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PODCAST: VanCity’s Tamara Vrooman on how banks can lead us out of the current crisis

Listen to our thought-provoking conversation with Vrooman about the changing role of business in the pandemic

 

 

The banking sector hasn't always been seen as particularly helpful during times of crisis. During the last financial crisis of 2008, a lot of blame was pinned squarely on banks themselves. Corporate Knights had a chance to speak with VanCity Credit Union's CEO Tamara Vrooman about how the banking and financial sector could and should help lead us out of the pandemic-triggered economic crisis. 

We had a lot of questions for Vrooman. How are progressive businesses faring during the pandemic? How does she see the role of business changing in the face of COVID-19? Are green funds weathering the economic storm better than their competitors?  We also asked her how we make sure that we're taking lessons from the pandemic to rebuild the economy in ways that make it more resilient and reduce our impacts on the earth.

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Bank report card: Three of Big Five banks fail to deliver ethical investment options

We visited branches of the top banks to find out whether they offer funds that help Canadians invest with their values

Once relegated to the fringes of crunchy granola credit unions, ethical investing is now stepping into its power. From millennials wanting to purchase with purpose all the way up the corporate ladder to the world’s largest investment houses vowing to put climate action at the heart of investment decisions, responsible investing is quickly rising to become the defining investment issue of the new decade.*

Of course, that was before the coronavirus began pummelling the economy. COVID-19 is only deepening our desire to support companies that behave nobly and put people and planet ahead of profits.

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The EV revolution will take batteries, but are they ethical?

How automakers can clean up the dirty minerals that power them in the global race to electrify cars

Two thousand nineteen may go down as the year the auto industry started putting some muscle into electric vehicle sales. Amidst a steady stream of pledges to deliver more EVs than ever over the next five years, Ford filmed an electric prototype of its F-150 pickup truck (a favourite gas guzzler among Canadians) towing an entire freight train in a CN railyard in Montreal. Not to be outdone, the forthcoming Tesla Cybertruck then hauled the F-150 uphill in a tongue-in-cheek tug-of-war.

The brawny marketing stunts carried a simple message: electric cars aren’t just for tree-hugging Leaf, Prius and Bolt lovers anymore. The message is timely, with global leaders (including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) committing to carbon pollution targets of “net zero” by 2050, tough new emissions standards coming out of Europe, and a smattering of governments following Norway’s early lead on banning gas-powered-car sales as soon as 2025. For the vast majority of automakers that have cautiously dipped their toes in the EV market, the race to net zero is officially on. But environmental and human rights advocates, along with international heavyweights at the World Bank and World Economic Forum, say there’s an elephant in the showroom. The EV revolution has been racking up a whole supply chain of trouble around the globe (including a recent lawsuit) related to an onslaught of often-contentious new mines opening to meet surging battery-metal demand, not to mention the coming tide of e-waste from old batteries.

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Planting billions of trees could be natural climate solution

Our Knight Bites illustrator sketches out how tree power can help solve the climate crisis

The latest reports on the state of the world’s trees will knock the wind out of your lungs. The planet is losing an area the size of the United Kingdom in forests every year. And tropical deforestation is showing no signs of slowing, despite corporate and government pledges to the contrary.

But since images of wildfires ravaging the Amazon rainforest captured global hearts and minds, efforts to reforest the planet have taken centre stage. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began urging political leaders in Canada and around the globe to look to tree planting as part of a Natural Climate Solutions campaign to tackle global heating. Adding fuel to the tree-planting fire, a Swiss study published in the journal Science made waves when it concluded that planting 1.2 trillion trees worldwide could absorb and store an astonishing 205 gigatonnes – effectively removing two-thirds of all human-made carbon from the atmosphere, once those trees fully mature.

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If cattle are the new coal, are Canadian peas the new solar?

While report says most meat companies are failing to prepare for climate risks, Canada's yellow peas are part of plant boom

When McDonald’s announced it was tweaking its beef burgers in early August to make them “hotter, juicier and tastier,” the media proclaimed that the fast food giant was “doubling down on beef” and snubbing the “vegan craze” altogether. Six weeks later, word emerged that McDonald’s Canada would embrace the plant protein trend after all. It’s launching a global pilot for Beyond Meat burgers in select Ontario stores – and at 50 cents less than its rival A&W sells the famed vegan patty.

