In the spring of 2013, I conducted a research project, titled “Key Factors Motivating Canadian Companies to Show Leadership in Sustainability,” to fulfill the requirements of a master’s degree at the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics.
I created a dataset of the top 30 companies (by revenues) of the largest six sectors of the Canadian economy (180 companies in total) and assembled and tabulated their sustainability activities on a massive spreadsheet.
The study used datasets from The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine, from Corporate Knights, and a review of each company’s Web site and/or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. All the Canadian data reviewed were for activities that occurred in 2011.
An increase in staff productivity? In this post I will review one of the findings: Revenues per employee are higher for companies taking an active role in sustainability activities – such as a Web site-dedicated section, awards, CSR report, and/or officially reporting on specific sustainability metrics – as reviewed and analysed for activities alone, not performance.
Below, I reproduced one of the charts showing revenues per employee for each of the six sectors under study. Our industry, news media, is part of the Consumer Discretionary sector, is one of the least active sectors in terms of “reporting activity.”
Nevertheless, the sector’s most active companies (top 20%) are still ......[more]
27 April 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O'Meara
April is Earth Month.
This is a time when newspaper organisations can take some satisfaction in knowing they produce a highly recyclable product (newspaper) and are moving toward more digital products every day, thereby limiting their overall impact on the planet.
Not so fast. The concerns about the air we breathe are now moving well beyond mundane recycling issues.
What we now understand better: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its third report this April, “Mitigation for Climate Change 2014.” Since 1990, the IPCC has released a series of such reports every five years or so, providing an update of what we know about the changing climate and its effect on our planet.
With every report series, the number of observations increases, the science progresses considerably, and the climate models rise in precision and accuracy. Thousands of people contribute to these reports as authors, contributors, reviewers, and observers.
The three update reports released so far are:
Working Group I: “The physical evidence of Climate Change,” Fall 2013 (video)
Working Group II: “Adaptation strategies for Climate Change,” March 2014 (video)
Working Group III: “Mitigation for Climate Change,” April 2014 (Web site)
The physical evidence of the impact of our changing climate on our ecosystems is no longer in doubt (see Report No. 1). The conclusion drawn is that the main cause of the change is the increase of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, which trap the heat. This increase is caused mainly by human activity....[more]
26 March 2014 · By Bob Hepburn
How much does an hour weigh?
With that provocative question back in 2008, the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, kicked off its first year of sponsorship of “Earth Hour” with World Wildlife Fund-Canada.
The partnership that grown into the news company’s longest-running and most successful sponsorship deals.
The Star is set to sponsor Earth Hour for the seventh time on Saturday, March 29, with the goal of drawing attention to environmental issues.
The mission of Earth Hour, which is now observed in more than 130 countries, is to unite communities around the world for one hour to reduce their ecological footprint by turning off all non-essential lighting.
Ever since the Star began its collaboration with WWF-Canada, the company has been asked why we do it, what we expect out of it, if anything, and how our readers perceive the initiative.
When we began the programme, our stated goal was to persuade one million Torontonians, and thousands of businesses and organisations, to participate by turning off their lights and raising their awareness of our ecological impact and the simple ways we can reduce it.
We asked our readers – both in print and online – to take part....[more]
05 March 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O'Meara
It’s no secret most media companies across North America and Europe are re-crafting their business models to account for a changing readership and new formats of reporting and storytelling. Faced with shrinking traditional revenues, we are finding new digital revenues while cutting costs through “right sizing” wherever possible.
Now for the bad news: Just as we are getting out of the recession and stabilising, North American media companies will be looking at new business costs coming on the horizon. Those costs have little to do with our business per se and everything to do with the environment. They are called the “carbon tax.”
What is a carbon tax? In a nutshell, it’s a tax on air pollution. More precisely, it’s a tax levied on the carbon content of a power source – the cleaner the power source the lower the tax.
