For the fifth year in a row, Maclean’s has partnered with Sustainalytics, a global leader in sustainability analysis, to select 50 leaders in corporate social responsibility–companies who know that doing good is just good business. Canada’s Top 50 Socially Responsible Companies were selected on the basis of their performance across a broad range of environmental, social, and governance indicators and rank at the top of their industry groups.
PERSONAL, COMMERCIAL, CORPORATE, INVESTMENT BANKING, AND CREDIT UNIONS
Banks continue to face scrutiny for their lending and investment activities, including those related to environmentally sensitive projects. Some banks have effectively used their market power to back high-impact sustainable projects such as renewable energy. Credit unions and co-operatives are increasingly influential not only due to their prudent lending practices but also their development of local communities.
Example: Vancity (Vancouver City Savings Credit Union)
Considered a pioneer of responsible investing, Vancity launched Canada’s first “ethical fund” in 1986. In 2012, the co-operative approved almost $400 million in community impact loans—loans to organizations that demonstrate positive social, environmental, or cultural impact—representing roughly one-third of all approved loans to organizations.
ENERGY & UTILITIES
OIL & GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION, POWER GENERATORS
Energy and utility companies are major emitters of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants that contribute to climate change, acid rain and smog. As these companies expand their operations to higher risk and remote areas, health and safety issues, bribery and corruption, and community relations present new and urgent challenges. Recent industry collaborations have allowed companies to share best practices, develop common evaluation methods and accelerate significant change.
Example: Suncor Energy Inc.
Suncor Energy is a founding member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, a group of 14 companies legally bound to share solutions that mitigate the environmental impact of oil sands development. Through collaboration, the group aims to accelerate the pace of environmental improvement in the industry, with a focus on tailings, water, land use and emissions.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
SOFT DRINKS, PACKAGED FOODS, RESTAURANTS
In response to consumer and regulatory pressure, Food and Beverage companies are focusing on innovation and education to launch healthier and more sustainable foods. As demand increases across new markets, companies must work closely with suppliers to ensure safe working conditions and product quality. Natural resource shortages, climate change and waste management remain critical issues.
Example: Molson Coors Brewing Company
As part of its on-going efforts to reduce waste, Molson Coors is turning its manufacturing by-products in to fuel. In 1996, the company became Canada’s first major brewer to convert its spent yeast and waste beer into fuel-grade ethanol and, today produces approximately two million gallons of ethanol per year.
INDUSTRIAL CONGLOMERATES, MACHINERY, AEROSPACE, AND DEFENCE
Many industrial companies are involved in intensive manufacturing processes where employee health and safety is paramount. Additionally, the use of chemical coatings, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds results in significant greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous waste generation. Leading companies are integrating sustainable practices into early design decisions and product innovations.
Example: General Electric Company
In 2013, GE introduced its “GE 2.5-120” wind turbine prototype, reportedly the world’s most efficient wind turbine. The turbine uses the industrial internet to manage the variability of wind, providing predictable power, regardless of outside conditions. The new turbine is 15 per cent more powerful than GE’s current turbine model, while still minimizing sound emissions and gaining 25 per cent in energy efficiency.
GOLD, PRECIOUS AND DIVERSIFIED METALS, MINING, PACKAGING
As one of the most carbon-intensive industries, mining and materials companies face considerable exposure to a broad scope of environmental issues including emissions, waste, biodiversity and land protection. In particular, companies engaged in gold mining have to ensure the safe handling, storing and disposal of cyanide, widely used in the industry to separate gold from the ore. These companies must also address employee and contractor health and safety, and community relations. If poorly managed, these issues can result in significant reputational and financial impacts.
As part of its strong consultation mechanisms, Teck business units are required to provide regularly updated community relations plans and engage specifically with women and other vulnerable community groups. The company’s Community and Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights Management Standards provide guidance on ethical employee conduct within indigenous communities.
FOOD SPECIALTY, GENERAL MERCHANDISE, HOME IMPROVEMENT
When it comes to employee and contractor rights, retailers continue to attract concern from a variety of stakeholders. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions from retail facilities, transportation and logistics and waste management are key environmental challenges. Effective management of these issues directly contributes to a retailer’s reputation, which is of particular importance in such a consumer driven industry.
Example: RONA Inc
RONA’s Responsible Procurement Policy aligns with the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and states that the company will contribute to Canadian social and economic development. RONA gives preference to local or regional suppliers, including those that develop economic links with indigenous communities and who demonstrate protection of areas of traditional importance.
HARDWARE, SOFTWARE, SOFTWARE SERVICES, SEMICONDUCTORS
Given the industry’s rapid consumption cycles and continuous pressure to innovate, technology companies are exposed to significant supply chain risks, including worker safety and human rights concerns along with serious environmental impacts. Leading companies involve their suppliers throughout the value chain to minimize negative impacts over the course of a product’s lifecycle.
Example: Dell Inc.
For companies distributing technological equipment it is now feasible to create packaging that is cost- effective and environmentally friendly. Dell’s packaging strategy focuses on reducing the size of its product packaging while increasing the amount of recycled, recyclable and renewable content such as bamboo inserts. As a result, Dell has eliminated more than 20 million pounds of packaging material since 2008 and 75 per cent of its packaging recyclable at curb side.
TELEPHONY SERVICES, ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT, COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT, CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
Similar to the technology industry, complex supply chain risks present challenges, particularly the sourcing of conflict minerals. Water use, emissions, and waste generation account for much of the industry’s environmental footprint.
Nokia provides its customers with an online ‘environmental profile’ of their devices, including the materials and packaging used. The company also has strong waste reduction goals in place. By implementing reuse and recycling initiatives, five out of seven Nokia factories have diverted 100% of waste from landfills or are within 1% of this target.
TEXTILES, FOOTWEAR & APPAREL
APPAREL, ACCESSORIES, FOOTWEAR, SPORTSWEAR
Recent high-profile controversies surrounding industry working conditions have put labour concerns back in the spotlight. Throughout the supply chain, poor labour conditions threaten basic human rights and present reputational risks to consumer-sensitive companies. Moreover, environmental impacts persist, including high levels of water consumption and wastewater discharge. Increasingly, companies are participating in multi-stakeholder initiatives to address environmental and social risks associated with manufacturing and consumption.
Global brands have started to consider sustainable material selection as part of their design strategies. For its 2012 London Olympic Games sponsorship, adidas created volunteer jackets and shirts made from 100 per cent recycled materials and athletic shoes containing over 50 per cent recycled content. This totalled approximately 1.5 million adidas products containing sustainable materials.
TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS
AUTOMOBILES, RAILROADS, SHIPPING
As a leading contributor to global emissions, the transportation industry is subject to increasingly stringent emission regulations. Simultaneously, consumers face persistently high fuel costs. These trends are driving some companies to make improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and pursue innovative design. Social concerns such as employee safety and union relations continue to be highly relevant.
Example: United Parcel Services Inc. (UPS)
Prompted by rising fuel costs, UPS Airlines—a cargo airline owned by UPS—implemented a fuel conservation program that includes computer-optimized flight plans, reducing the amount of extra fuel stored and slowing down flights to the most fuel efficient speed. These efforts have saved UPS roughly $1 million in fuel costs per month while reducing its environmental footprint.