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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”