Board members at Kingfisher’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) tomorrow will be called upon to pay B&Q staff the Living Wage set out by the Living Wage Foundation. Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, will attend the AGM on 15 June to ask the board to reassess and reverse the cuts made to B&Q staff rewards. The voluntary Living Wage Foundation’s (LFW) Living Wage is higher than the Government’s National Living Wage (NLW).
McDonagh will ask the board to reaffirm its values as a sustainable business leader and employer of choice by paying the voluntary Living Wage McDonagh is attending the AGM as a representative of ShareAction, a charity which promotes Responsible Investment. ShareAction’s AGM Army project supports individuals to attend company AGMs and raise issues directly with the board.
Citizens UK, a community organising charity, has been leading the Living Wage campaign since it was first launched in East London in 2001. There are now over 2,600 accredited Living Wage employers with the Living Wage Foundation, including IKEA, Nestle and Chelsea FC. ShareAction runs a programme to promote the Living Wage at FTSE100 companies, backed by a coalition of investors representing £50bn in assets. So far 29 of the FTSE100 have accredited.
Kerry Coke, a leader for South London Citizens in Merton, explained why the Living Wage is an important issue in her community. She said: “We have a number of B&Q employees in our community. They are a big employer in our area, and it’s hard for local families to make ends meet without a Living Wage to pay the bills and buy essentials. The cost of living in London is becoming ever more expensive and we feel families deserve to earn a wage that truly reflects the cost of living which the Government’s so called NLW doesn’t adequately do.”
The LWF’s rate of pay is independently calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. The Foundation announces its new rate every November during Living Wage Week. The current rate is £9.40 per hour in London and £8.25 elsewhere in the UK.
This is not to be confused with George Osborne’s budget announcement in 2015 when he announced a hike in the minimum wage for over 25s to £7.20, rising to £9 per hour by 2020, calling it the ‘National Living Wage’ when in fact it was a new national minimum wage.
Upon the introduction of the Government’s so called NMW in April of this year, much debate has surrounded the way it has been implemented by many employers such as B&Q who have been accused of reducing pay elsewhere in order to fund it, such as cuts to Sunday pay. A change.org petition to highlight this was set up by an anonymous B&Q employee which has subsequently received over 143,000 signatures. The employee said: “B&Q is a large part of Kingfisher and has always prided itself on having family values. Does Kingfisher feel it’s acceptable to cut pay and rewards for the oldest members of its family? What impact will that have on morale in stores?”
McDonagh has been vocal in her criticism of the way employers have implemented the new minimum wage premium for over 25s, since hearing from a number of concerned B&Q employees in her south London constituency – many of whom could have been up to £2000 worse off under the proposals.
In advance of the AGM, McDonagh said: “I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to hold B&Q to account for its actions at the Kingfisher AGM.
“As a result of my campaign against B&Q’s contractual changes, which would have left thousands of employees significantly worse off, I was glad that B&Q decided to extend their period of compensation for a total of 24 months. However, along with Citizens UK, I am very worried about what will happen after this period is over, and we have had no assurances from B&Q that no employees will lose out. I will be asking B&Q executives what progress they have made regarding to what will happen after this compensation period is over.”
In response to the pressure, Kingfisher has since claimed that the company will compensate any workers who are worse off under the new proposals. But South London Citizens leaders want them to go further.
Pete Brierley, Lead Organiser for South London Citizens, said: “We support any rise in the minimum wage. The Government’s so called NMW announcement is a response to years of campaigning for fairer pay by Citizens UK. But we must remember that for many low paid workers, this rate still doesn’t cover the cost of living, particularly in London. Responsible employers, like we hope B&Q will prove to be, can and should pay more than the statutory minimum and pay the Living Wage as calculated by the LWF to reflect the true cost of living.”
Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive at ShareAction, said: “We’re delighted to support Siobhain McDonagh MP to attend the Kingfisher AGM to put the issue of fair pay firmly on the board’s agenda. She is one of hundreds of people that have been supported by ShareAction to bring issues to the attention of board directors of FTSE 100 companies. Company AGMs are a vital arena in which directors can be held to account. This is economic democracy in action.”
What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?
It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?
The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.
A Strategy, Instead of a Plan
But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.
The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.
A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth
But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.
Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push
While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.
The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.
But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.
This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.
Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.
In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.
It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.
4 Energy Efficient Home Upgrades that You Can Install Yourself
The wide range of energy efficient products is growing rapidly every day. Nearly every appliance in your home can be upgraded to be more energy efficient, which oftentimes is not only helpful in lowering your carbon footprint but also in lowering your monthly bills.
