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New guidelines to help employers support families during COVID-19

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New guidelines for businesses, to help them support working families during the COVID-19 pandemic , have been issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) .

The preliminary guidance urges employers to consider the impact of business decisions on workers’ families, and to support greater social protection wherever possible. They say that extra support, particularly for those on low incomes, is essential to minimize the negative consequences of the outbreak for workers, employers, their families and children.

Finding safe childcare, juggling work and care responsibilities at home, and coping with a loss of income, are among the challenges facing families.

Women are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They make up the majority of health and care workers and are more likely to lack social protection. Before the COVID-19 outbreak women were already performing more than three-quarters of unpaid care work globally and that is likely to have increased.

ILO and UNICEF are also calling on governments to support employers and strengthen social protection, especially for vulnerable families. Family-friendly policies and practices, including employment and income protection, flexible working arrangements, paid leave to care for family members and access to quality, emergency childcare can make a critical difference and help stabilize labour markets, families and societies.

“Social dialogue – consultation and collaboration among governments, workers and employers and their representatives – is essential. If responses are to be effective and sustainable, they have to be built on trust and a wide range of experiences,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality Department.

International labour standards provide a strong foundation for the policy responses needed for sustained and equitable recovery. They encapsulate the idea of a human-centred approach to economics and development, and balance the requirements of stimulating demand, supporting businesses and protecting workers.

“The secondary impacts of the pandemic – job losses, prolonged stress and a deterioration of mental health – will be felt by families for years to come,” said UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development Dr. Pia Rebello Britto. “For the most vulnerable children, the absence of adequate social protection systems exacerbates their exposure to the crisis.”

The preliminary guidelines for employers include:

Monitor and follow national advice from local and national authorities and communicate it to the workforce.

Review existing workplace policies to ensure they provide sufficient support to workers and their families.

Follow good practices when implementing policies based on social dialogue, national labour laws and international labour standards. Ensure that workplace support measures are available to all, without discrimination, and that all workers know, understand, and are comfortable with them.

Combat discrimination and social stigma at work by supporting training, and confidential and safe reporting mechanisms.

Adopt family-friendly working arrangements  to give workers greater freedom and flexibility to carry out their work. If flexible working is not possible, consider other forms of support for working parents, such as childcare.

Support working parents with appropriate childcare options and ensure that childcare jobs are quality jobs.

Strengthen occupational safety and health measures, including with guidance and training on occupational safety and health and hygiene.

Encourage workers to seek appropriate medical care and support employees coping with stress.

Support government social protection measures in line with the ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)  and ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202 . This can include subsidies for workers to access health, unemployment and inability to work insurance, maternity protection, and should extend to workers in the informal economy.

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Environment

Act Urgently to Preserve Biodiversity for Sustainable Future — ADB President

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The world must act urgently to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity for the sake of a sustainable future and prosperity, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa said at the opening of a global event on biodiversity here today.

“The world is at a critical turning point. If we are to reverse the alarming decline in nature, we must respond with urgency and coordinated action,” Mr. Asakawa said. “These efforts are needed to ensure the survival of our ecosystems, and for the sake of our shared future and prosperity.”  

Asia and the Pacific is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world—home to 17 of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots, 7 of the 17 megadiverse countries, and the greatest marine diversity. “If restored and well-managed, these natural capital assets can help to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss in a cost-effective and impactful manner,” Mr. Asakawa said in his opening remarks at the Ecological Civilization Forum at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Kunming, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  

The event is cohosted by the PRC’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Yunnan provincial government, and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Participants include high-level representatives from governments, the private sector, development agencies including ADB, and civil society. 

ADB is committed to helping accelerate and increase nature-positive investments in Asia and the Pacific. “Through our ADB Nature-Positive Investment Roadmap, we are working with partners to scale up finance, develop knowledge of natural capital, and generate financially sustainable projects that deliver on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems,” Mr. Asakawa said.

At COP15, ADB is launching a new publication, Greening Development in the People’s Republic of China, which outlines how ADB and the PRC have successfully partnered to promote green development and ecological restoration in a way that complements economic and social priorities. 

In partnership with the Chinese Academy of Science and Stanford University, ADB is sharing progress on its new Natural Capital Lab due for launch in 2022. This will be a digital platform for sharing methods for valuing biodiversity and ecosystems, and for building knowledge, capacities, and alliances across the region.  

In addition, ADB with partners will be launching the Regional Flyway Initiative that will conserve ecosystem services that support people and critical habitats for more than 50 million migratory waterbirds.

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Health & Wellness

Stockholm+50: Accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for all

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The United Nations General Assembly agreed on the way forward for plans to host an international meeting at the highest possible level in Stockholm next June, during the week of World Environment Day. The event will commemorate the 50 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and serve as a contribution to accelerate action towards a more sustainable society.

