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Canada


March 12th, 2016
What Are Corporate Boards Ethically Obligated to Know?


Just what are corporate boards obligated to know? More precisely, what lengths are they obligated to go to in order to get to know the things they ought to know? The topic came to mind when I read today’s story about how the salary of the CEO of Canada’s biggest banks, RBC, had gone up […]

November 17th, 2015
Do we really want Amazon policing authors?


Should a bookseller help a convicted murderer and rapist earn a living? In brief: yes. It’s not an appealing conclusion, so sold your nose, and listen to the reasons. Amazon apparently disagrees with me, or is at least willing to bow to public pressure on the matter. The company has apparently <a href=”http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/paul-bernardo-book-disappears-1.3319838″>removing an ebook</a> […]

September 10th, 2015
Neuzusammensetzung der Dow Jones Sustainability Indices



Jedes Jahr im September wird die Neuzusammensetzung der Dow Jones Sustainability Indices („DJSI“) bekanntgegeben. Heute war es wieder soweit, S&P Dow Jones Indices und RobecoSAM haben die Ergebnisse ihres jährliches Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) veröffentlicht, Grundlage für die Zusammensetzung der Indices. Dabei zeigt sich, die weltweit größten Unternehmen schneiden am besten beim Kriterium Verhaltenskodex / Compliance ab und am schlechtesten bei operativer Ökoeffizienz.

May 4th, 2015
The Downside, and the Upside, of the Underground Economy


Statistics Canada has just released this report on The underground economy in Canada, 2012 — essentially an attempt to gauge the extent of “market-based economic activities, whether legal or illegal, that escape measurement because of their hidden, illegal or informal nature”. The report’s key finding: In 2012, total underground activity was $42.4 billion in Canada […]

April 10th, 2015
Has Tim Hortons given up on sustainability?


"Making a True Difference" has been Tim Hortons' slogan animating its social responsibility and sustainability initiatives over the past few years. But since they were acquired late last year by Brazilian private equity outfit 3G Capital, the owners of the fast food chain



February 26th, 2015
Does the punishment really fit SNC-Lavalin’s alleged crimes?


News that Canadian engineering giant SCN Lavalin is facing new criminal charges caused a stir last week, not least because of the penalties that are on the table. The fraud and corruption charges spring from the company’s dealings in Libya. And if convicted, in addition to any other penalties handed out the company could be […]

February 26th, 2015
Does the punishment really fit SNC-Lavalin’s alleged crimes?


News that Canadian engineering giant SCN Lavalin is facing new criminal charges caused a stir last week, not least because of the penalties that are on the table. The fraud and corruption charges spring from the company’s dealings in Libya. And if convicted, in addition to any other penalties handed out the company could be […]

February 13th, 2015
Canada should follow New York’s crackdown on bogus herbal remedies


This is good news for consumers, but bad news for makers and sellers of herbal supplements. The New York State attorney general’s office accusing major retailers of selling. The office issued a series of cease and desist orders on Monday, targeting herbal supplements that, according to genetic tests, don’t contain what they claim to and […]

January 21st, 2015
What is the true purpose of corporations?


What’s the purpose of a corporation? Or, somewhat more abstractly, what’s the purpose of corporations in general? That question is the topic of a big academic literature, but the question itself is far from academic. In fact, it has enormous practical importance. Take, for instance, the recent news that Target is leaving Canada, news that […]

December 6th, 2014
Cops Who Kill and the Limits of Self-Regulation


The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri failed to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Then a grand jury in New York failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner. This isn’t just a matter of two high-profile cases in a row. Generally, grand […]

November 13th, 2014
Canada doesn’t need to be an economic superpower to lead the world


Canada’s place in the world has been in the news lately, for a variety of reasons. For starters, Canadian jets have been hitting Islamic State military positions in Iraq. For American readers, who are more used to seeing their military show its muscle, I should clarify: this is newsworthy in Canada. Canadians have historically thought […]

November 3rd, 2014
Canadians trust CEOs more than politicians—but not much more


Canadians mistrust politicians at about twice the rate at which they mistrust CEOs. Is that good news or bad news for Canada’s business leaders? The numbers come from a new national survey*, conducted by the Gandalf Group on behalf of the Ted Rogers Leadership Centre (of which I’m Director) . The survey, which we believe […]

September 18th, 2014
Ray Rice case shows how difficult it is for employers to deal with off-hours misconduct


What are an employer’s ethical obligations when an employee gets caught doing something bad off the clock? The example of the day, of course, is Ray Rice. As the entire universe now knows, Rice the football player who was caught on video savagely hitting his then-fiancée (now wife), knocking her unconscious. The incident, once it […]

August 28th, 2014
Love it or hate it, the Ice Bucket Challenge is good for charity


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been mind-blogglingly successful, raising tens of millions of dollars and becoming a bona fide internet phenomenon. But it has also garnered considerable criticism. So, are the critics right? Is the Ice Bucket Challenge really an example of a terrible approach to philanthropy? I took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last […]

August 28th, 2014
Love it or hate it, the Ice Bucket Challenge is good for charity


