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.”

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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Clean Transition Bonds could unlock $1T+ in oil sands opportunities

Corporate Knights and the Council for Clean Capitalism today released draft Clean Transition Bonds Guidelines – a crucial first step in establishing an important new category of green bonds. CTBs will be instrumental in enabling Canada’s energy and other carbon-intensive industries to further reduce their emissions, while at the same time leveraging massive opportunities for process improvement and new product development.

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Divestment would have made NY pension fund $22B richer

By Toby A.A. Heaps
Research by Corporate Knights shows that avoiding fossil fuels would have made the state pension fund much wealthier.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF) would be an estimated $22.2 billion richer had it decided to divest its fossil fuel stocks ten years ago, according to analysis performed by Corporate Knights. That works out to more than $19,820 for of each of the fund’s 1,122,626 members and retirees, an amount that would have covered more than 25 percent of the costs from 2012’s climate change fuelled Superstorm Sandy.

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Beyond pipelines

How to get all of Canada paddling in the same direction

At a summit back in 2014, then-Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer extolled the environmental virtues of pipelines, leaving a lot of people scratching their heads. Sure, it’s safer and more efficient to move oil by pipe than rail, as the Lac-Mégantic tragedy showed. But his suggestion that more pipeline capacity would not influence oil sands expansion and its attendant environmental impacts was disingenuous. Or at least it was back then in a world with $100 oil.

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Knights of the (clean capitalism) realm

It's not enough to be focused on CSR

A number of years ago at a dinner hosted by Corporate Knights, Lord Nicholas Stern asked what a “corporate knight” was and if he could become one.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him no, but according to Arthurian legend, his role counselling governments on the costly risks of delaying action on climate change would be more akin to Merlin, King Arthur's adviser, prophet and magician. But his question of what and who is a corporate knight has lingered, and is in need of some clarification.

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2018 Better World Fund Ranking

Which funds are best at creating a more just and environmentally friendly world?

While the sea ice is melting in the Arctic at the fastest pace in 1,500 years and the California forests are burning at a rate greater than at any time in recorded history, the silver lining peeking through is that the world’s most important investors are no longer missing in action on the climate challenge of our generation.

The World Bank has promised to stop virtually all lending for oil and gas projects in the developing world after 2019, sending a powerful message to global producers that financial institutions are reassessing the risks of fossil fuel development.

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Bank statement

A Q&A with deputy governor of Bank of Canada Timothy Lane about Canada's path towards a low-carbon future.

This past March, the Bank of Canada had its coming out party on the topic of climate change in the form of a speech at the Finance and Sustainability Initiative in Montreal by deputy governor Timothy Lane. In his talk, titled “Thermometer Rising – Climate Change and Canada’s Economic Future,” Lane offered glimpses into how the bank is grappling with the economic implications of climate change, which he cited as “one of the biggest challenges facing Canada and the world in the 21st century” that will have “material and pervasive effects” on the financial system.

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