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Feature Writer
Bernard Simon is a freelance writer who previously spent 17 years as Canada correspondent for the Financial Times. He has also been a regular correspondent for the New York Times, The Economist and US News & World Report, among others.

Heroes & zeros: Danby and McKinsey

Hero:

It’s not easy for Jim Estill to assess whether his unusually generous support for Syrian refugees has helped or hurt his business.

Estill is chief executive of Danby Appliances, a maker of washing machines, dishwashers and microwaves based in Guelph, Ontario. He emerged two years ago as one of the biggest single participants in the Liberal government’s much-publicized drive to offer Syrian refugees a new home in Canada. As of late August, Estill alone had sponsored 61 families, with another six on the way and likely more in the future.

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Heroes & zeros: McDonald’s and Murray Energy

McDonalds moves to reduce its packaging waste, while Murray Energy lobbies for coal-friendly policies.

Hero:

When it comes to damaging our planet, the fast-food industry has much to answer for. The attractions of cheap burgers and drive-thru coffee are all too often sullied by allegations of poor working conditions, animal cruelty and the cost to the environment of mountains of paper, foam and polystyrene waste.

So McDonald’s deserves a round of applause for its recent pledge to use renewable, recyclable or certified materials for all packaging by 2025, and to put recycling bins in all 37,000 Golden Arch restaurants around the world.

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Heroes & zeros: Loblaw and Rio Tinto

Loblaws moves towards 100 per cent electric trucks, while former Rio Tinto executives are charged with fraud.

Hero:

When the talk turns to electric vehicles, it's typically about pioneering sedans like the Tesla S, Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. Away from the spotlight however, much of the action is in commercial trucks.

A growing number of fleet operators are going electric, citing more power, lower maintenance costs and fewer emissions-compliance headaches versus their existing diesel vehicles. Among the latest is Loblaw Companies, Canada's biggest grocery chain, which unveiled plans in early November to switch to an all-electric fleet.

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Heroes & zeros: Kenneth Frazier and Eskom

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier stands against hate, while South African utility Eskom is mired in scandal.

Heroes:

Kenneth Frazier may have ushered in a new era of boldness in U.S. business leaders’ approach to divisive social and political issues. On August 14, Frazier, a janitor’s son who now heads Merck, the New Jersey-based pharmaceuticals giant, became the first CEO to walk away from President Donald Trump’s business advisory council in protest against the president’s inflammatory reaction to a rally of swastika-waving white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the previous weekend.

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Top company profile: Vancity

Making finance a force for good in society

Tamara Vrooman has a drop-dead response to a question about gender diversity at Vancity, Canada’s biggest credit union. Noting that women make up more than half of Vancity’s top management and seven of its nine board members, Vrooman, its chief executive, chuckles: “We are the only board in Canada looking for a few good men.”

That rare attribute helps explain why Corporate Knights has named Vancity Canada 2016’s Best Corporate Citizen. The credit union was also awarded the top spot in 2013.

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