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Feature Writer
Brenda Bouw is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an author and ghostwriter based in Vancouver. She has more than 20 years of experience as a business reporter, including at the Globe and Mail, Canadian Press and the Financial Post.

2017 top company profile: Vancity

The B.C.-based credit union continues to lead corporate Canada on sustainability.

It would be easy to begrudge Vancity for receiving yet another honour for its corporate citizenship if it wasn’t working so damn hard to earn it.

Canada’s largest community credit union has been tackling some top-of-mind social issues ranging from racism and refugees to gender equality and affordable housing. Meantime, its membership and assets under management keep growing. Today, Vancity manages about $25.6 billion in assets, up seven per cent from 2015, and has a goal to grow that further to $40 billion by 2020. It wants to see its membership reach 600,000, up from about 523,000 today.

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Getting up to speed

Preparing Canadian freight rail for a low-carbon future

When it comes to environmentally friendly modes of transportation to move goods across Canada, the train is considered best.

About 28 per cent of Canada’s emissions come from the transportation sector and of that about four per cent is from railways.

Canada’s freight rail industry says it has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity by about 40 per cent since 1990, while increasing its workload (measured in revenue tonne kilometres) by 83 per cent, according to the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), which represents the passenger and freight industry, including leading players such as Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).

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Training tomorrow’s workforce

Canadian colleges are beginning to prepare students for a low-carbon job market, but more work is needed.

Canada’s clean technology industry is growing at four times the rate of the overall economy, putting increasing responsibility on educators to prepare workers for the transition to a low-carbon future.

When it comes to post-secondary education, colleges in particular are poised to provide the job-training skills required for everything from water and soil testing to home energy retrofits and stakeholder engagement.

Colleges across Canada are making changes to their curriculum and adding instructors with sustainability and cleantech industry expertise to help educate the next generation of workers. Still, experts say more can and needs to be done to embed sustainability across the entire educational system to help meet both growing skills demand in the workforce and society’s expectation of more environmentally friendly organizations.

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The future of mining

The mining industry has some catching up to do.

When mining financier Robert Friedland took the stage at the World Copper Conference in Chile earlier this year, he outlined the future of mining in a way that brings hope to an industry suffering from a collapse in commodity prices and a society looking for solutions to shift to a low-carbon economy.

His presentation included a slide showing the new Tesla Model 3, said to require about 65 kilograms of copper per car, or about three times that of a conventional vehicle.

“Copper is the king of metals,” Friedland told the industry audience. When it comes to solving the world’s environmental problems, he added, “every single solution drives you to copper – solar power, wind power, electric cars, you name it.”

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Top company profile: BMW

The iconic German brand leads the Global 100 pack with strong sustainability bona fides across the board.

The auto industry hasn’t had much to boast about lately when it comes to corporate social responsibility given the steady stream of high-profile product recalls and the global outrage surrounding Volkswagen’s emissions-testing scandal.

However, one company, BMW Group, has earned some sustainability bragging rights for a wide range of measures from energy, water and waste reduction to innovation and diversity. That has propelled the German-based automaker to the top spot on Corporate Knights’ annual Global 100, an index of the most sustainable corporations in the world.

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