Friday, November 29, 2013

sustainable cement ??!?

At various sustainability events I have attended over the past while, I have been surprised to see sponsorship by the Cement Association of Canada.

A quick check of their website reveals this to be a new focus. “The cement and concrete industry is committed to being a proactive partner in addressing the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Michael McSweeney, president and CEO of the Cement Association of Canada. “We are in an age of massive re-investment in our basic infrastructure in Canada, and this presents an enormous opportunity to both mitigate climate change through reduced CO2 emissions as well as prepare ourselves for the changes in our climate that are already underway."


I was reminded of all of this today when I read an article in the Financial Times, On a mission to rescue concrete from its brutal reputation.

When the MuCEM museum opened in Marseille last year, what it was made out of stirred almost as much interest as its displays on European and Medit­er­ran­ean civilisations.
Its elaborate latticework exterior, the columns supporting the exhibition spaces and the spectacular, 115m-long unsupported bridge linking the museum to the city’s Fort Saint-Jean were all made with concrete.The building is about as far as you can get from the lumpen, environmentally unfriendly image usually evoked by crumbling Soviet-era apartment blocks and choked urban road networks.
“You can use concrete for your house because it is beautiful,” declares Bruno Lafont, chief executive of Lafarge, the French company that made the concrete for the MuCEM building.
You might expect a bit of gloss from the head of a group that sits in France’s CAC 40 index alongside companies such as LVMH, arch purveyor of luxury and elegance.
But Mr Lafont has put his company’s money where his mouth is. Lafarge, a world leader in the unglamorous business of cement, aggregates and concrete, spends €120m a year on developing new ways of using these gritty materials. It says its R&D centre just outside Lyon is the world’s biggest research facility for construction materials.
France has a long tradition in concrete. Modern cement, the essential ingredient, was invented by the French and British 200 years ago; a pioneer of reinforced concrete was Joseph Monier, a 19th-century French gardener who wanted to make stronger flowerpots; Le Corbusier was a trailblazer of “brutalist” architecture using concrete.
Many countries – those that suffer from earthquakes, for example – appreciate the robust qualities of concrete. But it has to battle against rival materials. “We need to compete with wood, steel and brick and show that we can have good results,” says Mr Lafont.
Developing “ultra high-performance” concrete – dense, fibre-reinforced and smooth-surfaced – of the type used by architect Rudy Ricciotti for MuCEM is a key task at Lyon.
But it is only one of a number of projects. In one workshop, engineers test cement-laced mud bricks being developed for housebuilding in Malawi, where traditional burnt-clay bricks have been banned because making them is detrimental to the local environment.
Tests are under way on concrete made with biomass, which is four times lighter than concrete made with traditional aggregates. Water-permeable road surfacing, self-levelling concrete and pollution-absorbing concrete for tunnels and car parks are all being worked on by Lafarge boffins.
“Concrete is a dumb material but there is lots of science behind it and that’s why I love it,” says Christophe Lévy, a director at the Lyon centre.
Much of the challenge is to reduce the environmental impact of concrete. Mr Lafont says construction overall (not just with concrete) accounts for 40 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions: “We are part of the problem, but we can be part of the solution.”
A core issue is reducing the energy used in making cement by firing limestone and clay at 2000C. Cement remains essential to making concrete. “Nobody has found anything simpler or cheaper to glue stones together,” says Mr Lafont.
New processes, lower quantities of raw materials and recycling are all part of an effort by Lafarge to reduce carbon emissions per tonne of concrete by a third by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
That way, concrete can compare favourably with other materials, Mr Lafont insists. And it can secure a broader reputation for making beautiful buildings, from small houses to soaring tower blocks – and cutting-edge museums.

To read the article in the Financial Times click here. You can register to read 8 articles free every month.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

EIRIS interviews stock exchanges on sustainability

Following extensive interviews with 11 stock exchanges around the world, EIRIS has recommended that exchanges explore the possibilities for developing additional products that integrate and complement their sustainability initiatives.

In a recently-released paper, EIRIS says the process should include consultation with mainstream investors, in order to identify the products that would appeal most to them.

EIRIS also recommends that exchanges engage with their regulators to encourage more support for the sustainability agenda.

“Perhaps one potential roadmap to regulatory frameworks is through the introduction of the type of ‘report or explain’ rules adopted in Brazil,” EIRIS says.

The paper also suggests that exchanges develop engagement with investors in order to more clearly understand the information investors want on company sustainability.

“Stock exchanges can then use this to inform the sustainability initiatives that they develop, as well as the products and services that they provide.”

The stock exchanges were interviewed about their motivations for implementing sustainability initiatives and the challenges that they have faced in the course of implementation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How Green is a Tesla, Really?

Reprinted from Slate, good information and thought provoking...

How Green Is a Tesla, Really? As green as a golf cart? A Prius? An SUV?
By Will Oremus|Posted Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, at 5:15 AM

The knock on electric cars has always been the same: They’re great for the environment, but they’re pokey and impractical, and nobody wants to buy one. The stunning success story of the Tesla Model S has, improbably, flipped that equation. It’s blazingly fast, surprisingly practical, and everyone wants to buy one. But now some critics are asking: How green is it, really? The quick answer: If current trends hold, it could be pretty darn green in the long run. But as of today, the calculation isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Depending on whom you ask, what assumptions you make, and how you quantify environmental impact, the answer could range from “greener than a Prius” to “as dirty as an SUV.”