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Can plant-based plastics dig us out of waste crisis?

Why compostable plastics are condemned to landfill and what can be done to solve the packaging conundrum

How do you fix a consumer economy that’s waist-deep in disposable plastics? With cargo boatloads of our plastic trash getting turned back from Asia, only 9% of plastics being recycled and single-use plastic bans now in 60 countries and counting, businesses big and small are scrambling for alternatives that don’t leave their customers saddled with guilt.

One option under the microscope: plastics that come from the earth and – the hope is – return to the earth. Seafood shells, sawdust, cornstarch, algae, tree bark, chicken feathers – pretty much any natural substance you can think of is being converted to plastic. Compostable plant-based plastics in particular have been officially pinned to the vision board of a new circular economy. In August, Molson Coors became the latest of 125 corporations (including L’Oréal, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever) to join the Ellen MacArthur Foundation pledge to phase out unnecessary plastic packaging and work toward “100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging by 2025.”

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Corporate Knights joins global campaign, Covering Climate Now

Why we're joining 250 newsrooms in 32 countries to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis – and its solutions

Today, over 250 news outlets from around the planet, with a combined reach of over 1 billion people, are banding together to ramp up media coverage of the climate crisis.

The Covering Climate Now campaign, launching September 16, was co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation with the aim of strengthening the media’s focus on the climate emergency facing us all. Corporate Knights is one of several Canadian media outlets to join the campaign. That means we’ve committed to running a week’s worth of climate coverage in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23. It’s one of a number of editorial commitments Corporate Knights has made to bring the climate crisis to the fore.

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The greening of pot: Can power-hungry cannabis sector turn over a new leaf?

Grow-ops have long been environmental outlaws, but sungrown and organic firms trying to prove going green is good investment

If you pass the goats grazing on the hillside, you’ve missed it. Up a long country driveway at a ranch-style farm house in Ancaster, Ontario, there’s no sign telling visitors they’ve arrived at Canada’s largest licensed producer of organic cannabis. Just a badminton net. “We’re trying to give it a Google-type feel,” says VP of government affairs and social responsibility Ian Wilms on a tour of the grounds. “Employees keep asking if we’re going to start goat yoga soon.”

Wilms, a former IBM exec and chair of the Calgary Police Commission, and one of his partners had launched an LED lighting business when they decided to scope out the lighting booths at a cannabis convention. That’s when they got the bright idea to get into the cannabis business free of chemical pesticides and powered by LEDs instead of the searing high-pressure sodium lights singled out for ravenously consuming anywhere from 1 to 3% of the American grid (data is sketchy in Canada).

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A&W bets big on going Beyond Meat

How serving up a plant burger that people crave (instead of settle for) is reviving A&W's fortunes

For those of us who’ve suffered through veggie burgers reminiscent of chewy, salted hockey pucks, it’s a great time to be alive. Fast-food chains and food companies, both big and small, are tripping over each other to deliver the world’s newest and tastiest plant burgers to a growing market of vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and the plain plant-curious.

Canadians, however, were mostly relegated to reading about the latest plant burgers – until A&W got in on the action. Yes, the chain best known for its baby boomer-pleasing root beer decided to get a piece of the much-hyped pea-based Beyond Meat burger before any other national burger franchise in the country.

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Plant burgers bring home the bacon

Why Canada's king of pork and poultry became prince of plant protein in America

It’s just after noon inside the belly of Maple Leaf Foods’ glassy headquarters in the hinterlands of a Toronto suburb. Beyond rooms featuring simulated home and restaurant kitchens and a faux marketplace deli counter, the titan of Canadian pork and poultry sits in a large dining room gesturing for me to try his newest burger. This is no rebrand of meat on a bun. At an intimate lunch with his people and mine, CEO Michael McCain is unveiling a vegan patty cooked up to take a bite out of the skyrocketing plant-based protein market.

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