Generally speaking, carbon taxes focus on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released when hydrocarbons are burned from coal, natural gas, or petroleum.
The point of introducing a tax on carbon is to force people and organisations to favour cleaner power sources to diminish the emissions of CO2, which trap greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere and ultimately interfere with the planet’s natural climate cycles....[more]
22 January 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O'Meara
When talking about sustainability, we quickly think of the environment. However, corporate sustainability concerns itself with multiple stakeholders: the environment, society at large, investors, and their recipients, as well as the organisation’s employees.
When referring to a company’s workforce, we often talk in terms of attracting and retaining the best talent, ensuring that staff remains inspired to do their work and are engaged within the multiple aspects of the company.
Research tells us engaged employees are not only more productive, but their level of engagement also has a positive effect on customer loyalty.
If you need to ascertain the research, go to your local library, access ProQuest and search for “employee engagement and productivity.”
After 20 years in the workforce as an employee and multiple years on the customer service side, I believe these conclusions. Although I am not a fan of words like “engagement,” I agree with the wider concepts.
However, today’s perspectives have changed so much – and we have the Internet to blame for this....[more]
29 December 2013 · By Nicole Rycroft
Editor’s note: This Sustainability Matters post was written by guest contributor Nicole Rycroft, who is executive director of Canopy, an environmental not-for-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the world’s forests, species, and climate.
When Canopy recently placed ads to bring attention to our campaigns in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and TC Transcontinental magazines, we did so with pride. By doing so, we felt we were reinforcing, in a small way, the notable sustainability leadership that these outlets have shown.
It’s no secret newspapers consume large volumes of paper – much of it originating from endangered forests such as Canada’s Boreal.
Yet over the past seven years, there’s been a steady shift in the environmental performance of the sector. Large media conglomerates, flagship national newspapers, and small alternative papers alike all have stepped forward to develop environmental paper purchasing policies with Canopy and engage their supply chain to advance large-scale forest conservation.
This shift is driving change through the newsprint supply chain back to special places such as the Great Bear Rainforest … and is increasingly capturing the attention and marketing dollars of advertisers. Canopy’s latest report on the sector, “Place Your Ad Here,” profiles these leaders and their actions.
We all know newspapers are undergoing a rapid evolution. There has been unprecedented change with content delivery shifting online and away from print. Nonetheless, print editions are still in large circulation and significant volumes of printed paper remain very important to the newspaper sector.
In 2013, North American newsprint demand was approximately 4.5 million tons of fibre, consuming roughly 50 million trees. Globally, the sector used 30 million tons of newsprint, equivalent to approximately 325 million trees – enough trees to circle the equator 30 times.
All indications suggest more than half of that fibre is coming from biologically diverse and ecologically important forests.
Publishers, editors, and reporters are well aware of the stresses on our forests; they report on the challenges and controversies daily. They are equally aware of the positive role they and their industry can play in securing a future for global forests.
As a result, visionary and progressive leaders in the sector are addressing the role of newspapers in fostering forest conservation, while ensuring a stable and responsible supply of fibre to keep the presses rolling....[more]
26 November 2013 · By Andree Gosselin O'Meara
On Monday, November 25, 2013, The Globe and Mail and Washington Post distributed the first North American magazine made with 60% wheat straw paper.
My teenage daughter came back from the movies on the opening weekend of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. On the kitchen table, she saw the cover of the magazine Corporate Knights and recognised the actor she had just seen mere hours ago.
Seeing her confused grin, I said to her, “He also invests in a company making straw paper.” She shrugged; this information didn’t fit the Haymitch Abernathy character she had just seen.
Corporate Knights (CK) approached The Globe and Mail this past August about a possible sponsorship in the form of insertion and distribution support for their upcoming “Straw Issue,” a magazine printed on paper made from straw.
To produce it, Corporate Knights had partnered with Jeff Golfman, president of Winnipeg-based Prairie Papers Ventures and the 2013 3M Environmental Innovation Winner for the purpose of printing a large distribution magazine on Prairie Paper’s new Step Forward Professional Grade paper.