And where the Tesla falls on that spectrum depends to a surprising extent on where you live and how much you drive it. Electric cars are squeaky clean, of course, in the sense that they don’t burn gas. With no engine, no gas tank, and no exhaust, they’re considered to be zero-emissions vehicles. But there’s more to a vehicle’s environmental impact than what comes out of the tailpipe. The Tesla doesn’t run on air. It runs on electricity, which in turn is generated from a range of different sources, from nuclear fission to natural gas to the darkest, dirtiest fossil fuel of them all: coal. So if you’re going to stack a Tesla’s per-mile emissions against those of a gas-powered vehicle, you’ll need to start by looking at the composition of the electrical grid. Nationally, the grid is roughly 40 percent coal, 25 percent natural gas, 20 percent nuclear power, and about 10 percent renewable sources, led by hydroelectricity. So it’s fair to say that your average Tesla is powered in large part by burning fossil fuels.

Tesla acknowledges this, and insists that its cars are still far cleaner than their internal-combustion competitors. That’s because battery-powered cars are more efficient at converting their stored energy into forward progress. A Model S can travel upwards of 265 miles on a single charge of its 85 kilowatt-hour battery, which equates to less than 3 gallons of gas. Its official EPA miles-per-gallon equivalent is 89, far greater than a standard Toyota Prius. For any given Model S, though, the emissions-per-mile depend heavily on the mix of energy sources that go into your local grid. According to Tesla’s own emissions calculator, if you’re driving your Model S in West Virginia—where the power mix is 96 percent coal—you’re spewing some 27 pounds of CO2 in a typical 40-mile day, which is comparable to the amount you’d emit in a conventional Honda Accord. Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio aren’t much better. On the other hand, if you’re charging your Tesla in California, where natural gas supplies more than half the electricity—or, better yet, Idaho or Washington, where hydroelectricity reigns—your per-mile emissions are a fraction of that amount. Congratulations: Your Model S is a clean machine after all.

Or is it? In May, a market analyst named Nathan Weiss prompted spit-takes throughout the clean-energy world in May with an incendiary post on the financial news site Seeking Alpha. The headline: “Is the Tesla Model S Green?” Weiss’ answer: a resounding, math-heavy, 6,500-word “No.” In fact, Weiss argued, the Model S is in many ways dirtier than a Jeep Grand Cherokee—and nearly as dirty as a Ford Expedition, one of the largest SUVs on the market. That’s an extreme position, and large swaths of Weiss’ argument were readily rebutted by electric-car advocates. Facing a barrage of criticism, Weiss soon revised his calculations, but still insisted that the Model S’s effective CO2 emissions exceeded those of a smaller SUV like the Toyota Highlander. Weiss’ post was followed in late June by a report in IEEE Spectrum from Ozzie Zehner, a one-time electric-car enthusiast turned outspoken critic. His report, titled “Unclean at Any Speed,” cites studies that find electric cars are no cleaner—and in some cases less clean—than gas-powered cars. How could that be? Critics point to three main factors that make a Tesla dirtier than the EPA’s ratings, or the company’s own data, would suggest.

First, coal-burning power plants emit not just CO2 but also other noxious gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide—and in far greater quantities than gas-powered cars. “If a smog-testing center could measure the effective emissions of a Tesla Model S through a tailpipe,” Weiss wrote, “the owner would face fines, penalties, or the sale of the vehicle under state ‘clunker buyback’ programs.” (This problem isn’t Tesla’s fault, obviously, and it would vanish with a cleaner energy grid.)

Second, electric vehicles are more environmentally destructive to manufacture, starting with the energy required to produce their lithium-ion batteries. Those battery packs today are big, bulky, and extremely expensive to manufacture—especially Tesla’s, which is larger and more powerful than that of its competitors. And many electric-vehicle batteries contain rare-earth minerals that are hard to come by and costly to extract. The Tesla’s AC induction motors don’t use rare-earth magnets, but even the company’s engineers would admit that the Model S takes more energy to produce than, say, a Toyota Camry. The question is how long it takes to close that initial gap once you start driving your zero-emissions Tesla. The more you drive it, the greener it becomes.

That leads to the third main argument against the Model S: that it hogs more power than advertised. Weiss reckons that the Model S’s energy-efficiency is dragged down heavily by “vampire load,” or the power that drains from the battery while the car is not in use. Those idle losses played a starring role in John Broder’s famous New York Times piece about running out of juice on a Tesla test drive. Otherwise satisfied owners complain that their cars lose battery range just sitting in the garage. Vampire load plays a significant role in Weiss’ calculations. In August, though, Tesla delivered on its promise to address the issue in a firmware upgrade. CleanTechnica put the reduction in idle losses at 50 to 70 percent, but Tesla will not confirm the amount.

A bigger blow to Weiss’ “dirty as an SUV” argument: as Green Car Reports’ David Noland pointed out in a thorough response, Weiss took into account the carbon footprint of the Tesla’s fuel source, but ignored the carbon footprint of gasoline production. Weiss also assumed, probably erroneously, that people drive the Model S far fewer miles each year than they do the average gas-powered car. Still, Noland agreed that Tesla’s power-consumption estimates may be on the optimistic side. Rejecting the Toyota Highlander comparison, he puts the Model S’s emissions closer to those of the Lilliputian Scion iQ. Not bad for a 4,600-pound luxury sedan.

It’s true, meanwhile, that several studies have cast doubt on the overall environmental benefits of electric cars, including a 2010 report from the National Academy of Sciences. That report is indeed sobering—but less so when you consider that the nation’s electrical grid is already cleaner today than it was at the time of the report. And as a bevy of IEEE officials were quick to point out, Zehner’s “Unclean at Any Speed” (which relied on the NAS report) glosses over a larger body of peer-reviewed research that finds electric cars are cleaner than internal-combustion cars even in coal-heavy states. Still, Zehner is right to say that these studies, including one by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2012, tend to give short shrift to the full life-cycle impacts of electric cars.

