Top 50 Corporate Citizens: Thought leaders, role models, change makers

Canada’s top corporate citizens make caring part of their strategy

When the pandemic lockdown began, some of Canada’s most civic-minded companies looked past the chaos and confusion to do what they could to help.

Vancouver’s community-minded credit union Vancity leapt into action, reducing credit card interest rates to zero, buying back foreign currencies from customers who’d had travel plans cancelled, at the same rates as they had been sold, offering small businesses emergency zero-interest working capital, and waiving ATM and Interac e-transfer fees. In addition to a $1 million Community Response Fund to support Vancouver groups fighting the pandemic, it also set up a Unity Term Deposit, which raised an impressive $200 million in just one month – money that’s being used to fund programs that will directly support those affected by COVID-19.

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Top International Corporate Citizen: Cisco Canada

The rise of Webex gives Cisco a new way to mix business with social responsibility

As social distancing changed the ways that businesses, families and even doctors and patients communicate, the world seemed to go all Zoom, all the time. With much less fanfare, however, another big winner was Cisco Systems’ Webex video-conferencing platform, which registered 500 million users in April – up from 324 million in March and more than triple its traffic pre-COVID.

The rise of Webex gives Cisco a new way to mix business with social responsibility. Growth of video conferencing and telehealth can not only reduce the carbon footprint of business and healthcare, but also enable more equitable distribution of services to disadvantaged communities.

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COVID response: Who rode first wave in new culture of conscience?

A look at some companies that have been – for the most part – stepping up

Will the coronavirus pulverize the global economy and turn us all into grieving paranoids? Or will it usher in a new culture of community and conscience?

It’s too early to predict how COVID-19 will reshape the future. The travel, entertainment, hospitality and personal-services sectors have already been devastated. A Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey found that 32% of owners who had shut down their businesses in March were unsure if they would ever reopen.

The media has also identified the first winners of this global reckoning. Setting aside for a moment the immeasurable personal tragedies caused by the virus, here are some preliminary results:

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Roundtable weighs in on recovering stronger with a green renovation wave

Takeaways from our first roundtable

 The COVID-19 pandemic has helped many Canadians recognize how crucial it is to better prepare for future crises. With governments preparing to spend billions to get the economy moving again, Corporate Knights has launched a series of reports and online discussions on how best to combine economic-recovery initiatives with measures designed to reduce the impact of the likely next crisis: climate change.

The first “green recovery” session on April 22 explored proposals for greening Canada’s building stock: Recovering Stronger with a Green Renovation Wave.

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McKinsey climate report: “The good news is that we know the bad news”

“We need to put physical climate risk at the heart of all decision-making and risk management”

You’ve heard the predictions a thousand times. The climate crisis will change all aspects of life. Seas will rise, more forests will burn, crops will fail, and polar bears will disappear.

Specifically, though, what will happen over the next 10 years? Or the next 30? Consulting giant McKinsey just released a major report examining the increasing impact of climate change. Drawing on the firm’s global consulting teams, and supplemented by scientists, engineers and risk experts around the world, the study paints a frightening picture of the future.

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The latest green investment tool? Short-selling the fossil fuel economy

From banks to smaller asset managers, investors hope to profit from declining high-carbon stocks

Capitalism gets a rough ride from many climate crusaders, who say it encourages reckless growth and undervalues the benefits of a clean, safe environment. But capital is just a tool, and increasingly it’s being used to support pro-planet policies.

The new tool of green investing is short selling – a tactic in which investors hope to profit from declining stock prices.

Selling short exposes investors to sky-high risk: your target security could theoretically double or triple in price before you buy it back. But selling short can produce big profits in a down market – and may even change the behaviour of the company you’ve targeted.

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Central bankers join climate strikers in fight against the carbon economy

Placard-bearing climate activists are gaining some pinstriped allies – and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney isn't happy about it

Placard-bearing climate activists and hoodie-wearing school strikers are gaining some pinstriped allies in the fight against the carbon economy: the world’s central bankers.

Shadowy figures who monitor inflation and money supply, operating at arm’s-length from the politicians, central bankers are best known for deciding whether interest rates should go up or down. But with their “buck stops here” responsibility for economic oversight, they are also beginning to take responsibility for the long-term risks of climate change. And their autonomy allows them to make tough policy pronouncements that most politicians would rather avoid.

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7 lessons in saving the world

Annual “Woodstock for social entrepreneurs” shows the way

The planet’s most optimistic activists met in Oxford, England, this spring to share notes on why so many things are going wrong. It turns out structural change requires that you change first.

The world, at least on paper, is getting better. Never have so many people on this planet had better access to food, education, health care and human rights. All the same, we seem no closer to a just society. Solve one problem and two more take its place. Nagging concerns about social justice, inequality, nationalism, racism, corruption and human dignity, not to mention the environment, remind us that the closer we get to better, the farther we are from good enough.

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Less than Zero: Inside Amazon’s $0 tax bill

How could America’s eighth-biggest company, with US$233 billion in revenue and $11 billion in profit, escape taxation?

At heart, capitalism is a simple system. Anyone can start a business. If you make a profit, you pay a portion of those profits in tax to support the society that made your success possible.

In the real world, things aren’t so simple. In February, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reported that Seattle-based Amazon, the retail/tech behemoth, paid no federal income taxes in 2018 even though its profits soared.

“Amazon will pay $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row,” growled More shouty was this headline from tech news site The Register: “Amazon triples profit to $11.2bn, pays ZERO DOLLARS in corp tax – instead we pay it $129m.”

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Only 16, but Greta Thundberg is the voice of reason

The iron-willed teen has inspired over a million youth to confront their elders’ failure to act

In the global debate over what to do about climate change, one party has typically been silent: the generation that will take charge of the earth when today’s decision-makers (and decision-delayers) cede control or pass away. As a group of student activists wrote to the Guardian on March 1, “We are the voiceless future of humanity.”

But now the next generation has a voice, and a name: pigtailed Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. By skipping school to protest climate change at the Swedish parliament, the iron-willed 16-year-old has inspired today’s young people to confront their elders’ failure to act.

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