Corporate Knights once again hosted its annual gala event to honour Canada’s “50 Best Corporate Citizens,” held last Thursday night at Corus Quay which sits on the Toronto waterfront. The company is a respected and prominent leader in the production of media, financial analysis, and market research centred on the adoption of “clean capitalism” and ethical investing by Canadian businesses.
Corporate Knights publishes a quarterly called the Corporate Knights Magazine which features coverage on the relationship between the business world and Canadian society, providing a source of analysis and debate surrounding topics in ethical investing and social issues with commentary from prominent corporate leaders, academics, political figures, and members of civil society.
The company is known for its research and reporting methodology which it uses to gather data while assigning rankings to Canadian corporations based upon sustainable practices. The profile created for each firm includes scores related to “carbon, water, waste, and energy use” as well as “pension fund quality, board diversity, ratio of highest-paid executive to average worker pay, tax dollar generation, renewable energy investment, and respect for human rights.”
This year’s top ranking for Canada’s Best Corporate Citizen was presented to Desjardins Group, which is the largest cooperative financial group in Canada and the 6th largest in the world. Desjardins has been recognized for many years as one of the most progressive companies in Canada with regards to ethical investing and sustainable business initiatives, in keeping with its home province Québec’s pronounced interest in supporting corporate awareness of sustainable business practices.
With its 84.86% score on the Corporate Knights chart, Desjardins is the leader of the pack in this year’s roster of the 50 Best Corporate Citizens, and there are encouraging signs of the increasing importance of ethical investing. Below, we take a look at the top five companies in this year’s group of fifty corporations which were recognized by Corporate Knights.
1. Desjardins Group (Mouvement des caisses Desjardins)
Headquarters: Lévis, Québec
CEO: Monique F. Leroux
Services: insurance, trust services, investment funds, investment, brokerage, international development
Total assets: C$190 Billion (Dec/11)
Corporate Knights Score: 84.86%
Ethics overview: Desjardins has been recognized by Corporate Knights for advancing the role of clean capitalism with initiatives to encourage
- Carpooling amongst employees
- The reduction of fossil fuels
- Offering insurance discounts for employees with hybrid and electric vehicles
- Attaining LEED gold certification for its building in Montréal
- Basing its executive salaries on one of the lowest employee-to-executive pay ratios
- Increasing the number of women on its board of directors
- Contributing to international financial cooperative projects which assist communities in more than 30 developing countries around the world.
Notes: Desjardins is the largest cooperative financial group in Canada and the 6th largest in the world; between 2008 and 2010 the company’s total assets grew 15% from C$151.9 Billion to C$175+ Billion; in Q1 of 2012 Desjardins posted a C$421 million surplus, up 17.9% from the same time last year; the company earmarked more than C$69 million to community projects, including sponsorships, donations, and bursaries.
Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia
CEO: Tamara Vrooman
Services: insurance, investment management, technology, banking
Total assets: C$16.1 Billion (Dec/11)
Corporate Knights Score: 84.01%
Ethics overview: “Vancity,” as the company is popularly known, is recognized this year for its continuing commitment to ethical business and below are some notable activities which make it the runner-up for Best Corporate Citizen 2012
- The Enviro Visa credit card sends 5% of VISA profits to local environmental initiatives
- A green business program encourages environmental awareness amongst entrepreneurs
- “Bright Ideas” home financing to encourage energy efficient home renovations
- A clean air auto program which offers savings for consumers who purchase energy-efficient vehicles
- Vancity Community Foundation, a subsidiary which manages charitable donations based on sustainable and responsible investment practices
- Pension fund quality
- Board diversity
- CEO-pay fairness
- Tax dollar generation
- Renewable energy investments
Notes: Vancity is the largest credit union in Canada; its operations are based on a sustainable business model with a particular focus on environmental and social sustainability; the company is controlled entirely by its membership; it is a leader in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), and is one of the foremost proponents of ethical climate change solutions in British Columbia.
Headquarters: Guelph, Ontario
CEO: Kathy Bardswick
Total assets: C$9.87 Billion (Dec/11)
Corporate Knights Score: 82.21%
Ethics overview: The Co-operators Group has been recognized this year as a leader in sustainable and ethical business practices for its dedication to social, environmental, and economic governance including but not limited to
- Working to decrease harmful methods of resource extraction
- Lessening the use of damaging artificial substances in development projects
- Minimalizing environmental degradation and abuse
- Creating a sustainable and ethical workplace for a diverse workforce
- Promotion of new, innovative, and efficient products and services
- Raising awareness about climate change through conferences, presentations
- Community involvement through The Co-operators Foundation
- Pension fund health and quality
- Board diversity
- Democratic structure for stakeholders
Notes: The Co-operators Group is 100% Canadian-owned; it was founded by a group of farmers looking to protect their savings after the Great Depression; the company is one of the pioneers of co-operative insurance and development projects in Canada; The Co-operators funds a Youth Leadership Program for training future leaders in sustainability practices.
Headquarters: Montréal, Québec
CEO: Claude Mongeau
Total assets: C$26.02 Billion (Dec/11)
Corporate Knights Score: 79.12%
Ethics overview: Known by its initials CN, Canada’s leader in rail transportation is one of the foremost proponents of corporate citizenship in the country. Among its myriad of sustainable business practices, CN is known for
- Using energy-efficient equipment and technology to reduce the negative impact of its business on the environment
- Its five guiding principles of corporate responsibility, namely guaranteed service, cost control through efficient resource management, asset utilization to ensure all assets are used efficiently, safety compliance, and world-class training for employees
- Governance practices and ethical business conduct
- Detailed environmental policies to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases
- A dynamic, diverse, well-trained, and well-maintained workforce
- Commitment to providing cutting-edge workplace safety standards and a secure environment
- Investing in the development of communities around Canada through multiple social programs
Notes: CN operates the largest railway network in Canada, and the largest intercontinental railway in North America; the railway network has connections to all major cities and ports in North America; it serves over 75% of the US population as well as all of Canada, coast-to-coast; CN runs passenger trains alongside its freight services; CN established North America’s first radio network, CNR Radio; CN once owned and operated a chain of hotels across Canada known as the Canadian National Hotels.
Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario
CEO: Gordon Nixon
Services: banking, credit services, mortgaging, loans, investment management
Total assets: C$751.7 Billion
Corporate Knights Score: 77.88%
Ethics overview: RBC has been recognized as a prime contributor to sustainable and ethical business practices through its dedication to the following programs and initiatives
- Operation of charitable projects during a time when many charities are being forced to cut spending
- Encouraging employee volunteerism in their local communities
- Policy to support the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases
- Working to support the design and creation of sustainable urban centers
- Promoting awareness of water scarcity and efficient consumption practices
- Producing research on consumer debt issues
- Providing access to basic banking for low-income individuals and families
- Promoting workplace diversity
- Ensuring corporate responsibility and integrity through accountability on budgetary issues and executive salaries
- Investing in community projects including (but not limited to) sports programs, children’s programs, aboriginal communities, emerging artists, and water resource awareness
Notes: In 2012 RBC was voted the best retail bank in North America; it was recognized as one of the best workplaces in Canada by the Great Place to Work Insitute Canada and The Globe and Mail; won the Globe Award for Sustainability in Finance; recognized as one of the best employers of new Canadian by Mediacorp Inc.; named the safest bank in North America and the 10th safest in the world by Global Finance; chosen by Euromoney as having the best private banking services in Canada and the Caribbean.