The Globe and Mail not only agreed to sponsor the distribution of this special issue of the magazine, but also extended its distribution to the Globe’s Air Canada programme, which includes all Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges in Canada, as well as New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Frankfurt.
This issue needed to be seen by business executives around the world, and The Globe and Mail was happy to assist....[more]
14 November 2013 · By Tyler Hamilton
Of all industries, media is unique in its ability to inform the general public about the many impacts of climate change, the effects of air pollution, and other environmental and social sustainability issues.
Like all industries, however, it leaves behind a footprint that contributes to these same local and global problems.
So what is that footprint, and how does it compare to other industries?
The short answer: It’s difficult to say.
Intuitively, we know that media companies will have a lower impact than extractive and industrial sectors, such as energy and manufacturing, simply because the nature of the business is knowledge and content driven.
As major consumers of paper, some segments of the media industry – e.g. publishing – have increased their use of recycled paper or paper made from sustainably managed forests and certified by bodies such as the Forest Stewardship Council.
This, combined with the transition to digital publishing, is making a difference.
“This is in stark contrast to the advertising sector, where the use of recycled paper is rare and commitment to certification is weak,” reads a 2011 report from the Richard Ivey School of Business, which analysed the environmental, social, and governance performance of 81 companies in movie production, publishing broadcasting and advertising.
The report also found 50% of media companies have adopted environmental management systems to improve their environmental performance, though few are third-party certified.
Beyond this, however, it’s difficult to paint an accurate picture of how the media industry is performing....[more]
28 October 2013 · By Andree Gosselin O’Meara
In January 2003, a lawsuit was brought against McDonald’s by two overweight teenaged girls on the grounds that they became obese as a result of eating food from McDonald’s restaurants.
The plaintiffs at the time alleged “the practices of McDonald’s in making and selling their products are deceptive and that this deception has caused the minors who have consumed McDonald’s products to injure their health by becoming obese.”
The premise of this lawsuit was that the food was “physically and psychologically addictive,” and, therefore, McDonald’s was as guilty as the nicotine makers of the day. (Note: The lawsuit subsequently failed.)
Later the same year, independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attempted a unique experiment of eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days and monitoring the impact on his body and mood. The 2004 release of his documentary, “Super Size Me,” was one of the most damaging brand events against Ray Kroc’s original burger empire.
Fast-forward eight years. To dispel persistent rumours about its food, McDonald’s Canada in 2012 launched a bold experiment in corporate transparency and authenticity. The “Our Food. Your Questions” programme aimed to honestly answer consumer questions about the food, its content, its quality, its sourcing, and its overall safety standards.
Earlier this month, Richard Ellis, McDonald’s Canada’s senior vice president of communications, public affairs, and CSR, addressed a sustainability-friendly crowd in Toronto on this latest attempt by McDonald’s to set the record straight about the content of its food....[more]
08 October 2013 · By Andree Gosselin O'Meara
Business model re-thinking and re-crafting is all the talk in the publishing industry these days, and rightfully so. It is an urgent matter, as we now have run out of runway; we either take off or risk being grounded and relegated to irrelevancy.
A recent INMA blog post from Earl Wilkinson, (“News publishers redefine innovation through investments in people, culture”), stirred some discussions within our own organisation. It revealed that some staff bear the scars of trying to innovate when the rest of the organisation was not aligned along the same axes of creativity and rate of change.
The culture that impedes innovation and radical change of current business models is puzzling. Surely, the opposite seems scarier: Shouldn’t we be afraid to continue following the old business models?
Along with long-standing business models comes enduring assumptions. We need to modernise our understanding of what a sustainable business model entails. Traditionally it has meant financial sustainability: Staffing, capital investment, and current operations are capable of turning a profit most or every fiscal year, thereby creating shareholder value....[more]