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Crispus Attucks Public School, Chicago. Photo by Steven Kevil

Federal anti-corruption rules: too harsh?

A bloc of business groups is pushing back against new anti-corruption rules that have been introduced recently by Public Works and Government Services Canada. The policy requires companies seeking federal contracts to prove that neither they, nor any affiliates, have been charged with a serious offense over the past decade. Both domestic and international cases are considered relevant. “I don’t think the best policy is one that says…we’re out to punish companies who’ve has one bad actor,” said John Manley, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives in a Globe and Mail interview. Industry organizations are calling for a suspension of the rules and for greater consultation with industry regarding the structure of the regulations.

 

Peru vows stock exchange reform

The Lima Stock Exchange (BVL) has announced that it plans to join the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative. This decision comes on the heels of Corporate Knights’ 2014 World Stock Exchange report, which placed the Peruvian stock exchange last on sustainability disclosure. “We have nowhere to go but up,” joked BVL CEO Francis Stenning in response to its poor performance in the ranking. The declaration was made at the SSE Global Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland. By agreeing to sign the SSE Initiative, the BVL has voluntarily committed to promoting improved ESG disclosure and performance among listed companies.

 

Social impact bonds arrive in Chicago

Chicago City Council approved a $17 million social impact bond (SIB) last Wednesday that will go towards providing half-day early childhood education for over 2,500 pupils. SIB’s are a nascent form of pay-for-performance impact investing and have rapidly gained popularity since their inception in 2010. Corporate Knights’ own Jeremy Runnalls delved into the promise and peril of SIB’s last year. The idea is that the investor, in this case Goldman Sachs Social Impact Fund and Northern Trust, puts forth $17 million as an investment. If there is clear demonstration of positive academic results, which are determined by an impartial third party, the investor is paid back with a healthy rate of return. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel forcefully defended the program after the vote, saying it was a smart investment for the city’s future.

 

The B.C. carbon tax report card

Pembina Institute researchers Kevin Sauve and Matt Horne mounted a spirited defense of the B.C. carbon tax over the weekend, arguing that overwhelming evidence has found it to be both an environmental and economic success. Although it was controversial when it was first introduced, the carbon tax now enjoys broad public support. The report criticizes the governing Liberal Party for having introduced some industry exemptions for the tax itself, saying that they have undermined the incentive for companies to reduce carbon pollution.

 

Finding fracking operations in Pennsylvania

A small nonprofit called SkyTruth has teamed up with medical researchers from Johns Hopkins Hospital to track fracking operations across Pennsylvania. The medical research team was busy researching the health effects of natural gas extraction across the state, but was unable to receive a comprehensive list pinpointing each operation from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. So, it turned to SkyTruth, which launched a project called FrackFinder. It recruited volunteers from around the world to carefully examine satellite images of the state, downloaded from the NASA website, to identify wastewater being held in impoundment ponds. It has identified over 500 sites to date.

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