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Iceland pledges to become first supermarket to go plastic-free on own brand products by 2023

2018-01-16 07:28:31 admin

Iceland has vowed to eliminate plastic packaging for all own brand products within five years to help end the “scourge” of plastic pollution.

The supermarket said it was the first major retailer globally to go “plastic-free” on its own label products and aimed to complete the move by the end of 2023.

Iceland plans to replace plastic with pulp trays and paper bags which would be recyclable through domestic waste collections or in-store recycling facilities.

It has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own label range and new food ranges set to hit the shelves in early 2018 will use paper-based rather than plastic food trays.

The move, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, comes amid growing concern over plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, where it can harm and kill wildlife such as turtles and seabirds.

Last week, Theresa May pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years as part of the Government’s environmental strategy, with calls for supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles.

A survey for Iceland revealed overwhelming public support for a shift away from plastic by retailers, with 80 per cent of 5,000 people polled saying they would endorse a supermarket’s move to go plastic-free.

Iceland managing director, Richard Walker, said: “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics.

“A truckload is entering our oceans every minute causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.

“The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.”

He also said Iceland would ensure all packaging was fully recyclable and would be recycled, through support for initiatives such as a bottle deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.

As it was technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives, “there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment”, he added.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven, said: “Last month a long list of former heads of Britain’s biggest retail groups wrote a joint statement to explain that the only solution to plastic pollution was for retailers to reject plastic entirely in favour of more sustainable alternatives like recycled paper, steel, glass and aluminium.

“Now Iceland has taken up that challenge with its bold pledge to go plastic free within five years.

“It’s now up to other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge.”

Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Iceland are steadfastly laying the path that all supermarkets should be following.

“Alongside its support for a deposit return system, Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it.”

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Pork and Rice: Ideal mix for snackers who want to make serious pigs of themselves

2018-01-16 07:28:22 admin

George Rice is a man who made his name through bunnies, and has turned his attention to pigs. The entrepreneur’s first career was defined by nifty sales of the late Hugh Hefner’s long-eared Playboy logo, and his second is focused on porky products.

He’s thrown himself into it: Serious Pig’s headquarters are shaped like a large pigsty, under the arches beneath Peckham Rye station. Trains thunder overhead as Rice — whose style is more sleeves-rolled-up-practical than hipster despite the beard — hobbles around the small manufacturing and packing factory (he’s done his back in).

Serious Pig has rapidly evolved from a vague pub idea to create a “posh Peperami” to a smart, edgy brand stocked nationwide with a heavyweight cavalry of backers. Its products, which include snacking salami and his crispy crackling answer to pork scratchings, are stocked in upmarket haunts such as Fortnum & Mason, Whole Foods and Heston Blumenthal’s two pubs in Bray. And Tesco has just put it  on its “incubator programme” of brands it nurtures, marking a break into the mainstream.

The Junction Tavern in Kentish Town provided the backdrop for Rice, and co-founder Johnny Bradshaw, to formulate the brand, unimpressed by the meaty sandwich-box snack of choice, the Peperami. “The eureka moment was that there’s no good version of that product. Every other product, there’s a spectrum of quality you can buy. If it’s a watch, you can spend £20 on this,” he says, pointing to his Casio. “Or you can spend £20,000. It’s quite unusual to find a product that doesn’t fit to that.”

Rice was intent on creating a version of a French saucisson, with signature flourishes such as black pepper, chilli and paprika, to accompany booze. He went through a string of manufacturers and packaging suppliers as he grew the brand, eventually moving, in 2015, to the small, tightly packed factory where the meat — largely procured from East Anglia — is finely cut, dried and packaged.

This modest south London enclave, pristine amid the greasy hum of neighbouring car mechanics, feels a world away from Rice’s early career. Growing up in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, he left college “thinking I was equipped to set up a business but I wasn’t — I didn’t know which way the world went round”.

His furniture design business quickly failed. Plunging into the city’s famed textile trade, he joined the empire of its leading light, Paul Smith, as self-styled “head of buttons”. “I always looked up to him. He gave me a lot of inspiration to go it alone,” Rice says of Smith. He then joined an ex-colleague in a venture which would give him his entrepreneurial nous, building a fashion brand from products featuring that famous bunny.

“We took £2 million turnover to £8 million within three years but the risk, which happened, was that Playboy got greedy and licensed the hell out of [the logo]. Any credibility that we had built up on the fashion side was completely unravelled by the plastic hairdryers.” 

Rice sold his house, travelled through Asia and headed to London on his return. “I thought ‘I’ll be all right, I’ll be able to get a job back in fashion’,” he recalls. “But it was the credit crunch, my contacts were useless, they were all homeless!”

The Serious Pig (very nearly named Duke of Pork) venture followed. Rice, the “boss hog” quickly established the brand in the premium pub trade, and has broadened it from there. “The phone started ringing and it was a deli here or a farm shop there. It’s an impulse purchase. A couple of years ago, we sold 250,000 to easyJet who had us in their meal boxes for a season.” Those who thought pigs can’t fly were proved wrong. 

