Corporate Knights Summer 2020

Providing information empowering markets to foster a better world. Corporate Knights produces editorial at the intersection of business and society, with news and analysis about sustainability and corporate sustainability rankings

Corporate Knights
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3 min

RANKINGS A WASH I no longer have any interest in an apologist viewpoint for polluting companies. I want no part of corporate greenwashing where companies like Teck [Resources] can point to their placement on your rankings to continue putting profits above worker rights and polluting the environment. I am reminded of Upton Sinclair’s observation: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” For the third time, cancel my subscription. —Jim Pine, Victoria, B.C. CK: Many have raised concerns about advertising from companies that may not share all the values of our readership or indeed our own magazine. We have a firm policy against not letting advertising influence our editorial or our rankings. We are proud to run an operation that lives by…

4 min
lighting a path to the world we want

My great-uncle David Heaps bounded up flights of stairs into his 80s. While he never lost the bounce in his step or his wry wit, his counsel in later years was tempered by rebellious realism – no doubt the result of seeing rapid progress in the decade after World War II, which was subsequently swamped by the forces of conventional wisdom and groupthink that so often seek a reversion to the status quo. Two of Uncle David’s axioms replay in my head on a regular basis: “It’s a losing battle, but then those are the only ones worth fighting.” “Never underestimate the ability of powerful people to justify their actions.” When we look at the past 50 years, from the Vietnam War to our upside-down tax system (where those who have the most often…

3 min
oil nosedives while renewables rise

U.S. President Donald Trump has proven to have a soft spot for flatterers, quacks, polluters and coal companies. Little wonder, then, that when oil prices plunged in mid-April, Trump tweeted, “We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down” (the random capitals are his). “I have instructed the Secretary of Energy,” Trump continued, “to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future.” At the same time, others were wondering if fossil fuels even have a future. The price of Brent crude had fallen to US$20 a barrel, an 18-year low. Oil-futures prices in Texas, where producers were running out of room to store inventory, dipped into the negative – meaning some producers were paying…

2 min
naomi klein takes on “coronavirus capitalism”

Love him or hate him, Conservative American economist Milton Friedman got one thing right. “There is enormous inertia” in government and society, he wrote in 1982. “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.” Prospective change agents need to constantly hone their ideas, Friedman believed, so that when a crisis hits – say, a global pandemic – they can turn those ideas into action. And he was right. The 18-month recession of 1981/82 empowered U.S. President Ronald Reagan to embrace Friedman’s laissez-faire doctrine of lower taxes and deregulation, which saved the American economy – until an economic downturn began five years later. But two can play that game, says Naomi Klein, Montreal-born author and activist. Her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, exposed the crisis…

3 min
virus inspires demands for a new social contract

Soon after the COVID-19 lockdown turned normal routines upside down, a new insight seemed to arise almost spontaneously across the country. With Canadians being asked to accept unprecedented restrictions on their rights and mobility, and the economy and health systems cracking under the strain, many expressed their belief that there’d be no going back to “normal.” At more thoughtful levels, the response almost became cliché: the corona crisis would usher in a “new social contract” that would redefine how people and organizations help each other. In an editorial entitled “Virus Lays Bare the Frailty of the Social Contract,” the Financial Times noted that the pandemic exposed the gulf between the haves and have-nots – young versus old, workers with precarious service jobs versus salaried professionals, and frontline essential workers versus the managerial…

2 min
tesla promises ventilators but delivers mixed messages

After a rocky start, California billionaire Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, vowed to use his scientific superpowers to fight the coronavirus. But he’s ended up outraging and confusing more people than he’s helped. On March 16, Musk tweeted that the “danger of panic still far exceeds danger of corona.” As the Twitterverse roared its disappointment, a psychiatrist from Pennsylvania pleaded, “Please repurpose your factory to make ventilators which are needed ASAP. You have to stop being an idiot about this.” Musk responded same-day: “We will make ventilators if there is a shortage.” Torch singer Bette Midler summed up the mood when she tweeted back, “Start yesterday.” But Musk stumbled out of the gate. Within two weeks Tesla used its supply-chain expertise to obtain several hundred ventilators from China and distribute them…