But there’s a reason scientists aren’t scrambling to write papers evaluating the precise present-day tradeoffs between electric cars and their internal-combustion counterparts. The present is short, and the future is long. Environmental trade-offs are changing all the time, mostly in electric cars’ favor. Natural gas has already reduced coal’s share of the national energy mix in recent years. And the new power added to the U.S. grid each year is skewed much more heavily toward renewables than the current mix. If that trend holds, the Model S and other electric cars will only get cleaner. Besides, a lot of electric-car owners are already investing in solar power to charge their vehicles. Meanwhile, Tesla, Nissan, and other automakers are working feverishly to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of batteries. The technology isn’t advancing exponentially, as it has with computer processors, but it is advancing. To use the nation’s reliance on dirty coal as an argument against electric cars is to get things backward. Rather, the prospect of making cars far greener than they are today should count as yet another argument against the nation’s continued reliance on dirty coal.

Friday, June 28, 2013

SIO hands out distinguished service awards

The Social Investment Organization has named Moira Hutchinson, Eugene Ellmen and Robert Walker as this year's recipients of the Canadian SRI Distinguished Service Award.

The awards were handed out at this year's Canadian Responsible Investment Conference in Vancouver on June 18. 
“We are so proud of these outstanding individuals who have done so much to promote socially responsible investing in Canada. Because of their contributions, Canadian investors can make investment decisions that generate competitive long-term financial returns and positive societal impact,” said Gary Hawton, President of the SIO and 2012 recipient of the award. “Moira, Eugene and Bob have helped lead the way to a brighter and more sustainable future for all Canadians.”  

Hutchinson led the Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility (TCCR), which helped lay the foundation for the SRI industry in Canada.
Ellmen was executive director of the SIO from 1999 to 2013.
Walker is Vice-President of ESG Services for NEI Investments, and has led the team responsible for NEI’s ESG Investing Program for more than 10 years.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Deb Abbey Named as Social Investment Organization Executive Director

The Social Investment Organization announced that SRI veteran Deb Abbey has been named as the organization’s new executive director, replacing Eugene Ellmen.

Abbey was one of the first investment advisors to focus on SRI and was the founder of Real Assets, an SRI investment management firm. The company was acquired by Vancity in 2005.

Abbey is the author of two books on sustainable investing, The 50 Best Ethical Stocks for Canadians — co-authored with Michael Jantzi — and Global Profit and Global Justice, Using Your Money to Change the World.

“We are extremely pleased to have someone with Deb’s experience and knowledge joining us as Executive Director,” said Gary Hawton, President of the SIO. “Her work ethic and passion for Socially Responsible Investing are going to allow us to move the organization forward over the next few years.“

Abbey will be located in a regional office which is being created in Vancouver.  The other SIO staff will remain in Toronto.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grist: Corporate sustainability is not sustainable

From today's Grist

Corporate sustainability is not sustainable
By Auden Schendler and Michael Toffel
Grist guest contributor

Green initiatives are ubiquitous these days, implemented with zeal at companies like Dupont, IBM, Walmart, and Walt Disney. The programs being rolled out — lighting retrofits, zero-waste factories, and carpool incentives — save money and provide a green glow. Most large companies are working to reduce energy use and waste, and many have integrated sustainability into strategic planning. What’s not to like?

Well, for starters, these actions don’t meaningfully address the primary barrier to sustainability, climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, without action, global temperatures will likely increase 6 degrees C by 2100, “which would have devastating consequences for the planet.” This means more super droughts, floods, storms, fires, crop failures, sea-level rise, and other major disruptions. “Sustainability” simply isn’t possible in the face of such a problem, as Superstorm Sandy demonstrated.

So despite perceptions that “sustainable business” is up and running, the environment reminds us we’re failing to deal with the problem at anywhere near sufficient scale. Because climate change requires a systemic solution, which only governments can provide, firms serious about addressing it have a critical role well beyond greening their own operations. They must spur government action. But few are.

“Green business” as currently practiced focuses on limited operational efficiencies — cutting carbon footprint and waste reduction — and declares victory. But these measures fail to even dent the climate problem. And the proof is easy: Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Last month, we hit 400 parts per million atmospheric CO2 for the first time in 3 million years. Worse, though, such small-ball initiatives are a distraction: We fiddle around the edges thinking we’re making a real difference (and getting accolades), while the planet inexorably warms.

The reality is that even if one company eliminates its carbon footprint entirely — as Microsoft admirably pledged to do — global warming roars on. That’s because the problem is too vast for any single business: Solving climate change means we must switch to mostly carbon-free energy sources by 2050 or find a way to affordably capture carbon dioxide emissions, both monumental tasks.

Even several very large companies cannot, on their own, get us there. In fact, historically, no big environmental problem — from air and water pollution to acid rain or ozone depletion — has ever been solved by businesses volunteering to do the right thing. We ought not presume that voluntary measures will solve this one.

But nobody seems to have noticed. Most green scorecards, corporate strategies, media, and shareholder analyses of businesses focus almost entirely on operational greening activities and policies, but not on whether companies can continue on their current course in a climate-changed world. In other words, such analyses don’t actually measure sustainability.

So what does a meaningful corporate sustainability program look like in the era of climate change?

First, corporate leaders need to directly lobby state and national politicians to introduce sweeping, aggressive bipartisan climate legislation such as a carbon fee-and-dividend program. Strong policy in G8 nations is all the more important because it removes excuses for inaction by China, India, and other countries with rapidly growing carbon footprints.

Second, CEOs should insist that trade groups prioritize climate policy activism and withdraw from associations that refuse to do so, like when Pacific Gas & Electric, Apple, and Nike left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its opposition to regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Third, businesses should market their climate activism so that customers and suppliers appreciate their leadership, understand what matters, and follow suit. Such marketing is also education on one of the key issues of our time.

Fourth, companies should partner with effective non-governmental organizations such as the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, the Natural Resources Defense Council,, Protect Our Winters, and Citizen’s Climate Lobby to support their work, become educated on climate science and policy solutions, and understand effective lobbying.

