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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.”

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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Oil and water

An oil sands facility and hydro dam show a way forward with First Nations

On one side, you have billion-dollar oil and power corporations hungry for growth. On the other, First Nations whose concerns have long been run roughshod over by these same industries.

Yet, there on the oil patch near Fort McMurray, Alberta, and a hydro dam in Northern Ontario, First Nations and industry have gone into business together with models that offer promise for restoring Indigenous economic independence and breaking the resource gridlock shackling the country.

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Canadian economy can’t succeed if the Indigenous economy fails

Enjoying the spectacle of Jody Wilson-Raybould cleaning the floor with the PM? Guess what corporate Canada: you’re next

 

Enjoying the spectacle of Jody Wilson-Raybould cleaning the floor with the Prime Minister? Guess what corporate Canada: you’re next. Anybody doubting this needn’t look further than the 275 straight court cases Indigenous peoples have won, stopping many resource projects in their tracks.

The new rule of business in Canada’s resource economy is: No Indigenous buy-in, no dice. Buy-in doesn’t come cheap. It means a radical departure from business as usual practices. That means more than just a few token jobs. The table stakes are meaningful equity ownership, control through executive and governance bodies, employment, involvement in environmental planning and, critically, sourcing. Canadian businesses and governments need to be much better partners and customers of Indigenous businesses.

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Imagine a cleaner Canada

Four common sense measures to get us there

Imagine the Canada of 2025. Zero-emission vehicles putter across the country, silently saving the average person $1,500 a year on fuel costs. Homes and workspaces are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, with a fraction of the utility bills and virtually all of our power coming from zero-emission sources that make it easier for everyone to breathe. Our fossil fuel industries are pumping out clean commodities to satisfy the high and growing demand for global customers.

That world is within our grasp thanks to advances in technology, abundant clean power and natural resources, and the can-do mentality of Canadians. But it is not just going to fall into our laps.

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Don’t let SNC axe ‘Maple Leaf Advantage’

It’s time for Ottawa to stop sitting on its hands and bolster corporate accountability checks

Corporate accountability mechanisms for Canadian companies operating in developing countries have been a long time coming. A National Roundtable for Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries gathered in 2006 and offered a great deal of promise – until nothing happened. Then in 2009, Liberal MP John McKay put forward private member’s Bill C-300 – dubbed the “responsible mining bill” – to establish an accountability mechanism for Canadian mining, oil, or gas companies in developing countries.

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10 lessons from Davos on changing capitalism’s tune

While everyone's crooning about sustainability at WEF, more companies need to put their money where their mouths are

“The times they are a-changin',” belted Bob Dylan in his iconic 1964 song that tapped the revolutionary ethos of the decade.

The first time I went to the annual Woodstock for capitalists in the Swiss village of Davos back in 2005 (to launch the inaugural Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World ranking), Dylan’s lyrics would have been the last theme song in the universe chiming in my head.

I remember then asking Steven Schwartzman, co-founder of the giant investment firm Blackstone, if he was doing any investments in renewables or green companies. He replied, “Nah, that stuff is too small for us.”

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Optimistic in spite of reality

Despite rising GHGs and Once-ler leaders in White House and now Brazil, economics and the human spirit ride to the rescue

My first summer job that didn’t involve cutting grass was in Bosnia with an outfit called Conflict Resolution Catalysts, which had the lofty mandate of restoring interethnic civility in the war-torn region. Fittingly, the group’s motto was “optimističan uprkos stvarnosti” (optimistic in spite of reality). That has been my life motto ever since.

Lately, this motto has been put to the test.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted a stark picture of the high cost we can expect to pay if global temperatures rise by 2˚C instead of 1.5˚C. The half-degree of extra warming doubles the decline in crop yields, fisheries, species extinction, and portion of the population exposed to extreme heat, which in turn adds up to 150 million premature human deaths, mass species extinction and hundreds of millions of climate refugees this century. The problem, based on the Climate Action Tracker models, is that we are currently on track to heat up the planet 3.3˚C by 2100 – a “Hothouse Earth” scenario in which all bets are off.

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Imagine a cleaner, more affordable Canada

Four common sense measures to get us there

Imagine the Canada of 2025. Zero-emission vehicles putter across the country, silently saving the average person $1,500 a year on fuel costs. Homes and workspaces are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, with a fraction of the utility bills and virtually all of our power coming from zero-emission sources that make it easier for everyone to breathe. Our fossil fuel industries are pumping out clean commodities to satisfy the high and growing demand for global customers.

That world is within our grasp thanks to advances in technology, abundant clean power and natural resources, and the can-do mentality of Canadians. But it is not just going to fall into our laps.

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Size of the prize

How Bay Street could make $110 billion from climate change solutions

Canada’s plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, sets a clear trajectory for transition in the Canadian economy.

This is in line with the global economic shift to a sustainable economy increasingly driven by cost-effective technologies that offer investors a strong return on their investments, separate from any public policy considerations.

Making the clean transition in Canada will require average annual investments of $158 billion per year from 2019 to 2025 across the building, transportation, power and heavy industry sectors, according to Corporate Knights estimates.

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