Best 50 Corporate Citizens - Topiary Horse
3D illustration by Guyco, background by Jack Dylan
/

Canada's Best 50 corporate citizens of 2022 continue to conquer the markets

Twenty years after our first Best 50, a lot has changed for the better and a lot hasn’t. We need our top corporate citizens to harness the engine of business in service of people and the planet.

Start

The age of incrementalism is over

Twenty years after our first Best 50, a lot has changed for the better and a lot hasn’t. We need our top corporate citizens to harness the engine of business in service of people and the planet.

 

Twenty years ago, Corporate Knights launched its quest for a more humane form of capitalism, placing people and planet ahead of profits, with the Best 50 Corporate Citizens sitting at the head of the roundtable to make business a force for good.

A lot has changed for the better in that time and a lot hasn’t.

Thankfully, the glass ceilings in Canada’s corporate boardrooms have been breached, with non-male members now making up almost a third of directors, double their one-sixth share in 2002. Based on current trends, we are on track for 40% of directors to be non-male by 2030. In order to meet the Government of Canada’s 50% challenge to reach board gender diversity by 2030, we will need to double the pace this decade at which we add non-male directors to boards.

Racial diversity on large corporate boards has also improved: 9% of members are now non-white, double the 4% level in 2011, when we first started tracking this metric. This number still needs to double for it to more fairly reflect Canada’s total population mosaic (27% of which is racially diverse including Indigenous peoples, as of the most recent census). That means adding non-white directors at an annual clip that is three times faster this decade than we did last decade.

While one workplace fatality is too many, it is encouraging that on a national level, a third less people died on the job in 2019 than was the case in 2002, when 465 people paid the ultimate price because of a workplace accident. Reducing the number of workplace deaths (now 335 per year) to zero by 2030 means getting a lot more vigilant about safety.

Over the last two decades, corporate profits have doubled, workers have been left behind and emissions have stalled, but the Best 50 firms are leading the way with 50% more gender diversity and triple the investments aligned with the clean economy.

While high profits at a firm level can indicate economic vitality, at a national level it’s usually a sign of economic rot and oligopolistic market structures (five big banks, four big grocery stores, three big telcos, one big fertilizer company serving 36 million people). In Canada’s case, sky-
high profits have been accompanied by meagre investment and poor productivity in relation to our G7 peers. Instead of making Canada wealthier, these profits have mostly been flowing to a tiny fraction of the population that owns the majority of company shares, half of whom are foreign investors.

While taxes are the price we pay for civilization, large Canadian companies are getting a better bargain than ever, paying a quarter less taxes as a percentage of their profits than they were 20 years ago.

The average CEO of a large company is making out better than ever, too, taking home $5.6 million in total compensation, or about 106 times as much as their average employee (a ratio that has grown by more than 50% since 2002). For reference, in 1977, the late management thinker Peter F. Drucker suggested the pay ratio between CEOs and employees be a maximum of 25-to-1 (later revising that to 20-to-1, saying at the time, “I have often advised managers that a 20-to-1 salary ratio is a limit beyond which they cannot go if they don’t want resentment and falling morale to hit their companies.” Getting to 20-to-1 in Canada by 2030 would mean slimming down average CEO pay to a quarter of today’s levels and boosting average worker pay by 50% over that time period (or 5% per year).

On the one measure we have put the most emphasis, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is our national emissions have barely budged since we began our mission 20 years ago (nudging up 2% from 724 million tonnes in 2002 to 738 in 2019 – the most recent base year before the COVID pandemic). But it could be a lot worse. Had emissions grown at the same clip in the past 20 years as they did in the 1990s, Canada’s GHG emissions would be over one billion tonnes today. That is some consolation, but to achieve Canada’s 2030 goal (roughly cutting emissions in half by 2030), we will need to reduce emissions 15 times faster than we are at the moment.

To sum things up, profits have surged, people have been left behind (albeit boardrooms are a little less pale and male), and we’re stuck in neutral on the planetary issue of GHG emissions.

It has never been more possible to make a radical shift.

Those are the facts we cannot ignore.