Fifth, managers should demand that suppliers assess their climate impact and set public targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But companies that are multiplying their influence in supply chains — like Dell and Walmart — must not miss the larger and more important opportunity to change the rules of the game through activism.

Even in the United States, a climate laggard, some companies are already responding to climate change in the appropriate way.

Nike, for example, moved beyond operational greening by helping to create BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy), which brings its members to Washington, D.C., to lobby for aggressive energy and climate legislation.

Starbucks has also taken out full-page ads in major newspapers to raise public awareness about the importance of climate action and has lobbied the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to explain the threat climate poses to coffee.

These companies are the exception. Unfortunately, even businesses that are sustainability leaders — like clothing manufacturer Patagonia, a business we admire — don’t recognize the primacy of climate change. Instead, it includes climate in a basket of equally weighted issues, like protecting oceans, forests, or fisheries. But that’s misguided: Climate vastly trumps (and often includes) those other environmental concerns.

Businesses that claim to be green but aren’t loudly making their voices heard on the need for government action on climate change are missing the point. They are not just dodging the key challenge of sustainability; they are distracting us from what really matters.

Michael Toffel is an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he specializes in business and environment issues.

Auden Schendler is vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, author of Getting Green Done, and a board member of Protect Our Winters.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

WTO rules on one solar dispute, bigger lurk

Reprinted from this morning's Thomson Reuters Morning news Call...

Rejection by the world's trade body last week of preferential support for domestic solar panel makers in Canadian province Ontario brings helpful but limited guidance in a growing number of other disputes.

The case involved domestic content requirements, which block foreign companies from participating in national support programmes, and which are intended to suckle local manufacturers. The World Trade Organisation's rejection of Canada's appeal, in a complaint brought by Japan and the European Union, should clarify similar cases, where China claims discrimination in certain EU countries and the United States has opened a dispute with India.

It does not, however, address a growing, separate set of more complicated trade complaints regarding perceived dumping (which means selling at a loss to gain market share) where China, India, the European Union and the United States are all considering or have imposed import duties.

The global industry needs similar clarity on dumping, to avoid a solar trade war where Germany's preference for an amicable resolution with China is encouraging.

Both types of dispute expose a tension in the goals of renewable energy programmes between jobs and low-cost clean power.

One aim is to boost "green jobs", where countries are keen to grab a foothold in a growing clean technology sector, which clashes with another to cut costs.

Rules preferring domestic content make little sense right now, if the aim is to ramp up domestic solar manufacturing when the global industry is embroiled in a savage shakeout of over-capacity where some distressed companies are selling photovoltaic (PV) modules at fire sale prices.

Action against dumping, meanwhile, may directly raise the price of solar modules through the use of import duties.

The Ontario case was based on the Canadian province's "Green Energy Act" of 2009. The Act allowed developers to earn a price premium, or feed-in tariff, for renewable power if they met local content rules.

Those minimum domestic content requirements were 50 percent for wind projects and 60 percent for solar, as published in an Ontario Power Authority "programme overview".

Japan's complaint was partly based on Article 3.4 of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The paragraph states: "The products of the territory of any contracting party imported into the territory of any other contracting party shall be accorded treatment no less favourable than that accorded to like products of national origin in respect of all laws, regulations and requirements affecting their internal sale, offering for sale, purchase, transportation, distribution or use."

Japan's complaint - subsequently joined by the European Union - was supported by a WTO resolution panel in December, and upheld last week against Canada's appeal.

The finding is likely to clarify similar complaints.

For example, India has announced a goal to install 22 gigawatts of grid-connected and off-grid solar power by 2022, under its Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM). Under phase 1, which ends this year, developers could only use solar modules made in India. Phase 2 may relax the requirement that all projects meet domestic content requirement (DCR) rules.

"Some capacity will be kept for bidding with domestic content requirement," says a phase 2 consultancy document published on the ministry's website, suggesting other capacity will be available for foreign firms.

India has proposed to widen DCR to cover more advanced thin film technologies where U.S.-based First Solar is a world leader.

The Ontario case may not bode well for the Indian programme.

The United States formally initiated a dispute at the WTO on Feb. 11, by requesting consultations with India in the same manner as Japan had with Canada in September 2010.

"India's measures appear to be inconsistent with Article 3.4 of the GATT 1994 because the measures appear to provide less favourable treatment to imported solar cells and solar modules than that accorded to like products originating in India," it said, referencing identical articles and trade measures to Japan's complaint.

Similarly, last November China requested consultations with the European Union, Greece and Italy, "relating to the feed-in tariff programs of EU member states including but not limited to Italy and Greece". Italian energy laws have provided a premium on the feed-in tariff of up to 10 percent for solar PV systems containing a minimum 60 percent European content by value, various solar companies report.

The latest WTO ruling will probably benefit the industry if it motivates countries to source solar modules on the basis of lowest price rather than origin.

But public pressure remains to do the opposite, as illustrated by a letter in March from an influential group of U.S. environmental and development non-government organisations to the U.S. chief trade negotiator. The letter, signed by, ActionAid USA, Friends of the Earth U.S., Greenpeace USA, Sierra Club, among others, expressed "deep concern" about the country's solar dispute with India.

They argued that India should be encouraged to develop a domestic solar industry for three reasons: to increase the share of solar in the Indian energy market; increase political support for clean energy programmes by creating local jobs; and to avoid catastrophic climate change.

It did not mention an impact on costs.

India presently has manufacturing capacity of 848 MW for the production of solar cells and 1,932 MW for solar modules, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy reported last December in its "Phase II – Policy Document". It is targeting by 2020 manufacturing capacity for 4,000-5,000 MW of solar technologies (this appears to refer to finished modules) and 2,000 MW of solar cells, according to an overview published on the ministry website.

Just now may not be the optimum time for ramping up manufacturing capacity, however, either for established companies already bleeding cash, or for countries planning a new industry where they can buy more cheaply from companies with mothballed capacity selling at distressed prices.

