Insurance, finance leaders named among Canada’s Clean50 for commitment to sustainable development and clean capitalism

Several of Canada’s financial service and insurance professionals have been recognized for their efforts in sustainable development or “clean capitalism.”

Canada’s 2013 Clean50, founded by Delta Management Group, recognizes 50 individuals (or small teams) who they believe, along with qualified third party advisors, have made the greatest contributions to sustainable development or clean capitalism in Canada between January 1, 2010 and March 31, 2012.

Among those honoured in the 2013 Clean50 in the financial services sector are:

  • Tamara Vrooman – CEO, Vancity Credit Union. Says the Clean50: Tamara has led Vancity through a significant transformation to fully integrate social, environmental and economic impact into all of the financial cooperative’s operations. High-impact lending, environmental advocacy, engagement and education, and reduced impact operations are hallmarks of the credit union’s industry-wide leadership in sustainability.
  • Sandra Odendahl – Director, Corporate Sustainability, Royal Bank of Canada. Says the Clean50: Sandra has led environmental sustainability efforts at RBC since 2000, during which time the company has risen to be rated among the top corporations for environmental sustainability in Canada, receiving numerous awards for its environmental strategy and programs. Sandra believes that the only way to make sustainability mainstream is to integrate it into business and focus on things that add value, mitigate risk or enhance reputation.  For example, since 2010, she played a key role in establishing an internal working team to “green” RBC’s retail branches; she developed and hosted an “Oil Sands Day of Learning” for bankers from 17 global banks, with presentations from the NGO, government, legal, First Nations and industry sectors; she led a team that trained over 1000 bankers and risk managers on incorporating environmental and social issues into credit risk assessment; and she has identified and screened prospective grant recipients for the Blue Water Project. She is also a board member of Pollution Probe and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.
  • Mike Pedersen – Group Head, Wealth Management, Insurance & Corporate Shared Services, TD Bank Group. Says the Clean50: Mike led the creation of TD’s environment strategy, which embeds concern for the environment organization-wide and has made the bank an environmental leader. TD was the first North America-based bank to be carbon neutral. It opened the first net-zero energy branches in Canada and the U.S., financed billions of dollars for green ventures, created environmentally friendly products, issued major research reports on environmental issues and this year, launched TD Forests, a major conservation initiative. Mike co-founded and is a board member of the Greening Canada Fund, which has raised over $13 million to fund emission-reduction initiatives in Canadian communities. He has spoken at environment conferences in Europe and North America and, in 2008, created a Chief Environment Officer role within TD, the first of any major bank in Canada to do so. That role is filled by Karen Clarke-Whistler, a Clean50 Honouree of last year.
  • Barbara Turley-McIntyre – Director, Sustainability and Corporate Citizenship, The Co-Operators Group Limited. Says the Clean50: Barbara is responsible for embedding sustainability at The Co-operators. The co-operative insurer has committed to reducing its carbon emissions 50% by 2014, and to zero by 2020. By creating products and services to meet emerging risks associated with climate change, engaging stakeholders and equipping student leaders to be champions of sustainability, this focus has driven innovation. Since taking on the portfolio in 2007, Barbara helped the The Co-operators get onto the list, then sit in the top three on Corporate Knights’ “50 Best Corporate Citizens” list since 2010. Barbara also serves as a director with The Natural Step Canada, and as a board member of the Sustainability Environment Committee of the Canadian Co-operative Association. She is the co-chair of the North American Task Force of the United Nations Environment Program, Financial Institutions organization.

For more on this year’s Clean50, visit

Young entrepreneurs embrace worker co-op model in successful, environmentally friendly delivery business

As 2012 is being recognized as the International Year of Co-operatives, ILStv  sat down with John Restakis, Executive Director of the British Columbia Co-operatives Association, and talked to him about a group of young people who are part of what he calls the next wave of environmentally friendly co-ops.

John Restakis: Shift Urban Cargo Co-op is one of the more recent, newer co-ops established in B.C. They are located in Vancouver.  And it grew out of a school project from a group of students at Simon Fraser University in the certificate program for sustainable development—community development. They realized that there might be a way to provide urban, downtown delivery in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

They hit on the idea of trikes; large, heavy-duty trikes, with these cabinets that are capable of moving quite large loads through pedal power. It’s got a lot of press, a lot of attention, and it’s been very successful. And it really represents a really interesting innovation on a Co-op model that can be used to do something positive in a way that not only provides a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way of doing delivery services downtown, it cuts down on the use of cars, heavy delivery trucks; but, it’s also a worker co-op. So the young people that are involved own the co-op and they are employees.

And it was very appealing to these young students because it was a kind of business model that they really hadn’t encountered before. So, the worker co-op model, which gives them a say in how the business is run—one member, one vote basis—linked to its environmental focus, was a very appealing structure for this particular service.

And it’s very representative of a whole new wave of co-ops that are now coming into play that have an environmental awareness and a focus, and a focus on sustainability—ways of doing business in a sustainable manner.

You may also be interested in:

Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of  The Co-operators, discusses the role of co-operatives

History of the Co-operative movement in Canada

Co-operatives are the antibodies of globalization

Year of the Co-operatives launches across Canada


SGI CANADA, Tree Canada partnership to bring new trees to Saskatchewan

A new partnership between SGI CANADA and Tree Canada will result in the planting of more than 2,600 trees across Saskatchewan next spring.

SGI CANADA, in addition to committing to reduce the amount of paper used by the company, is sponsoring $10,500 for the initiative.

The insurer said new technology has already helped limit the amount of paper it uses.