And at the same time, it has never been more possible to make a radical shift: to harness the engine of business to put our economy in service of people and the planet. It is a tall order, but there’s no reason why we could not right this ship by the end of this decade.

The solutions are on the shelf: thanks to engineers, the price of solar, wind and storage has plunged by 90% over the past 20 years, finally making it economical to end our addiction to burning fossil fuels.

As the standard bearers for sustainable capitalism, the Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada have a special role to set the pace. This year’s Best 50 is leading the way with 50% more gender diversity, and almost triple the rate of investment and sixfold the proportion of revenues aligned with the clean economy, as compared to the other large Canadian companies.

The pay gap between Best 50 CEOs and their average worker is less than half that of run-of-the-mill big businesses. And their carbon productivity (which measures how much revenue a company generates per tonne of emissions) is double their peers. This approach has stood the test of time, proving that better corporate citizens can beat the market year over year. The Best Corporate Citizens’ stock market performance has outperformed its peers earning  499% gross return since it was first launched in June 2002, versus 366% for S&P/TSX Composite.

 

The 2022 Best 50 Corporate Citizens vs. the rest*

Indicator2022 Best 50Average Large Canadian Company (minus Best 50)
CEO–Average Worker Pay Ratio74:1160:1
Board Gender Diversity36.7%23.3%
Executive Gender Diversity26.6%13.1%
Board Racial Diversity8.8%8.2%
Executive Racial Diversity12.0%6.6%
Cash Taxes Paid (% of EBITDA)11.6%8.9%
**Clean Revenue (% Total Revenue)36.8%6.2%
**Clean Investment (% Total Investment)33.8%12.7%
Carbon Productivity ($ sales/tonnes GHGs)$1,517,909$641,183

*Large Canadian companies (with more than $1b in annual revenue) excluding the Best 50

**Based on Corporate Knights’ Clean Taxonomy

With a national net worth of $15 trillion, Canada has never had more money in the coffers. We have pension funds bulging with $4 trillion, and our Big Five banks have total assets approaching $6 trillion. Now that sustainable low-carbon streams in every sector, from transport and buildings to food and energy, are growing faster than the economy at large. Financial regulators should make the tax subsidies that banks and pension funds receive conditional on alignment with the net-zero economy. This could help unlock $80 to $200 billion of fresh annual investment into global climate solutions from the pension fund sector alone.

In the recent federal budget, the government included a chart showing the annual investment required to hit our net-zero-emissions targets. It was a sobering picture: to shift to a net-zero economy, we’d need investment of $125 to $140 billion per year from all sectors, and yet actual investments total just a fraction of that: $15 to $25 billion per year. That means we need to ramp up the annual rate at which we are pouring money into climate solutions by a factor of six, which would amount to about 1% of net worth per year. On average, this means we need Canadian businesses to step up and increase their clean capital expenditures by about 40% per year each year to the end of this decade.

In Corporate Knights’ Climate and Economic Renewal Plan, we estimate that by investing $126 billion per year from 2023 through 2030 driven by both the private and public sector (with the latter playing a catalytic role in the first three years), we could boost Canada’s GDP by 10% (higher than business as usual forecasts) while decreasing Canada’s greenhouse gases by 45%, and saving consumers over $32 billion in annual fuel and heating costs.

Money and solutions are not the barrier; we have them. The barrier is an incrementalist mindset. It’s a way of thinking that worked fine in the 20th century, but it is no longer fit for purpose in an age where the global economy is undergoing a sustainable revolution on the scale of the Industrial Revolution and at the pace of the digital transformation.

No business can succeed in a society that fails. We encourage all Best 50 companies to double down on their sustainable edge and make this decade count for people and the planet.

Meet this year's Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada

Corporate Knights’ 2022 ranking of the world’s 50 Best Canadian corporate citizens is based on a rigorous assessment of nearly 7,000 public companies with revenue over US$1 billion. Who made the cut in 2022?