--- Gerard Wynn, Reuters market analyst

--- The views expressed are his own

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Update: BCE facing resolution on gender diversity

At this morning’s Annual General Shareholders meeting, 5.5% of votes were cast in favour of a resolution brought by Vancity Investment Management to ‘undertake a review of BCE Inc.'s diversity policies and initiatives, using the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles as guidance, to identify and address gaps or inadequacies; and give due consideration to the value to the company of endorsing the CEO Statement of Support for the Principles.’ That’s enough to keep the resolution alive; it needed more than 3% in order to be brought back next year.

A jubilant Dermot Foley, in Toronto to present the resolution, said he met the CEO and some senior executives at the AGM. “Victory is not the percentage of votes we got for the resolution, but the opportunity we now have to continue the dialogue with BCE management”

At present, Mountain Equipment Co-op’s CEO is the only Canadian CEO to have signed the CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s’ Empowerment Principles. However, there are 559 CEO’s around the world who have made this commitment, including those of large American companies such as Microsoft and PepsiCo.

As a signatory to the UN Global Compact and a leader in diversity in Canada, BCE Inc. has an opportunity to bring greater visibility to this initiative, gain competitive advantage in the market for talent and further strengthen the company’s position as a socially responsible corporation.

The Global Gender Gap 2012 by the World Economic Forum states ‘Because women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women.’

Foley feels, “looking at the data from the WEF report, we can see a huge wave on the horizon. Change is coming to corporate Canada. Either you are going to be ahead of it, or you are going to be chasing it. Ultimately, it’s not about winning on a resolution. We want CEOs to sign on to the Principles.”

See details in our post of April 11th.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Global Womens Equity Fund a first for Canada

In a first for the Canadian investment landscape, the Global Women’s Equity Fund announced today that it is almost ready to launch. “This fund is great for society, great for women and a unique concept that didn’t exist here in Canada” said Chief Marketing Officer Alexis Klein.

The fund will invest primarily in equity securities of companies that have demonstrated their support of women’s causes and are leaders in promoting gender equality in the workplace. The companies to be included in the portfolio must meet at least one of the following criteria:

Group A

• Companies that have signed and adhere to the Women’s Empowerment Principles-Equality Means Business, produced and disseminated by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and/or;

• Companies with 25% or more women directors and/or;

• Companies with 25% or more women executive officers and/or;

• Companies that have provided financial support and are members of CATALYST, the leading
non-profit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and actively
promoting the advancement of women in the workplace since 1962 and/or;

• Companies that have signed and adhere to the Women on the Board Pledge for Europe
produced and disseminated by the European Commission with a pledge to reach the target of 30% female board members by 2015 and 40% by 2020 by actively recruiting qualified women to replace outgoing male board members and/or;

Group B

• Companies that could potentially enhance overall portfolio diversification and/or maximize overall portfolio return

The portfolio advisor will maintain a minimum of 80% of its equity securities in Group A at all times and up to a maximum of 20% of its equity holdings in Group B.

“You can drill more holes in some SRI mandates than you find in Swiss cheese” added Klein, “The GWEF mandate is strict and measurable.”

The fund will be managed by Jarislowsky Fraser, a solid and well respected firm that has recently undergone a changing of the guard, although 87 year old Steven Jarislowsky remains as Chairman. With women in four of its top executive positions, JF is a natural fit for the GWEF.

While the fund has a global mandate in order to maximize potential candidates, there are a number of Canadian companies which would make the cut including Bank of Montreal, Loblaw and Sun Life Financial.

The GWEF will donate .5% of the MER to promoting opportunities for women in Canada. This may be through donations to existing women’s organizations, or through innovative financing options.

Klein anticipates making a further announcement soon on when the GWEF will be open for business. We can’t wait!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

James Hoggan on the Polluted Public Square

The federal government has shut down the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), significantly reduced environmental spending and demonized environmental NGO’s, but Canadians don’t seem to care.

How is it that scientific consensus tells us that we are destroying the planet, but we have been unable to galvanize public support to do anything about it?

Because facts don’t change minds.

James Hoggan, one of Canada’s most respected public relations professionals and founder of desmogblog, suggests we need to do a better job of fashioning a deeply moving public narrative, one that will speak to people’s values, and get them believing that they can make a difference.

In an inspiring and educational webinar this afternoon, Hoggan discussed some of the ideas in his upcoming book, The Polluted Public Square. In a world that is increasingly polarized, mistrustful and inattentive, the rules of communication are different. We have to learn how to tell our own story, to construct a narrative, not just a message.

Although peppered with quotes and ideas from notable thinkers as diverse as Thich Naht Hanh
and Dan Kahan , Hoggan focuses on the work of Marshall Ganz , a Harvard educator who teaches, researches, and writes on leadership, organization and strategy in social movements, civic associations, and politics.

The three elements of the Ganzian public narrative are the story of self- a call to leadership, the story of us - shared values and shared experiences, and the story of now- strategy and action. These combine to create purpose, commitment and urgency. The narrative is not about facts, it’s about what our values call us to do.

I cannot do justice to all the concepts presented in this webinar, but following up on these ideas will be thought provoking and rewarding. To think about communication in a movement building context. To design a powerful narrative that will change behaviour. James Hoggan has pointed us in the right direction.

You can watch a replay of the webinar on the Sustainability Network site.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Carbon emissions: how beef farmers can learn from the car industry

Reposted from the Guardian Sustainable Business blog, Thursday April 25th, 2013

The automotive industry has been focused on reducing its environmental impact for years but red meat producers are only just waking up to the challenge. Cattle farmers need to seize the environmental agenda and show that the red meat industry can be sustainable.

