New report from nonprofit asks Canadian businesses to put money before money

Amid efforts to overcome the challenges caused by COVID-19 and climate change, the conversation about modernizing the Canadian economy and strengthening relationships between people and businesses has intensified, said Brian Gallant, former Premier of New Brunswick and co-author of the Global Canada report.James West / The Canadian Press

New report asks Canadian businesses to think about their purpose, rather than just profit.

Global Canada, a Montreal-based nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the country’s role on the world stage, has launched a public appeal to Canadian businesses, urging them to adopt social and environmental policies or risk being left behind.

“This should be a huge wake-up call to any business executive or board member who thinks he can cover up the problem of making profits at the expense of the well-being of the company,” he said. said Robert Greenhill, co-author and president of Global Canada. “It’s real, and it’s going to get more real every month.”

The main recommendation of the report is that every Canadian business should have a clear purpose beyond money. It also recommends that Canadian businesses make time-bound public commitments to meet their social and environmental goals, play a greater role in global initiatives, and align with the United Nations sustainable development goals. The UN targets consider 17 problems, including poverty, education, gender equality and climate action.

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Ninety prominent Canadians were interviewed for the report, including former Governor General David Johnston, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty, Senator Hassan Yussuff, Federal Deputy Minister of Finance Michael Sabia and former President of the United Nations Association in Canada, Kate White.

Some of Canada’s most prominent business and association leaders also attended, including leaders from Siemens Canada, Cogeco Inc., Suncor, McCain Foods, Hydro-Quebec, Desjardins Group, Nutrien and Unifor.

Amid efforts to overcome the challenges caused by COVID-19 and climate change, the conversation about modernizing the Canadian economy and strengthening relationships between people and businesses has intensified, said Brian Gallant, former Premier of New Brunswick and co-author of the report.

“There is a movement brewing,” Gallant said. “Canadian companies should step in for moral reasons, but also for economic reasons. If they don’t, they’re going to have challenges in the months and years to come.

At a time when business leaders feel more pressure to generate wealth, said Greenhill, this report is a reminder that there is a strong business case for environmental and social governance (ESG) – and that this is partly coming from the younger generation.

Large investors lack confidence in ESG promises

“When we asked executives, the biggest source of pressure to switch to ESG was not the customers, but the employees,” said Greenhill. “As this young generation of Canadians gains more power as voters and investors, just making a profit, while essential, is no longer enough. “

According to Olaf Weber, Research Chair in Sustainable Finance at the University of Waterloo, companies often view ESG policy making as a risk mitigation tactic.

“It’s less about doing good, and more about realizing that if they don’t fix these problems, they will lose customers, have slower sales and have a worse reputation,” said Professor Weber.

However, he adds that Canadian companies showed poor performance in terms of reporting on their environmental commitments.

Indeed, Canada has been criticized for being one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. A recent report produced by the Hot or Cool Institute, a Berlin-based sustainability think tank, showed that Canada is lagging behind when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint. Out of 10 countries representing a range of economic models, the report found that Canada had the worst emissions per capita. Notably, the United States and Australia, also large emitters, were not included in the report.

Nonetheless, 60 percent of respondents to the Global Canada report identified climate change as the most pressing problem facing Canadian businesses.

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