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Publisher's note
Toby is the CEO and co-founder of Corporate Knights Inc. and publisher of Corporate Knights Magazine. He spearheaded the first global ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations in 2005, and in 2007 coined the term “clean capitalism.”

A new social contract and climate capitalism: Our best shot at building back better

COVID has exposed the brittleness of our economic system. People and climate must be at front of the line come stimulus time

The COVID crisis and the climate crisis have a lot in common.

Both are mortal threats to humanity, but the coronavirus has the urgency of a bullet coming at our heads, whereas the climate crisis is a slower burn (albeit increasingly prone to blazing flare-ups).

With the coronavirus, time is compressed into minutes, hours, days and months. What we do today can determine if our families, neighbours and communities get deadly ill in the next 14 days. That temporally compressed line that connects our actions to their life-saving impacts has spurred governments around the globe to make the tough decision to lock down their economies and bring the engine of capitalism to a shuddering halt.

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The Canada we want: How a green recovery can help us bounce back stronger

Applying a climate lens to the recovery package will help ramp up some of the best opportunities to get people back to work

This time last year, governments around the world – including Canada’s – began declaring emergencies. Nothing to do with a virus, just a planet on fire. Meanwhile, we continued to pour kerosene on the fire, while somebody was off consulting stakeholders to find the telephone number of the fire department.

The coronavirus is a whole different beast. Within 30 days of the first recorded death in Canada, on March 9 (an 83-year-old man at North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley Care Centre), the federal government rolled out direct new spending of $105 billion to deal with the immediate fallout from shutting down vast parts of the economy in an attempt to contain the virus.

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Does betting on the bad guys pay?

Socially controversial stocks are small in number and mostly underperforming

Does it pay to be naughty? It depends on the definition of naughty and which time period. To provide some insight, Corporate Knights used S&P Capital IQ to calculate the 10-year annualized total return (up to Nov. 29, 2019) for 21 red-flag themes.

Over the past 10 years, vice was virtuous for returns if you invested in guns, sex, meat, gambling and booze, all of which outperformed the stock market on average.

That guns are smoking stocks is not surprising, given that military spending, led by the U.S., has been on the rise for the past decade, and given the tragic frequency of mass shootings, which tend to boost sales as gun owners rush to stock up in fear that their right to bear arms will be curtailed.

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Eco-Fund Ranking 2020: The ultimate guide to responsible investing

We ranked over 700 mutual funds and ETFs through a sustainability lens. Here are the top scorers

When it comes to investing for most people, the goal is to make money, not save the world.

Nevertheless, sustainable or responsible investing (whichever term you prefer) has hit the big-time, particularly around the theme of climate change.

Michael Baldinger, head of impact investing at UBS wealth management, which manages more than US$4 trillion in assets, claims that sustainable investing is now the fastest-growing asset class at scale in the world.

It’s hard to argue with the numbers. The Global Sustainable Investment Alliance says there is a US$30 trillion pot of sustainable investments across various themes as of 2018, growing at about 12% per year. A lot of that growth is coming from pension funds and other institutional investors signed up to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, whose members control US$86 trillion.

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10 of the best business schools for the world are in Canada

Employers are hungry for grads with sustainability expertise. So what are Canada's business schools doing to keep up?

This August, the Business Roundtable, a group of powerful American executives, including the leaders of Apple, Ford, Walmart and Pepsi, renounced their longstanding position that corporations exist principally to serve their shareholders. While some dismissed it as a public relations stunt, it’s a sign of the times that businesses now recognize it is no longer sustainable to make gobs of money at the expense of people and the planet, but rather that business must be fair to the planet and people, because they are the foundation on which all economies rely.

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The world needs more Ethiopia and less Exxon

This year's Nobel winners reveal how different the world could be when our leaders invest in a better future

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for ending a multi-decade war with Eritrea. Equally notable, he made one of the boldest moves of any world leader yet to end the war on nature. On a single day on July 29, he led a blitz to plant 353 million trees (part of a larger program to plant 4 billion), for an estimated cost of US$548 million, representing almost 1% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product.

To put that number in perspective, if a rich country like Canada were to invest 1% of its GDP planting new trees over a period of just eight years, it could remove up to half of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) that have been deposited by humankind in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

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Are Lockheed Martin’s nuclear weapons fueling your retirement?

Think you're not invested in this weapons maker? Canada Pension Plan, Ontario teachers among those banking on nukes

On July 14, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Many interpreted the tweet as a racist dog whistle directed at four barnstorming congresswomen, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, never mind the fact that three of them were born in the U.S.

The following day as a firestorm raged in response to the controversial tweet, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson was the only major corporate chief to appear on stage with Trump at a White House business summit, lending the president an imprimatur of blue-chip legitimacy.

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A Knight to remember

Remembering CK's co-founder Peter Diplaros, a modern-day Merlin whose magic brought so many creative ideas to life

The first time I met Peter Diplaros, he was not happy to see me. He was supposed to be on leave, but had returned to the office early only to find me sitting at his desk. Despite our rocky start, he quickly took me under his wing, teaching me the art of magazine writing and a philosophy of life that anything is possible.

I remember being in a panic working against a tight deadline for my first feature-length article for Investment.com’s flagship magazine, the Mutual Fund Review. The magazine had been founded at Peter’s urging by his long-time colleagues Levi Folk and Richard Webb, and then sold to Investment.com. (Aside: A few years prior, Levi and Richard had met Peter at Krishna Copy, where he was working. They’d gone there to spiff up the design of their investment newsletter – child’s play for Peter, but he did wonder out loud critically why they were so bullish on gold.

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Best 50 Corporate Citizens show formula for better profits

Invest in the solutions to climate change and pay workers more

The planet is heating up and Mother Nature is howling out in pain as forest fires ravage the land and species head for extinction by the million. Meanwhile, a growing rage rises from a forgotten majority whose incomes have stagnated while millionaires become billionaires.

Whose job is it to fix this mess? The late economist Milton Friedman argued that the only social responsibility of business is to make profit. Not everyone takes such a narrow view, but the remarkable thing is that even Friedman’s narrow definition of corporate social responsibility is now sufficient justification to deploy the full and awesome power of business to bear on the twin crises of climate chaos and dangerous inequality. Not because it is right, but because it is profitable.

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Bogle the mind

May we all be so lucky to have the clarity of thinking and can-do spirit of John Bogle to partake in the march of progress

This past January, John Bogle, the investing legend and “money manager for the people,” passed away after 89 fruitful years. Over the course of his life, he saved investors billions by offering low-cost no-nonsense index funds for the masses via Vanguard, the company he founded as an investor-owned co-operative that now manages over US$5 trillion.

I remember paying him a visit back in 2013 at Vanguard’s sprawling Malvern campus located outside Philadelphia. He greeted my colleague, Doug Morrow, and I with a left-handed handshake. His right arm was in a sling and looked a little the worse for wear. He had banged it up during a fall the day before, but that was not going to stop him from making an early morning interview with a Canadian magazine he’d never heard of. He said he didn’t like to break his appointments.

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