When is a cow like a car? It may sound like a joke, but the answer could be serious for meat producers. Red meat is suffering from a wave of bad press. Shoppers' confidence in beef products has been knocked by the horsemeat scandal, which has increased awareness of high prices. Concerns are also emerging about the environmental impact of rearing cattle and sheep for consumption. As those fears combine, there's a risk that eating red meat will become decreasingly popular. In a competitive market, red meat producers must take action to avoid more negative comparisons with pork and chicken, which both tend to have a lower carbon footprint.

If the red meat industry wants to thrive, it should take a tip from a very different sector, which has been facing a similar challenge for years – the automotive industry. Car makers are tackling the twin realities of rising fuel costs and government emission reduction legislation to combat climate change. And it is meeting these challenges through innovation.

 In the past decade, the average CO2 emissions from a new car's exhaust pipe has been slashed by 17% according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. That's mainly the result of incrementally tougher legislation and rising prices pushing for more efficient engines, and innovations such as electric cars or hybrids that partially run on batteries. These savings have emerged through a close examination of every process involved in producing a car and every aspect of a vehicle's workings. The meat industry must take the same road.

Analysis of the carbon footprint of farming has revealed about 30% is made up of carbon emissions related to beef production come from the use of fertiliser on fields and a further 40% comes from methane produced by animals' belches, which as a contributor to climate change is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The rest comes from fertiliser production, fuel, electricity and deforestation resulting from cattle farming.

Over the past five years, the Carbon Trust has been helping a number of organisations investigate the carbon footprint of livestock on farms. Thousands of farmers have been involved in the largest such programme in the world to date. One example is Ireland's food board, Bord Bia, which has developed tools to assess beef farm emissions and also the carbon emissions generated between the farm gate and the boning hall, where meat is prepared for distribution. Its aim is to help farmers and processors identify carbon hotspots where potential improvements may be possible. Lamb farmers stand to benefit from a similar approach through the work of the English beef and lamb organisation Eblex, which has recently released a tool to help farmers measure their carbon.

The next crucial step is understanding how to tackle those emissions. This is no esoteric project. As the automotive industry has demonstrated, being more carbon efficient often means removing unnecessary costs. Better knowledge could drive new ways of working and help farmers cope with the rising price of animal feed and growing consumer environmental concerns.

One of the first companies to take on the challenge is GrowHow, the UK's only major fertiliser supplier. The Cheshire-based company has set out to differentiate itself from rivals by measuring and managing its carbon footprint. Part of that process involves working with farmers to help them use fertiliser more efficiently and effectively, cutting their costs and improving yields. GrowHow's activities could have a major impact on the environmental footprint of the meat.

Financial benefits and efficiency go hand in hand. A study of 60 beef and sheep farms carried out for Eblex found that, for every 1kg cut in carbon emissions per kg of liveweight lamb, farmers increased profit margins by 28p. For beef an increase of 50p in profit margin for every 5kg cut in carbon emissions per kg of meat was possible. Studies show that compared to pork and chicken, there is a wide gap between the best and worst beef and lamb footprints – up to 10-fold. This is due in part to the wider variety of farm situations but does also suggests scope for significant efficiency savings.

Some of the changes required to improve profits are quite simple. The Carbon Trust has estimated that almost immediate energy savings of up to 20% can be made at most processing plants through straightforward management or system improvements. For example, reminding staff to switch off unused equipment or insulating pipes can really make a difference.

More technical research is examining how to reduce the emissions from belching cows and sheep. At the moment, relatively little is known about cows' digestive systems but more investment in this area could help develop new feeds which could dramatically reduce the environmental impact. Better herd management and selective breeding may also have a role. Even basics such as improving animal health can mean that fewer animals are required to achieve the same level of production.

Retailers and the catering industry need to play their part to increase investment in innovation. Long-term contracts and financial support can help farmers commit the upfront investment that will secure the future of the UK red meat industry to the financial and environmental benefit of the whole supply chain. And let's not forget that consumer tastes may continue to evolve, with some making conscious purchasing choices based on environmental and sustainability factors in the provenance or production of their food.

Government must set appropriate policy to bring about change and secure the funds to implement it. It's possible that the latest round of common agricultural policy negotiations, for example, could secure funding for more research on the emissions behind red meat production and the best way forward.

Investment in research and development right through the meat supply chain is required to seize the environmental agenda and show that red meat can play a part in a sustainable economy. Car makers have shown us the road map, now the whole red meat industry needs to work together and put its foot on the accelerator.

Martin Barrow is head of footprinting at the Carbon Trust.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Barrick Gold shareholders reject say on pay resolution

Barrick Gold became just the second Canadian company to lose a say on pay vote, as shareholders rejected an executive compensation resolution at the company's annual general meeting in Toronto on Wednesday. 

The rejection was viewed as a condemnation of Barrick’s board of directors, which last year agreed to pay US$17-million to co-chairman John Thornton, including a US$11.9-million signing bonus.

Last week, a group of seven institutional investors put out a press release outlining their concern over the decision to award the bonus payment to Thornton.

 “This amount, for a signing bonus for a co-chairman of the board is, to our knowledge, unprecedented in Canada and is in addition to other compensation for the year for a total package of $17 million in 2012,” the release stated. “This compensation is inconsistent with the governance principle of pay-for-performance and is therefore disproportionate and sets a troubling precedent in Canadian capital markets.”

Signatories to the release included Quebec’s Caisse de depot et placement, the B.C. Investment Management Corporation and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.

The compensation vote is non-binding, but Barrick CEO Jamie Sokalsky said that management would “carefully consider” the views of shareholders. The percentage figures for the vote were not provided.

“I think it’s a bit more than symbolic,” Barry Allan, senior mining analyst at Mackie Research Capital told the Financial Post. “It’s certainly a statement about what is appropriate executive compensation as seen by the Canadian marketplace, saying basically [the salary] is not really performance driven which has been an endemic problem, particularly in the gold mining industry.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

BCE facing resolution on gender diversity

Vancity Investment Management has filed a shareholder resolution on gender diversity and the UN Women's Empowerment Principles with telecom giant BCE. 