However, the upfront costs of installing green appliances can sometimes be fairly steep. In order to lessen some of the cost, try installing energy efficient upgrades yourself rather than hiring a professional. While it is smart to hire a professional in some cases, try installing the following four upgrades yourself and make your home even more energy efficient at a fraction of the price.
Insulate Your Water Heater
If you own a home, you have most likely thought about making sure your walls and roof are insulated. You don’t want your hard earned money escaping due to a lack of insulation. However, if you are like most people you haven’t given a second thought to insulating your hot water tank. If you have a newer tank chances are you don’t need to worry about this.
However, if your tank is older or you’ve recently purchased your house, you want to make sure that you have at least an R-value of 24 insulating your water tank. Not sure how to determine your R-value? According to the Department of Energy, just touch your water heater – if it’s warm, then it needs additional insulation.
If you find that your R-value is less, then adding insulation is your best bet. You can save between 7% and 16% on your heating costs by adding a water heater jacket or blanket. This simple upgrade, which should cost around $20, will yield a much higher return on investment in the long run. And better yet, it’s quick and easy to do! Follow these instructions:
- Shut off the water heater while you work.
- Cut the insulation blanket to the height of the water heater and wrap it around. (Make sure it isn’t covering the top)
- Mark and cut out the areas needed to allow you to reach the controls.
- Finish the installation and turn the water heater back on.
Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes
Everyone loves a nice, hot shower, but did you know that if your pipes aren’t insulated, your water is losing a significant amount of heat on its way from the water heater to your shower. By simply wrapping insulation around your hot water pipes you can increase the temperature of your water by 2° to 4°F. This allows you to actually lower your temperature control settings, as the water is staying hot by the time it gets to you.
The amount of money that you can save by doing this depends on how your house and piping system are laid out. Additionally, the type of fuel you use to heat the water and how much water you use will have an impact.
Installing insulation around the pipes is made incredibly simple by the use of insulation sleeves. Installation is as simple as measuring the length of the pipe, cutting the insulation and wrapping it around the pipe. You can use simple cable ties to secure it in place.
Seal Air Leaks with Caulk
One quick and easy way to make your house more insulated, which will ultimately allow you to reduce your heating costs and reduce your carbon footprint, is through sealing air leaks. Any air leaks that you have around your doors and windows will let the hot air out in the winter and cool air out in the summer. Luckily, this is an easy fix with a caulk gun. You just need to seal the areas around your doors and windows.
There are several options that you can use like aerosol cans and squeeze tubes. However, the most popular solution is a caulking gun and a standard tub of $2 caulk. If you want a specialty color it will cost you slightly more.
To seal any leaks, start off by cleaning the area thoroughly. Scrape off any old caulk or paint. Cut the tip of the caulk gun at a 45° angle and put it in the gun. Hold the gun at a 45° angle to the area you want to apply the caulk. Continue moving the tip of the gun around the door or window to apply a continuous line of caulk. To ensure that each crack and space is filled, use a damp finger, sponge or other object to make sure it has filled the cracks. You can use a damp rap to clean up any excess or mistakes.
Lower Water Heater Temperature
Turning down the temperature on your water heater is a good way to take advantage of energy efficient cost savings. The majority of water heaters are set to 140°F by the manufacturer but may only need to be set to 120°F. Lowering the temperature can help prevent scalding, reduce the speed at which mineral buildup and corrosion occur within the pipes, and save you money by reducing your energy usage.
Lowering the temperature setting will reduce the amount of standby loss that occurs, which is the heat you lose from the heater into the room that it is housed. If your temperature is set higher than it needs to be you could be throwing away around $31 to $61 each year. When you add in the amount that you save from consumption of water at a lower temperature you could save over $400.
The only reason you would want to consider keeping the temperature control set at 140°F is if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater. The appliance may need the higher temperature in order to reduce the risk of legionellae bacteria for individuals with suppressed immune systems or respiratory issues. Just note that when the heat is turned up this high it can cause scalding, so it is best to install mixing valves to lower the temperature to sinks and bathtubs.
The focus on going green is not a new concept. In fact, the millennial generation, even those who don’t own their own home, are highly invested in energy efficiency. As we continue to work on reducing our carbon footprint, it is important to do all that we can to make our homes more energy efficient.
Making your home more energy efficient does not always require a handyman. In fact, making these four energy efficient upgrades yourself is a great way to go green and stay within your budget. Going green does not always have to cost an arm and a leg, so start saving money and reducing your carbon footprint today.
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