20222021CompaniesCK Peer Group$ Sales/ Tonne CO2e% Taxes PaidCeo-Average Worker Pay Ratio% Non-Male Board Directors% Clean RevenueFinal ScoreClimate Committments
11Hydro-QuebecPower Generation$30,438.0013.2%7.468.8%98.5%85.6%
220Innergex Renewable Energy IncPower generation$110,324.001.8%27.3%100.0%84.6%
314Brookfield Renewable Partners LPPower Generation$11,390.004.5%25.0%99.3%82.5%
4BCE IncTelecom providers$61,897.007.5%110.633.3%57.6%70.2%1.5°C
519Kruger Products LPForest Products$3,996.001.7%20.920.0%58.5%69.1%
624WSP Global IncEngineering construction$174,951.008.4%59.137.5%42.5%68.8%SBTi, 1.5°C
717Telus CorpTelecom providers$48,136.007.5%236.142.9%59.9%68.7%SBTi, 1.5°C
818Cascades IncPackaging$3,722.000.0%51.750.0%97.3%68.4%
99Toronto Hydro CorporationPower transmission and distribution$134,210.004.1%7.636.4%38.0%67.1%
1012Societe de Transport de MontrealTransit and ground transportation$13,698.000.0%4.950.0%70.6%66.8%
117EPCOR UtilitiesNatural gas transmission and distribution$8,631.000.0%22.236.4%37.5%66.3%
1211Northland Power IncPower Generation$1,246.003.7%27.444.4%78.4%65.5%
136Stantec IncPersonal and business services$115,869.0010.3%38.237.5%46.2%64.8%SBTi, 1.5°C
143The Co-OperatorsInsurance companies$709,608.0027.8%17.736.4%19.0%64.1%NZAM, NZAO
158Vancouver City Savings Credit UnionBanks$1,202,835.002.8%6.355.6%21.7%62.6%NZAM, NZBA
1630Transcontinental IncPlastic and rubber product manufacturing$11,262.0015.8%88.435.7%43.3%61.3%
1725Canadian Pacific Railway LtdFreight transport, all modes$2,136.0010.9%122.145.5%44.2%60.4%SBTi
182EnergirNatural gas transmission and distribution$38,884.000.4%40.725.0%29.2%59.7%
1939Hydro One LtdPower transmission and distribution$17,756.0029.3%6.950.0%36.8%58.2%
20EcoSynthetix IncBasic inorganic chemicals and synthetics0.0%40.0%100.0%57.4%
2128Sun Life Financial IncInsurance companies$570,021.0012.7%54.130.0%3.8%56.3%NZAM
2241Royal Canadian MintMetal products manufacturing$319,710.0013.4%4.363.6%42.1%54.8%
23Boralex IncPower generation$8,920.001.8%9.336.4%96.0%52.8%
2422Cogeco Communications IncTelecom providers$86,964.007.1%46.650.0%28.7%52.8%SBTi, 1.5°C
2526IGM Financial IncAsset management$9,827,286.0016.6%38.833.3%4.4%52.0%NZAM
265Celestica IncSemiconductor and electronic components manufacturing$38,401.008.3%281.722.2%63.7%51.8%SBTi
2733British Columbia Hydro and Power AuthorityPower Generation$160,379.007.9%50.0%98.0%51.3%
28Enmax CorpPower Generation$736.002.7%24.730.0%16.6%51.2%
2938TransAlta Renewables Inc.Power generation$183.001.5%16.7%62.6%51.1%
3031Yamana Gold IncMetal and coal mining$13,611.0036.5%90.833.3%1.9%50.4%
3113Bank of MontrealBanks$224,295.0018.6%50.650.0%3.2%48.9%NZAM, NZBA
32Wheaton Precious Metals CorpAsset management$32,413,483.000.2%5.420.0%3.4%48.9%
3334Teck Resources LtdMetal and coal mining$2,688.0015.1%85.825.0%7.4%48.1%
34Eldorado Gold CorporationMetal and coal mining14.5%50.0%2.0%47.5%
354Canadian National Railway CoFreight transport, all modes$2,150.0010.1%96.842.9%40.3%47.1%SBTi, 1.5°C
3650Mouvement des Caisses DesjardinsBanks$1,975,124.0020.3%45.234.8%3.0%45.6%1.5°C, NZAM
3744Iamgold CorpMetal and coal mining$2,596.0011.1%45.644.4%1.0%44.6%
3827Hsbc Bank CanadaBanks16.4%49.754.5%1.6%44.3%NZAM
3915Alectra IncPower transmission and distribution$105,907.001.9%7.628.6%4.9%44.0%
4023Algonquin Power & Utilities CorpPower generation$768.001.4%38.333.3%23.4%43.5%
41Gildan Activewear IncTextiles and clothing manufacturing$6,859.002.0%902.930.0%36.1%43.2%
4242Agnico Eagle Mines LtdMetal and coal mining$5,428.0010.5%98.233.3%1.0%42.2%
4329Canadian Imperial Bank of CommerceBanks$275,581.0018.8%37.450.0%0.7%42.1%NZBA
4432Ontario Power Generation IncPower generation$4,590.007.9%11.140.0%30.5%41.6%
4546Manulife Financial CorpInsurance companies$81,863.0017.6%126.846.7%2.1%41.3%1.5°C
46Aecon Group IncEngineering construction$15,630.004.8%50.130.0%35.2%39.8%
47Franco-Nevada CorpAsset management$20,820,408.006.7%8.230.0%1.5%38.9%
4840BGISReal estate and leasing$158,118.001.9%35.00.0%2.7%37.8%
49NFI Group IncCars and trucks manufacturing, including parts26.5%30.0%20.0%37.4%
5043Paper ExcellenceForest Products$1,117.0068.7%0.0%23.3%36.8%
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE 2022 BEST 50 EXCEL SCORECARD »

