House of Lords, which would allow individuals and communities to trade their way out of poverty, and also improve performance in product supply chains at the same time.

As UK and European retailers and brands seek to innovate and strengthen their market position by diversifying existing supply chains, Africa’s growing garment and leather industry provides a new source for ready-to-wear garments, shoes and fashion accessories. That potential is very much yet to be fulfilled and companies and brands that engage early will gain a competitive advantage, while helping to realise the promise of a vibrant ethical fashion sector in Africa that creates jobs and brings sustainable development.

Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, OBE, Trustee of the Aid by Trade Foundation, who hosted the event, said:

“The rapid growth in many African economies offers opportunities for greater sustainability in our value chains and there is a creative industries sector that adds value to African natural resources rather than exporting them raw. This creates job, skills and livelihoods in African countries so that the benefits of production are shared along amongst all those involved. For UK retailers this can render value-chains shorter, more manageable and more transparent, and will create new business opportunities.”

Fashion goods from Africa currently benefit from a tariff free access to the UK market as part of the EU trade policy, which makes them significantly cheaper than products imported from Asia (for example, African goods have a 12% advantage over Chinese items). Proudly Made in Africa, a non-profit that facilitates trade between ethically produced African products and European retailers, makes a series of recommendations for the UK’s trade policy with Africa after Brexit in a policy paper published today, “A Stitch in Time.”

Fair trade expert Albert Tucker, Trustee of Proudly Made in Africa and former Managing Director of Twin Trading, said:

“The zero tariffs and zero quotas regime is now at risk with Brexit. It is essential that the tariff free market access be maintained for African fashion products as it makes the crucial difference for the African supply chains engaging international buyers.

“Proudly Made in Africa calls on the UK government to send a clear signal to traders by committing now that when entering the UK, products from sub-Saharan Africa shall face no worse conditions than at present. Brexit can present an opportunity to implement a trade policy that will incentivise UK retailers and brands to engage actively with the nascent African fashion industry in a way that will also advance the UK international development agenda.”

Soul of Africa, which co-organised the event, presents the perfect success story of a profitable social enterprise making shoes in Africa and selling products globally while contributing to the development of the communities where it operates. Lance Clark, Founder of Soul of Africa and former Managing Director of Clarks Shoes, said:

“Pursuing the idea of giving people the means, the ambition, the pride to help themselves, setting up a quality shoemaking enterprise in Africa was an obvious option for me.”

For European buyers, sourcing from Africa is good for business and presents an opportunity to engage customers with ethical products that help enhance brand reputation. Andreas Streubig, Sustainability Division Manager with German retailer Otto Group, highlighted the opportunities and challenges of sourcing sustainable goods from Africa-based suppliers.

“Increasing the textile value creation would be important for Africa. More than that: it’s an imperative to improve the overall situation of the people, as the textile industry is a pioneering industry that paves the way for others. But we must also be realistic. The basic conditions are still very challenging and some preconditions of textile mass production are still weak or even missing. Hence both sides – western buyers as well as African suppliers – have to learn how to cope with the status quo and work together in an atmosphere of understanding, patience and eagerness to learn and develop.”

Representing the other side of the value chain, Nebil Kellow, Managing Director, Enterprise Partners (Ethiopia), a social enterprise facilitating market development to create jobs and raise income for Ethiopians, explained the potential that exists in Africa for the global textile industry.

“Africa’s lions are on the industrial march. As China transitions towards higher value-add in manufacturing and services, what we are also witnessing is the beginnings of structural transformation across the continent, whose educated youth are eager for jobs and ready to take up the mantle.”


Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

Continue Reading


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


Continue Reading