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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.

A matter of time

Are fossil fuel companies factoring the future price on GHG emissions into everything they dig, pump and produce?

Mutual fund managers at Vancity Investment Management had an unusual question recently for four Canadian banks and insurance companies in which their funds own shares. They asked the boards of those companies to explain how they were going to address stranded assets in the fossil fuel industry. A hypothetical example: a bank-financed railway line built to service an oil sands mine. What if the project closes down because it is no longer economic, they asked? What good is the infrastructure then?

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A path for Patagonia

Patagonia stands out for its consistent commitment to keeping high environmental and social standards.

Few companies would consider contributing thousands of dollars to a group of environmental activists for a campaign against other businesses. Yet that is precisely what Patagonia, the outdoor gear retailer, has done to support the Adirondack Mountain Club’s battle against the oil and gas industry.

The Conservation Alliance, a foundation set up by Patagonia and other like-minded retailers, has donated a total of $125,000 to the mountain club since 2007, including a $50,000 grant this year. Most of the money will fund a campaign against plans to extract natural gas under two lakes near Rochester, New York, using the controversial technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

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Puma takes a giant leap

The sports clothing company stands out for putting a price on the natural capital it impacts and depends on.

The German sports apparel maker Puma has won wide acclaim over the past two years for a pioneering accounting system that puts a dollars-and-cents value on the environmental impact of its operations.

Yet for all the kudos showered on Puma, few – if any – other global companies have so far followed its lead.

Jochen Zeitz, a director of PPR, Puma’s parent, asserted in an interview with Corporate Knights that “I only get positive remarks…. It’s been overwhelmingly positive.” Zeitz was a driving force behind the environmental profit and loss account – known as EP&L – during 18 years as Puma’s CEO.

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Top company profile: Vancity

Financial cooperative Vancity tops CK’s 2013 Best 50 on the strength of its member-based business model.

"Best Corporate Citizen in Canada” is about the last description that comes to mind for a financial institution in this era of “banksters,” the Occupy movement and temporary foreign workers on Bay Street.

Yet the top dog in Corporate Knights’ annual Best 50 ranking for 2013 is Vancity, Canada’s biggest credit union.

Vancity – its full name is Vancouver City Savings Credit Union – has gained an enviable reputation for looking beyond the bottom line as it strives to “redefine wealth,” as its vision statement puts it.

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