Does Rio Tinto Alcan really deserve special recognition for hiring a woman as CEO? Given that women make up more than half the population and have been protected against discrimination by human rights legislation for decades, one would hope that such an event is now so commonplace that it doesn’t merit a mention at all. Same goes for Nike’s decision to focus on eliminating child labour from its supply chain, or BMW’s decision to introduce a hybrid car. Aren’t these things that companies should be doing anyway?
The reasons for recognizing them are stark and simple. In the mining sector where Rio Tinto operates, like it or not, women CEOs are still a rare find. Similarly, in the apparel sector, many of Nike’s competitors are still blithely unaware of the working conditions at their foreign suppliers. By the same token, BMW’s willingness to embrace novel technology for the good of the environment is still uncommon among luxury carmakers. It requires a leap of faith, for which the economic return is far from guaranteed.
It’s easy to sit back and say what companies should be doing. So is cynically dismissing efforts to improve as being mere window dressing. It’s harder to go looking for those companies that are leading their peers toward a more responsible way of doing business. Harder yes, but more useful too.
That’s why Maclean’s has partnered with Canada’s leading social investment analysis firm, Jantzi Research, to present our inaugural list of the country’s 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations. These are the companies raising the standard of what it means to be a good corporate citizen.
Whether it’s Xerox’s attempts to reduce waste by producing self-erasing paper, Bioteq’s system for removing heavy metals like copper from mine runoff, or IBM’s unique, socially progressive Corporate Service Corps, these companies have discovered that doing well need not come at the expense of doing good in the communities they serve.
Real change in the way companies operate happens slowly and often under duress, but few of the initiatives listed here would have been launched 10 years ago. There’s no doubt that change is happening. More and more, companies are discovering that despite the cost and the headaches, absorbing social responsibility into their corporate DNA helps make them more efficient, better able to market their products, and less susceptible to PR blunders that cost millions.
These are the accomplishments that change the world while no one is looking, and even the most jaded corporate critics have to admit that it’s upon these initiatives that a greener, more peaceful and more just business environment will be built in the future. For that, they richly deserve recognition—and success.
ALSO AT MACLEANS.CA The full list of the Jantzi-Maclean’s 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations
By Jantzi Research analysts Rachel Birenbaum, Heather Lang, Dayna Linley, Simon MacMahon, Bob Mann, Azadeh Sabour, Irene Sosa, Gillian Stein, and Annie White.
METHODOLOGY: The 50 Most Socially Responsible Companies in Canada were selected on the basis of their performance across a broad range of environmental, social, and governance indicators tracked by Jantzi Research. Most of the companies rank at the top of their respective peer groups in Jantzi’s Canadian Social Investment Database (CSID) or the databases of its global research partners, having demonstrated strong performance in areas such as environmental management, impact on local or First Nations communities, treatment of employees, and their record on human rights issues. Some are notable for their development and production of products or services that contribute directly to sustainability.
Jantzi’s research process includes a thorough examination of company documents, media sources, online databases, government sources and NGO research, as well as direct correspondence with key stakeholders. Jantzi analysts use a best-of-sector methodology to compare companies within a given peer group to industry best practices.
Each of the companies featured is either Canadian-listed or a wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign-listed company with significant operations or brand presence in Canada. A premium was placed on publicly traded companies listed on the S&P/TSX Composite Index and the MSCI World Index. Given that Canadian subsidiaries of foreign companies are inextricably linked to their parent companies, the evaluation is based on the performance of the foreign corporate entities.
Jantzi Research’s analysis is used by a growing number of institutional and individual investors who consider environmental, social and governance performance, in addition to financial performance, in the management of their investments. For more information on the rating criteria visit www.jantziresearch.com.