The resolution, filed on behalf of the IA Clarington Inhance Monthly Income SRI Fund, asks BCE's board of directors to undertake a review of BCE diversity policies and initiatives, using the UN Women's Empowerment Principles as guidance, to identify and address gaps or inadequacies.

"As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, BCE Inc. has an opportunity to bring greater visibility to this initiative, increase the company's profile on diversity initiatives, gain competitive advantage in the market for talent and further strengthen the company's position as a socially responsible corporation," says Vancity's proxy alert on the resolution.

The resolution also asks BCE to consider endorsing the CEO Statement of Support for the Empowerment Principles.

CEOs from more than 400 companies have endorsed the principles, however no CEO from a Canadian publicly traded company has signed the statement of support. "Signing and endorsing the Principles will allow BCE to demonstrate leadership in this area and help distinguish the company," Vancity says.

In the 2013 Management Information Circular, BCE responds to the diversity proposal by listing a number of initiatives and programs including support for the UN Global Compact and concludes by stating:

"We believe BCE has a strong corporate responsibility program, addressing and promoting diversity in our business practices, governance commitments and programs that support the intent of the UN Women's Empowerment Principles."

However, the board has recommended voting against the proposal, which goes to a shareholder vote at BCE's annual general meeting on May 9.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Impact investing set for growth

Impact investing has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, but it could take 10 to 15 years to fully develop the market, according to the authors of a report on the subject. 

Edward Jackson, a faculty member at the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University and Karim Harji, a co-founder and partner at Purpose Capital, spoke in Ottawa this week at an impact investing seminar sponsored by Aga Khan Foundation Canada. 

“This is a long game – it’s going to take time to build the field,” Jackson said, adding that impact investing is small, dynamic and growing, and opens the door to other forms of innovative financing.

Impact investing will not replace development aid, and it’s no excuse for governments to ignore their obligations, Jackson said.

“Entrepreneurs want to integrate social considerations but it’s not easy,” Harji said. ”This is going to take time, and higher levels of leadership.”

At the retail level, there’s currently little opportunity for investors to align their capital directly with a cause, Harji noted. He expects that to change in the long term. Investors should not be overly concerned about the risks of impact investing, Harji said, stating that the perception of risk is much higher than the actual risk.

Last year, Jackson and Harji co-authored an extensive report on impact investing for the Rockefeller Foundation, noting that the field is in the market-building phase, and should evolve to capture the value of the marketplace in 5 to 10 years, with the entrance of mainstream players.

“Much progress has been made in building the field of impact investing globally,” the report says. “Many tangible gains have been achieved. And there is still much to be done. To be sure, building an effective global industry is a long-term, complex and difficult task. However, this is precisely the time for the leaders of the impact investing field to recommit to building a fully developed marketplace.”


Monday, March 11, 2013

more fracking controversies

First up, fun with fracking...
As reported by the Guardian, "Yoko Ono and Susan Sarandon star in new anti-fracking music video - Celebrities join forces for new rendering of Sean Lennon's Don't Frack My Mother in effort to stop hydraulic fracturing in New York." Click here for the article and the music video.

Meanwhile, although many New Yorkers are adamantly opposed to drilling in the Marcellus shale, the Geisinger study on the health issues around fracking is probably years away for coming to any conclusions according to this story. 

And for some visual impact, check out the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, as reported here.

Finally,  a scary story from Reuters "China's plans to unlock what could be the world's biggest shale gas reserves risk running further off track after 16 firms awarded exploration rights in the latest auction lacked one core skill - not one has drilled a gas well before."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

PDAC 2013: Directors’ Duties

Yesterday afternoon’s short course offered much discussion and some divisive debate on the subject of directors’ duties.  Doug Bryce and Jeremy Fraiberg of the mining team at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP provided the legal framework and some background on directors’ duties in Canada. They were joined on the panel by Peter Dey and Wesley Voorheis, who presented practical examples based on their combined decades (maybe even a century?) of governance experience.

The material reviewed by the Osler lawyers was particularly interesting as a follow up to Prof. Lynn Stout’s presentation on the myth of shareholder primacy at last year’s Responsible Investment Conference. Mr. Fraiberg opined that the Supreme Court of Canada has shied away from the ‘Revlon duty’, a decision of the Delaware courts affirming directors’ duty to maximize shareholder value.  Rather, Canadian courts have held that the duty is contextual, and is not confined to short term profit or share value. 

In honouring their fiduciary duty, the directors may consider the impact of decisions on various stakeholders, and they must consider the impact of decisions on affected stakeholders. Peter Dey added that it is becoming increasingly important for Boards to look at longer term impacts and results, a positive development.  

Mr. Dey continued with an update on what’s happening within boards today. He endorsed the use of a skill matrix to ensure a balanced board with a depth of knowledge. He also suggested that ‘you look at your stakeholders and make sure that you have directors that can address the issues that are important to those stakeholders.’ This bodes well for more diversity on Boards over time as a broader range of stakeholder interests achieve legitimacy.    

Significant discussion was generated by the idea put forward by both Mr. Dey and Mr. Voorheis that board decisions be unanimous. Ultimately, the audience agreed that consensus was the goal of every board, and that a board that consistently had, for example, an 8/4 or 6/2 split was dysfunctional. However, whether a director should record their dissent to a particular decision, and how much discussion for and against a motion should occur to bring recalcitrant directors onside created heated debate on both sides of the issue. It may be that more experienced directors are able to reach a consensus in a way that newer directors are not, and that working together on a Board is also a learned skill.   