 

Climate commitments

1.5°C

Business Ambition for 1.5C

Learn More »

SBTi

Science Based Targets initiative

Learn More »

FCCA

Fashion Charter for Climate Action

Learn More »

NZAM

Net-Zero Asset Managers Initiative

Learn More »

NZAO

Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance

Learn More »

NZBA

Net-Zero Banking Alliance

Learn More »

Best 50 Key Performance Indicators

All companies are scored on 24 key performance indicators relative to their peers, with 50% of the weight assigned to Clean Revenue and Clean Investment. Nine of the indicators have fixed weights; the rest are assigned weights according to each industry’s relative impact in relation to the overall economy.

 

  • Clean Revenue
    Percentage of total revenue derived from products and services categorized as “clean” under CK Clean Economy Taxonomy
  • Clean Investment
    Percentage of total investments in assets categorized as “clean” under CK Clean Economy Taxonomy
  • Board/Executive Gender Diversity
    Percentage of non-male board members and executives
  • Board/Executive Racial Diversity
    Percentage of racially diverse board members and executives
  • Sustainability Pay Link
    At least one senior executive’s compensation tied to sustainability-themed performance targets
  • Percentage Tax Paid
    Taxes paid in cash, as a percentage of EBITDA (operating income for financial services)
  • Financial Sanctions
    Total fines, penalties and settlements as a percentage of revenue
  • Paid Sick Leave
    10 or more paid sick-leave days per year
  • Pension Fund Status
    A series of calculations assessing the generosity/viability of defined contribution/defined benefit plans
  • Energy/Carbon/Waste/Waste Productivity
    $ revenue per unit (gigajoule/tonne/cubic metre/tonne of waste) of non-renewable energy consumption, direct/indirect CO2e, water withdrawal, non-recycled waste produced
  • VOC/NOx/SOx/PM Productivity
    $ revenue per tonne of VOC, NOx, SOx and particulate matter emissions
  • CEO–Average Worker Pay Ratio
    How much more CEO gets paid (expressed as multiple compared to average worker)
  • Supplier Score
    Sustainability score of a company’s largest supplier by spend
  • Fatalities
    Fatalities per total employee count
  • Injuries
    Lost-time injuries per 200,000 work hours
  • Turnover
    Number of departures divided by the average total employees

*For complete methodology, please click here.

Latest from 2022 Best 50

current issue