Rice set about assembling a crack team of backers and says the brand is now “match fit” and growing. Using a crowdfunding platform for wealthy types, he raised £125,000 to grow the business. James Watt, the BrewDog founder, invested his own funds and has helped to tutor Rice as well as linking up his booming beer brand for promotions (next week, there’s a string of Pass the Pigs tournaments in BrewDog pubs). And, the great-great-grandson of the founder of Marks & Spencer, Michael Marks, joins ex-Cable & Wireless boss Tony Rice (no relation) and ex-Asda legal counsel Nick Cooper on its board. Rice is refreshingly frank on their motives: “One day we might be acquired by someone, let’s not pretend that an investor doesn’t want to have an exit and they’re there for the love.  Private equity would be on the radar to begin with, depending on  how big we were, maybe a food brand. It certainly won’t be a manufacturer.” He pauses, and  adds: “But we have a hell of a lot of work left to do.”

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Carillion collapse: How the pensions picture will pan out

2018-01-16 07:28:11 admin

Contractor Carillion has collapsed so what happens to current and former workers relying on the company for their retirement?

How many people are in the Carillion pension schemes ?

Carillion has 13 pension schemes with 28,000 members. Some 12,000 are already retired. The schemes have a combined black hole of £580 million although pensions analyst John Ralfe says it stands at £1.4 billion under a more realistic calculation. That would make the UK’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) Carillion’s biggest creditor ahead of the banks. 

What happens to the pensioners?

The PPF was set up to protect pensioners of collapsed companies and is poised to step in and bail out the scheme. That means existing Carillion pensioners will receive 100% of their benefits, come what may. However, pensioners will receive slightly less over time as the PPF only inflation-proofs pension increases up to a certain level.

What about current workers?

People yet to retire are expected to receive about 90% of their pension entitlement once they down tools but will lose inflation-proofing increases. Some high earners, including executives, could lose a lot more due to a £34,655-a-year cap on pension payments. A current executive entitled to a £50,000 a year pension would suffer a 30% hit. 

What happens next?

Carillion’s liquidators will contact the PPF to start transferring the schemes. Pension payments will continue. The schemes will then enter the PPF assessment period — up to two years. Although one of the biggest schemes to move into the PPF, the fund has assets of  £6 billion to cushion the blow. 


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Cabinet Office's lawyers run the rule over exposure to Carillion

2018-01-13 07:18:40 admin

The Cabinet Office has drafted in lawyers to assess the Government’s exposure to the sprawling mass of public contracts held by crisis-hit builder Carillion, the Standard can reveal.

The potential failure of Carillion, laden with £900 million in debts and a £600 million pension deficit, has shot up the ministerial agenda this week after meetings with lenders on Wednesday proved inconclusive. 

Whitehall has also held meetings this week to discuss the fallout, while the company is understood to be in talks with the Pensions Regulator today.

Official notices show the Cabinet Office has awarded a £100,000 contract to law firm Dentons to “assist with gathering legal intelligence and consolidating information on all existing supplier contracts involving Carillion” following the “significant distressed financial issues” involving the company.

The contract notice stresses the need for a “rapid assessment” of the Government’s direct and indirect exposure to the firm, which lurched into crisis after a catastrophic profit warning six months ago. 

Dentons’ “deep-dive” assessment of the risks “will form the basis of a more detailed contingency plan which will consider the current options available depending on the level of distress”.

Carillion is involved in several long-term contracts such as major construction deals for the Ministry of Defence — as well as winning work on the HS2 rail project last year — making any assessment a complex job. 

Further work may be needed depending on the “level of distress and the financial support provided by the supplier shareholders and lenders”. The contract award, which was published late last year, runs until April.

Carillion’s share price, which has dropped more than 90% in the past year, was down another 0.25p, or 1%, at 19.75p today. Analysts believe a major debt for equity swap looks inevitable, putting lenders in control.

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London hedge fund minnow India investments proves a winner

2018-01-13 07:18:30 admin

A tiny London hedge fund with just five employees has emerged top of the hedgie league after investments in India paid off last year.

Mayfair-based Habrok Capital’s Habrok India Fund returned 77.6% in dollar terms for the year ending December 2017, says an investor letter seen by the Standard.

That puts it in contention as one of the best-performing hedge funds in the world last year, ahead of many larger rivals. Good stock picks from fund manager Rahul Khanna and rising Indian markets drove the performance.

The “Nifty 50” of Indian blue chips stocks rose 37% last year.

Khanna, 43, is chief investment officer of Habrok, which was founded in 2003 and offers funds to professional investors and well-off clients.

A HSBC table of global hedge funds had the Habrok India Fund ranked as number one in the world in early December, ahead of UK hedge funds from the likes Pelham Capital and Cantab Capital.

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