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been mind-blogglingly successful, raising tens of millions of dollars and becoming a bona fide internet phenomenon. But it has also garnered considerable criticism. So, are the critics right? Is the Ice Bucket Challenge really an example of a terrible approach to philanthropy? I took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last […]

August 10th, 2014
Commercial airlines negotiating the ethics of flying in, and over, conflict zones


Tel Aviv is not a place for the faint of heart to fly into, these days. Should Canadian and American and European airlines go back to avoiding the place, or should they bravely continue flying there? The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians along the Gaza-Israel border is, tragically, showing no signs of letting up, and […]

June 17th, 2014
Anti-Homeless Spikes: Within Your Rights, but Wrong


Controversy has arisen recently regarding the installation of anti-homeless spikes on sidewalks. Spikes of various descriptions have reportedly been installed, for example, in the pavement outside an apartment building in London and a commercial building in Montreal. No doubt there are other examples of the use of such spikes. They are presumably intended to stop […]

June 6th, 2014
Bribery: Ethical Failure and Competitive Failure


Last week saw the sentencing of Nazir Karigar to 3 years in jail, under Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. This week, the RCMP have charged two Americans and one British businessman, demonstrating the force’s willingness to extend its reach to non-Canadians in its efforts to combat corruption. The three, all working with one […]

May 28th, 2014
Nazir Karigar’s prison sentence shows Canada is finally taking steps on foreign bribery


Canadian businessman Nazir Karigar is going to jail. This a small but important victory for citizens of developing nations across the globe. Karigar’s been sentenced to do three years in prison for his role in a conspiracy (dating back to 2005) that tried — but failed — to land a $100-million contract to provide security […]

April 29th, 2014
A ‘Sweet Spot’ in tackling climate change?


Jeremy Oppenheim
Today (Monday April 28, 2014) Jeremy Oppenheim was in Toronto. Oppenheim is the director of the  Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, co-chairs include Lord Nicholas Stern and the OECD Secretary-General). He was hosted by Corporate Knights’ Toby Heaps for a 'high level' lunch which included some of the top brass of Toronto’s investment, real estate, insurance and academic communities. And civil society, of course, David Miller (ex-Major of Toronto and now Head of WWF Canada) was there, too.

It was, first off, a real game changing experience to see a room of 30ish ‘climate activists’ in pinstripes (or female equivalent) convening over antipasto e bistecca to discuss the plight of the planet. Oppenheim's remarks were thought provoking as they reflected the current gist among those leaders that care seriously about climate change.

Oppenheim started by highlighting that the public debate has somewhat stalled as most of conversations on climate change evoke pretty unsexy, depressing and un-cool truths. Going on and on about threats linked to climate change just makes you a boring party pooper.


At least in person – he was all but. Eloquently, engaging and thoughtfully he relayed his core points. What struck me most is that amongst the experts, the entire debate about ‘avoiding’ or ‘fighting’ climate change is yesterday’s news. Oppenheim stated clearly that – in my words - we just have to suck it up that temperatures are about to rise by two degrees. The damage is done. Today’s debate is really about how to avoid global warming to reach three or even four degrees. A sobering – and somewhat chilling assessment.


Oppenheim – no less a McKinsey director on leave from their London offices – then pointed to the currently explored strategy - which hopefully can become a game changer: highlight the 'positive' side of climate change (in my words). Or to put it this way: adapting to climate change can already make economic sense now! He ran through a couple of examples from many places around the globe. Here is just one: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon region has been identified as a great worry. What we see now though is that land owners in the Amazon are increasingly sympathetic to restrictions on turning rain forest into farm land: after all, the unlimited possibility of creating new farmland through cutting the forest decreases the value of their property. According to Oppenheim, those economic drivers are a huge force in favor of climate friendly policies.


It is interesting to see that a group of top business people is having this discussion. In the Canadian context, many of these will be laughed out of their Golf Clubs or seven star resorts in the Caribbean if they ever repeated to their buddies what they heard today. Canada, Oppenheim intimated with the maximum level of British politeness, is a real mess with regard to climate change action. So Oppenheim’s point was really that we have to change the story, change the way we communicate about it. Present it as a story of opportunity, rather than a story of threat. While Lord Stern’s report years ago was telling us ‘Pay a little now and you avoid being taken to the cleaners by climate change tomorrow!’ Oppenheim’s new message is: ‘You can actually make money on adapting to climate change NOW!’

I left the event with a somewhat ambiguous feeling. I was uplifted to see key players in business – from where most of the sources of carbon emissions are ultimately governed – acutely aware of the problem. I also liked the pragmatic gist of Oppenheim’s argument: We can use the current incentive structure in one of the most powerful engines of capitalism to ‘move the needle’ (I have to watch my language…) on pressing global issues. And - fair enough - there is some leeway.


At the same time, the by now worn out quote from Albert Einstein kept creeping up on me on my way home: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” A focus on short term economic gains for individual actors or organizations got us into this mess of climate change in the first place. And – we have to add – has prevented any large-scale meaningful response to date. So finding that ‘sweet spot’ (a quote from Jeremy Oppenheim’s McKinsey Website) where business interest and environmental needs converge may take us some way. But there can be little doubt that this is not going to really change the bigger picture.
DM
Photo by Arbeiderpartiet. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence.















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