Are Divestments Working?

Old Pump

What We’re Dealing With

Divestment is “the act of selling off a business/es, or of no longer investing money in something,” (Cambridge Dictionary). Basically pulling your money from organizations that you no longer believe to be of sound investment, or that you have come to disagree with as a result of their corporate actions and operations. In the context of climate change, the movement to divest represents the growing trend to withdraw investments from companies that deal in fossil fuels (such as coal & petroleum), and consequently endanger our future and that of the planet.

Oil companies make up some of the largest corporations on the planet, and it takes an astounding amount of money to maintain and grow their operations. Not only do many of these companies receive considerable tax breaks and subsidies (as well as externalize the environmental costs), they also collect huge cash injections from private investors. These investors may be individuals, but often times they are management funds, or collective investments, from a large number of people who may not be fully aware of where exactly their money is ending up.

For many, this type of investment may come in the form of pensions savings, where the initial priority is often the financial return, rather than what organizations the funds are supporting. This pattern of passive investment on behalf of citizens is what social and environmental activists are drawing attention to with their call to “go fossil free.”

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What is The Circular Economy?


What’s made in Bartertown, stays in Bartertown

The circular economy, much like Mad Max‘s Bartertown, represents a model by which waste is not viewed as waste, but rather a source of power or material for something else. It’s essentially a closed loop system. The circular economy currently describes a pretty amazing representation of our desire to strive for zero waste, much like the natural world itself. Rather than the conventional means of manufacturing for a single purpose, with minimal thought to a product’s end of life, “the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimizing negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.” – Ellen MacArthur FoundationThis means we can use more of what we create, more entirely, and find a better, more constructive use for what is left. Brilliant concept, for whom we have the planet to thank.

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Discoveries from the Sustainability Reporting Conference


The Toronto Sustainability Reporting Symposium

In the fall I attended a conference on sustainability reporting. It was held in Toronto’s swanky financial district (where they film Suits btw), where leaders in sustainability reporting, subject mater experts, corporate sustainability chiefs, and academics, congregated to share insights and developments with regards the current state of sustainability metrics. It was certainly an enlightening, although simultaneously disconcerting, experience.

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Proof that Sustainability Makes Business Sense

TED Recommendation

Ray Anderson: The Business Logic of Sustainability

Ray Anderson has led by example. As founder and chairman on Interface Inc., he grew his company into one of the world’s largest suppliers of modular carpeting through the awareness and application of an increasingly sustainable business strategy (their aim is zero waste). As Mr. Anderson explains, business and industry have played the largest role in harming the environment, yet they also represent the size and scale best suited for providing solutions and amending the harm done to the natural world. It comes down to a matter of understanding.

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The Corporate Paradox

Film Recommendation

The Corporation (2003)

Understanding its Purpose

A powerful documentary about the role of corporations in modern society. Although a few years old already (as reflected in the graphics), the content is nonetheless very relevant and highly potent. It highlights the origins of the modern corporation, it’s stated advantages, and it’s very real disadvantages as displayed by some of the world’s biggest companies. The documentary raises the question (among others), that such misdeeds are not due to the some select bad actors. Indeed, some of these companies are still around, still churning out considerable industry. Rather, the filmmakers posit that it is the very nature of the corporation itself, as it is currently defined, that inclines industry to do bad.

If the corporation’s sole purpose is based upon an obligation to shareholders to maximize profit, does it not naturally follow that people and resources need to be exploited for maximum gain?  Despite being an immortal entity that is increasingly granted greater rights in society, a corporation has none of humanities’ morals and apprehensions – unless otherwise embedded.

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Questionable Ownership

Film Recommendation

Bottled Life (2012)

This admittedly disturbing documentary following the business practices of Nestle, the planet’s largest food and beverage company, with regards to how they pursue bottled water as a beverage product. As the documentary unfolds the view gets a glimpse of the manner in which this company exploits local environments, and corresponding governments, in the unquenchable pursuit of greater profits. While the realization of this corporate behavior can leave the viewer unsettled, it also encourages active involvement, as an informed citizenship (and consumer) can subsequently learn to make better choices. I encourage you to give it a view.

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The Business Case for Solving Global Issues

TED Recommendation

Michael Porter: Why business can be good at solving social problems

This has been one of my favorite TED Talks in pulling together the various factors that currently plague society, and simplifying it into digestible form. The speaker, Michael Porter, is considered a management guru and likely anyone who has taken any formal business classes has heard his name. His biggest claim to fame is the establishment of what is now referred to as the Porter’s Five Forces model. It is essentially a tool for assessing the various external factors that will effect your business. In his talk, Porter basically extents his analytical framework into the social realm. What are some of the biggest problems facing the planet today, and how can we solve them?

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How Do We Measure the Impact?

The Right Ruler

One of the first sustainability obstacles faced in the business world, is how do we measure it? Even after management has decided that the natural environment, which includes people (ie. the community), is an issue to their enterprise, many might find dealing with qualitative concerns more problematic and vague. The obvious question being, “How do we measure positive impact in a community?” As is often stated, you manage what you measure. So how do we do it? Fear not, there are metrics!!

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