The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was made in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden, resulting in what is often seen as the the first step toward the development of international environmental law, recognizing the importance of a healthy environment for people, and creating the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Five decades after the 1972 Stockholm Conference, the Government of Sweden, with support from the Government of Kenya, will host Stockholm+50, an international meeting in 2022 to commemorate the 50 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and its outcome documents, as a contribution to the environmental dimension of sustainable development to accelerate the implementation of commitments in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, including a sustainable recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The international meeting, “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity”, will take place in Stockholm on 2 and 3 June 2022, following a UN General Assembly resolution. In three leadership dialogues, the meeting will reflect on the urgent need for actions towards a healthy planet and prosperity of all, achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of Sustainable Development in the context of the Decade of Action. The meeting will also reinforce the messages and the outcomes of the event to commemorate UNEP’s 50th anniversary (UNEP@50), which will have taken place in March 2022, in Nairobi.

Per Bolund, Sweden’s Minister for the Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister, said “Our aim is clear, we want Stockholm+50 to make a concrete contribution to accelerating the transformation to a sustainable future. We call this meeting to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1972 conference. We are running out of time and urgent action is needed. These challenges are global, and we must meet them with a global response that drives action on the ground.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, who was on 11 October appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as the Secretary-General of the Stockholm+50 international meeting, said: “We need to urgently work to transform our economies and societies, but our branches will spread only as far as our roots are deep. By remembering Stockholm at 50, we also remember how the world came together to heal the ozone layer in 2013, phase out leaded fuel this year and stop endangered species from going extinct. By convening in Stockholm, we also recommit to human and planetary health, responsibility, prosperity, equality and peace – as we have seen only too clearly in COVID-19.”

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Finance

Logistics giant commits to Gothenburg Green City Zone

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DB Schenker is collaborating with Business Region Göteborg to scale up electric freight transport as part of the Gothenburg Green City Zone initiative – the first logistics company to do so.

Business Region Göteborg is one of the initiators of the Gothenburg Green City Zone, which brings together businesses, societal stakeholders and researchers to develop, test and scale up new vehicle and infrastructure technologies. The goal of the initiative is to achieve zero-emission transport within parts of Gothenburg by 2030, and to do so using green electricity.

DB Schenker is one of Europe’s largest logistics and supply chain companies. The company currently has three electric vehicles operating in central Gothenburg: two parcel delivery vans and one distribution truck operated by the hauliers TGM and Bäckebol åkeri. These three vehicles handle packet distribution in the Event District and Lindholmen, both of which are within the Gothenburg Green City Zone. The electric vehicles also cover some nearby areas.

Keen to go electric as quickly as possible
“We want to scale up the transition to electric power as quickly as possible. To do so, we will need to charge our vehicles at night in order to operate them without interruption during the day. While charging a handful of vehicles presents no problem, charging our entire vehicle fleet will demand entirely different conditions than we have today. This requires charging infrastructure that doesn’t yet exist,” explains Hanna Melander, quality and environmental manager at DB Schenker.

To lay the foundations for rapid electrification throughout the transport sector, Business Region Göteborg and DB Schenker have therefore started a collaborative project to analyse and learn from real-world traffic, to understand flows and needs and how and where charging stations should be located in order to be able to scale up the vehicle fleet and take the next step.

Together, within the Gothenburg Green City Zone, the partners will develop general analytical methods for electrification that can benefit other hauliers. The intention is to facilitate rapid upscaling throughout the sector, thus contributing to the goal of the initiative: to create a zero-emission transport system by 2030.

A method that all freight stakeholders can utilise
“We are determined to make freight traffic in central Gothenburg emission-free as quickly as possible and we welcome DB Schenker’s commitment. Together, we will develop a method for large-scale electrification that can benefit all stakeholders in the freight sector, that is generalisable. All stakeholders face similar challenges,” says Maria Strömberg, director of cluster and innovation at Business Region Göteborg.

Property owners, market stakeholders and the city’s administrations and municipally owned companies will gain a clear picture of the infrastructure that needs to be established and the specifications the various installations must fulfil.

“To this end, we also need to understand what the potential actually is and what is required to achieve it, not only at a local level but also regionally,” says Matilda Landén of Business Region Göteborg, process manager for the Gothenburg Green City Zone.

While the partners fully expect that further significant stakeholders will commit to the collaboration on the journey ahead, it is important to capture data from traffic that is already operating so as not to lose valuable time.

About Gothenburg Green City Zone
In the Gothenburg Green City Zone, we test new technologies and collaborate to develop and scale up system solutions aimed at ensuring that all transport in parts of Gothenburg will be 100% emission-free by 2030. Gothenburg Green City Zone is an initiative by the City of Gothenburg, implemented through Business Region Göteborg, Volvo Cars and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden. Learn more about the initiative and other founder members here.

Initially consisting of Lindholmen, the Event District in central Gothenburg and Forsåker in Mölndal, the Gothenburg Green City Zone will create opportunities for businesses, societal stakeholders and researchers to test, develop and scale up their ideas. This will be a zone for testing rather than prohibition, where we will welcome and stimulate interest in new solutions, create innovation and learn together. We shall show consideration for one another, for the business community, the local environment and the climate.

With the Gothenburg Green City Zone, Gothenburg is the first region in the world to develop zero-emission, scalable transport solutions at system level.

Business Region Göteborg is also tasked with coordinating the city’s combined efforts to transition to a fossil-free transport system by 2030, with electrification as the guiding light. This work is being performed in close cooperation with all relevant stakeholders within the City of Gothenburg, the business community and the Gothenburg region.

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