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Voter-suppression backlash proves business must take a stand

Civil rights groups such as Black Voters Matter and the New Georgia Project push for corporations to speak out

American business leaders know how to talk the talk. But the bitter aftermath of the 2020 election is exposing their inability to walk the walk.

Democrat Joe Biden may have ejected Donald Trump from the White House, but Republicans have been emboldened to pass laws aimed at disenfranchising liberal voters in future elections. Echoing Trump’s baseless charges that the election was rigged, lawmakers in Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Texas and seven other GOP-led states pushed through rules that restrict absentee voting, tighten ID requirements and empower partisan state officials to settle disputes. Most of these measures were contrived to inconvenience Black, Brown and young voters, whose support for Biden tipped the scales in November.

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Is Bitcoin the next stranded asset?

Crypto Climate Accord may not be enough to prevent Bitcoin from becoming a stranded asset like coal mines and oil fields

“Running bitcoin,” tweeted cryptocurrency pioneer Hal Finney in January 2009. A few days later, he received the first 10 Bitcoins ever traded. Finney loved the idea of a secure, anonymous digital token free of national controls. But two weeks later he returned to Twitter to warn of a bug in the system: “Thinking about how to reduce CO2 emissions from a widespread Bitcoin implementation.”

Twelve years later, the world is coming to grips with the eco-disaster that is Bitcoin. The currency backstops an alternative global payment system, with the value of a single Bitcoin hitting $79,000 in mid-April, up from $10,000 in January 2020. But Bitcoins are intangible units of value created by networks of supercomputers, and the environmental impact of running these machines equals the carbon footprint of a mid-range industrialized country.

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The clean energy revolution is here – and the oil patch is missing it

Oil investors and governments could have done better stuffing their money in a mattress, says Carbon Tracker report

“It’s time to invest in Canada’s energy sector,” urged the headline on a recent column by Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Coming out of the pandemic, he says, global oil demand will rebound fast and then stay steady – at around 100 million barrels a day – through the year 2040. As chief shill for the fossil-fuel industry, he concludes, “Our natural gas and oil producers need government action and clear support.”

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Unilever to support “living wage” and diverse suppliers

If there’s one company that’s been the 21st century’s poster child for corporate citizenship, it’s Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever, producer of familiar consumer brands such as Hellmann’s, Dove, Breyers and Red Rose Tea. Under former CEO Paul Polman, Unilever expanded into greener brand categories and embraced a “sustainable living plan” that included climate action, eliminating food waste, and promoting human rights.

Polman took heat for making social purpose as important as profit. But in his nine years as CEO, the company’s stock price nearly tripled, so when he stepped down in 2019, he left as a visionary. He also got a say in his successor, Alan Jope, a Unilever lifer who has run the company’s operations in China, Russia and India and who shares Polman’s social concerns.

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Meet the Canadians who pulled strings to make Taylor Guitars employee-owned

How an Ontario pension and entrepreneurial not-for-profit teamed up to make the California guitar firm employee owned

It seemed like the culmination of the American dream when California-based Taylor Guitars announced it was embracing 100% employee ownership. But the big winners may eventually be Canadians.

Hippie musicians Kurt Listug and Bob Taylor were young coworkers at a small guitar shop called the American Dream when the owner quit to go backpacking (it was 1974, after all). The pair bought the store for $3,700, including machinery and parts, and renamed it. Nearly 50 years later, Taylor Guitars has 1,200 employees and factories in El Cajon, California, and Tecate, Mexico.

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GM, Volvo accelerate into EV curve

The race is on as more automakers make bold commitments and innovators rush to develop fast-charging batteries

In 2017, the Trudeau Liberals pledged to end the sale of all new petroleum-powered vehicles within 23 years. It was a bold step at the time, when electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for just 1% of auto industry sales. But thanks to new technologies, Canadians seem likely to put their old gas-guzzlers in the rearview mirror long before 2040.

In February, a KPMG study reported that 68% of Canadians who plan to buy a new vehicle in the next five years say they are likely to buy an EV. Younger drivers are more charged up than their parents: 79% of drivers aged 18 to 44 say they’re likely to buy an EV in the next five years, versus just 58% of adults over 45.

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Renewable investors lagging despite 700% higher returns than fossil fuels

International Energy Agency report says while renewable stocks surging, reforms needed to level playing field for investors

The experts say that reducing global carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 will require new investment of US$1 trillion to US$2 trillion a year to shift buildings, transportation and industry to renewable electricity sourced from wind, solar and hydro.

Fortunately, taxpayers won’t have to pick up the whole tab. The International Energy Agency, a policy think tank in Paris run by the world’s energy ministers, says the zero-carbon shift can be funded mainly by investors. A new IEA study finds that publicly traded renewable-energy companies are already outperforming fossil-fuel stocks – without exposing investors to additional risk.

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Manifest powers up to help industry master growing climate risks

Venture investors rally around a Canadian start-up that’s helping big companies manage complex risks of climate change

Venture investors are rallying around a Canadian start-up that’s addressing a huge business problem: helping big companies manage the complexity of climate-risk disclosure.

Toronto-based Manifest Climate, formerly Mantle314,  was launched in 2015 as a consultancy by Toronto lawyer Laura Zizzo, who had previously founded Canada’s first law firm focused solely on climate change. In 2020, Manifest pivoted to become a tech start-up, developing AI-based software that automates and expands its consulting services by digitally scraping key data from clients’ financial filings and sustainability reports to ensure they meet growing demands for climate risk disclosure from regulators and investors alike.

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Unilever’s bold veggie stake

The company plans to boost its sales of healthier and climate-friendly plant-based foods fivefolds in the next few years

An outbreak of swine flu in 1998 persuaded Dutch cattle farmer Jaap Korteweg to become a vegetarian. But he still craved the taste of meat, so he worked with chefs, scientists and producers of vegetable protein to develop plant-based foods with the flavour and texture of beef, pork and chicken – but without the cruelty of meat production or its environmental risks (the world’s cattle produce more greenhouse gases than all its automobiles).

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Rockefellers urge banks to stop fossil-fuel lending

Calling the warming climate a “major risk” to the American economy, Rockefeller descendants call for banking innovation

Robber baron that he was, at least John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil and America’s first billionaire, respected science. After his ambitions turned from crushing competitors to philanthropy, in 1901 he founded the first medical research centre in the U.S. At a time when physicians were mainly pill-pushers, the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University) encouraged scientists to probe the causes of disease, producing many of the first vaccines and inventing the modern science of cell biology.

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