The afternoon ended with a brief discussion of three case studies, as the amount of interesting and relevant commentary on the earlier material left us a bit short of time. Overall, an excellent start to what is always a thought provoking conference.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

NEI Divests from Enbridge Over Northern Gateway

NEI Investments has announced that it will divest its Enbridge holdings from the Ethical Funds portfolio over risks that First Nations' opposition poses to the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

“We have taken the dialogue as far as we can and have been part of some important developments as a result of our efforts,” NEI said in its monthly newsletter. “But in the end, we reached an impasse with the company that we couldn’t overcome.”

NEI said its seven years of discussions with Enbridge have not been fruitless, noting that it has twice received substantial support for shareholder proposals at the company, “showing that we have been successful in getting mainstream investors to seriously consider what would traditionally be considered a social risk as an investment risk.”

NEI also noted that Enbridge has strengthened its link between environmental, social and governance performance and executive compensation. “Forty per cent of the business unit scorecard used to determine executive bonuses is now linked to safety and environmental performance. This is a significant change that should have a ripple effect in the industry. “

Still, NEI said its decision to divest came down to its concern that the Enbridge board does not see substantial First Nations opposition as a reason to walk away from the project. “That means potentially trying to build the pipeline over the objections of First Nations communities and, more importantly, ignoring First Nations’ concerns about aboriginal and treaty rights.”

 “To be clear, we don’t believe this project will proceed,” NEI concluded. “The legal, operational and reputational challenges of building in the face of this opposition have doomed it from the start. We could be proven wrong, but in the meantime we hope the company will take our advice and state that it has no intention of building the project in the face of significant First Nations’ opposition.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Breakthrough Regarding Legal Liability of Canadian Mining Corporations for Abuses Overseas

A news release today: Mayans' lawsuit against HudBay over shootings and rapes at mine in Guatemala to proceed in Canadian courts

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 25, 2013) - In an important precedent-setting development for the accountability of Canadian mining companies for alleged overseas human rights abuses, victims of rape and murder at a Guatemalan mine are now able to sue a Canadian mining company in Canadian courts.

Guatemalan Mayan villagers who are suing Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals for the alleged gang-rapes of eleven women, the killing of community leader Adolfo Ich and the shooting and paralyzing of German Chub at HudBay's former mining project in Guatemala recently learned that HudBay has abruptly abandoned its legal argument that the lawsuit should not be heard in Canada, just before an Ontario court was set to determine the issue. As a result, and for the first time, a lawsuit against a Canadian mining company over alleged human rights abuses abroad will be heard in Canadian courts.

"This is a stunning victory for human rights, and paves the way for future lawsuits against Canadian mining companies" said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the Mayan plaintiffs. "Corporations be warned - this case clearly shows that Canadian companies can be sued in Canadian courts for alleged human rights atrocities committed at their foreign operations."

HudBay had filed extensive legal briefs arguing that the lawsuit should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, despite overwhelming evidence indicating that Guatemala's justice system is dysfunctional, making it impossible for the victims to get justice there. According to the United Nations, Guatemala is one of "the world's most violent countries officially at peace". According to Human Rights Watch, 99.75% of violent crime in Guatemala goes unpunished due to corruption, and intimidation and attacks against judges and witnesses.

"HudBay fought Angelica, Rosa, and their co-plaintiffs tooth and nail on this issue for over a year, forcing survivors of rape to travel to Toronto to endure extensive cross-examination and forcing us to spend countless hours compiling stacks of evidence, expert reports, and witness testimony." said Murray Klippenstein. "Now the defendant's legal resistance on this key point has collapsed. Rosa, Margarita and their co-plaintiffs should be praised for the courage and determination they have shown through this difficult process."

While this development effectively removes the legal argument that the case cannot be heard in Canada, other hurdles facing the Mayan villagers in their quest for justice remain. HudBay continues to rely on antiquated corporate law concepts to argue in the Canadian court that its corporate head-office is not legally responsible for the harms caused by its wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary corporation. The lawsuits continue in Ontario courts.

For more information, see
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors
Murray Klippenstein
(416) 598-0288 or (416) 937-8634
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors
Cory Wanless
(647) 886-1914

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Proxy voting survey reveals growing support for shareholder proposals

A growing number of shareholders are paying more attention to how they vote on key issues, according to SHARE's annual proxy voting survey. Several votes in 2012 registered 20% or more of shareholders voting against management recommendations.

Firms that participated in the survey were more likely to vote against the recommendations of management, the survey revealed. Participants were also more likely than other shareholders to vote for shareholders’ proposals, and more likely to support proposals that asked companies to be more socially and environmentally responsible.

“For instance, 61% of the participating firms voted for a proposal filed with Alimentation Couche-Tard asking that company to prepare a sustainable development report with a view to eventually comply with the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines,” the survey found. “And 48% of participating firms voted for a proposal asking Enbridge to report on the risks of failing to get First Nations’ support for its Northern Gateway project.”

Nearly 30% of shareholders voted in favour of the Enbridge proposal, illustrating that shareholders increasingly recognize the investment risks associated with social and environmental issues when they vote, said Peter Chapman, SHARE’s Executive Director. “However many institutional investors, including charitable foundations and trusts, are not yet providing guidance to managers and proxy voting service firms to ensure that voting is aligned with their interests.”

SHARE also highlighted vote results at SNC Lavalin, where nearly one-quarter of votes were lodged against the executive compensation package offered to former CEO Pierre Duhaime.

“In the realm of proxy voting, a vote of 25% against a severance package is a strong show of shareholder opposition,” notes Laura O’Neill, SHARE’s Director of Law and Policy, “But one still wonders how more than 75% of shareholders voted in favour of the former CEO being rewarded so generously despite the significant loss in shareholder value on his watch.”

The 2012 annual Key Proxy Vote Survey analyzed the voting records of 32 firms with combined Canadian equity holdings in excess of $58 billion in 2012. 

Full results are available at the survey website.