Are Corporate Knights' metrics a misfire?


The below letter and response appeared in the January 24th & the January 31st issues of the Globe and Mail, respectively.


Corporate Knights a metrics misfire

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ottawa -- In broad strokes, a business is sustainable across any period of time if the rate of use of its total stock of resources is equal to or less than the rate of resource-use required to sustain it. As obvious as these comments appear, they are almost always neglected in contemporary measures of sustainability.

The most recent neglect is illustrated in the metrics of Corporate Knights' "Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations," which came with The Globe (Jan. 21).

It is important to find reliable and valid metrics of sustainable businesses. Even more importantly, we must find measures of a good quality of life. To set the search for such measures going down the right path, we must identify and abandon dead ends such as the Knights' metrics.

Alex C. Michalos, Ottawa


We do the best with what we have

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Toronto -- Re: Corporate Knights a metrics misfire (Jan. 24): While we wish there were perfect data sets for a company's resource footprint against its claim to a geographic region's ability to sustain it, down here in the corporate trenches, we have to work with the data that is actually available.

The good news is that the majority of the biggest companies do now report basic metrics, which makes it possible for us to rank who is most efficient with carbon, energy, water and waste.

And as there are now historical data series, we also evaluate how quickly companies are improving their resource efficiency - or not - over time. It is this latter metric that gives us valuable insight as to whether Global 100 companies are part of the solution for our civilization to live within our planetary carbon budget.

Rather than letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, we will continue to make the best use of available data to stimulate competition among companies for who can be the "most sustainable," which we recognize is not always tantamount to actually sustainable.

Toby Heaps, CEO, Corporate Knights, Toronto

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