“We all need to be conscious of the effect our business practices have on our environment,” said Andrew Cartmell, President and CEO of SGI CANADA in a statement.

“Last year, we introduced new technology to allow brokers to access our materials online, and this year, we are further reducing the amount of paper we use by eliminating the paper distribution of our annual rate manuals. These types of initiatives show how small changes can have a huge impact.”

Each November, SGI CANADA’s rate manual distribution constitutes 1.2 million sheets of paper. This year alone, by providing these documents electronically, the company will save the equivalent of 72 trees.

“Many companies are growing aware of the value to society of being greener,” said Michael Rosen, President of Tree Canada. “SGI CANADA has stepped up to the plate in this respect and Tree Canada is very enthusiastic about working with them to plant trees across Saskatchewan.”


Ontario, BC named Canada’s greenest provinces

Corporate Knights has given Ontario an A- in its third bi-annual Green Provincial Report Card, putting the province first in environmental process in the country. British Columbia ranks second, also earning an A-.

The organization, which focuses on “clean capitalism”, evaluated each province and territory using a series of 35 indicators grouped into seven categories: air and climate, water, nature, transportation, waste, energy and buildings, and innovation. Building on previous green province reports, this year’s ranking methodology used the most current available data (ranging from 2008 to 2011). The majority of the information came through federal sources that allowed for direct comparisons between Canada’s 13 jurisdictions.

The highest grade in the 2012 report went to Ontario, which received an A-. The province has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 6.5 per cent since 1990, making it the only province to reach Kyoto emission-reduction targets. It also received high marks for building green homes and embracing energy retrofits for old ones, and for continuing to maintain a vibrant clean technology sector. Saskatchewan and Alberta landed at the back of the pack.

“Despite Ontario and British Columbia receiving high grades, there’s room for vast improvement,” said lead researcher Erin Marchington. Corporate Knights calculated that if all provinces and territories achieved best practices in each of the seven categories that were measured the Canadian average would be 86 per cent, making the nation more than just an excellent student. But to pursue such best practices on a national scale will require much greater cooperation, collaboration and information sharing across the country.

Province/Territory Rank Grade
Ontario 1 A-
British Columbia 2 A-
Prince Edward Island 3 B+
Yukon Territory 4 B
Quebec 5 B
Nunavut 6 B-
Nova Scotia 7 B-
Northwest Territories 8 B-
Newfoundland & Labrador 9 C+
New Brunswick 10 C+
Manitoba 11 C+
Alberta 12 C
Saskatchewan 13 C

The full report is available online. (PDF)

You might also be interested in: Canada’s Greenest Employers 

UN and global insurance industry launch Principles for Sustainable Insurance

On June 19, while at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, some of the world’s largest insurance companies signed into a framework of sustainability that considers the economic value of natural capital, social capital and good governance specific to the insurance industry.

Signing the Principles for Sustainable Insurance framework were close to 30 companies from the insurance industry, worth over USD $5 trillion in total assets and representing more than 10 percent of the world’s premium value. They are joined by the United Nations Environment Programme and global insurance associations.

The framework aims to “green the sector” while providing insurance tools for risk management in support of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The Principles are a result of a six-year development process by the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI). In 2006, UNEP FI created a working group of leading insurers to study the impacts of a wide range of environmental, social and governance issues on the insurance business and sustainable development. This group was initially co-chaired by AXA and Insurance Australia Group and is currently chaired by Munich Re.

Upon the unveiling of the Principles, Munich Re CEO Nikolaus von Bomhard said: “The insurance industry plays a vital role in developing our economy and society. By managing and carrying risks, our industry protects the welfare of society and fosters innovation. Our industry gives its clients the promise that we will always fulfill both our short-term and long-term obligations assumed under insurance contracts. Therefore, our industry has a duty to act in a responsible and forward-looking manner. The Principles for Sustainable Insurance will contribute significantly to the sustainability of the insurance industry and society as a whole.”

The Co-operators Group is the only Canadian insurance company that’s a founding signatory. In her message of support for the Principles, President and CEO Kathy Bardswick said: “The insurance industry’s role in overcoming global economic, social and environmental challenges will be crucial to our ability to shape the future we want for coming generations. To be successful, insurers must embed sustainability into all aspects of risk management and, working in collaboration with all stakeholders, transform the Principles into practice. They are a foundation upon which we can build our capacity to support and advance sustainable development around the world. This is our generation’s opportunity. Let us make the most of it.”

Signatory companies will publicly disclose their progress in implementing the Principles for Sustainable Insurance on an annual basis.

You might also be interested in: Canada hosting UN session on sustainable insurance 

Future trucks may run on environmentally friendly ‘black liquor’

Narrator: Imagine a fuel that reduces carbon emissions by 95% compared to diesel; which is cost effective and produced from biomass. It sounds like an incredible scenario of the future, but it’s already a fact in a Volvo Truck’s field testing of the next generation bio-fuel, Bio-DME

At present, there are four fuel stations in different parts of Sweden to ensure that the trucks can run in normal commercial traffic. The Swedish company Chemrec is Volvo truck’s partner and producer of the fuel. Bio-DME can be produced from basically any biomass source. Chemrec’s plant in Pieta in the north of Sweden is connected to a pulp mill and uses its ‘black liquor’ a very energetic and completely natural bi-product from pulp mill manufacturing. Instead of burning the black liquor, which is normally done when used as an energy source in the pulp mill, it is gasified to synthetic gas, which in turn can be converted to dimethyl ether (DME).

The energy loss in the pulp production system is solved by adding low grade biomass in the forms of branches, roots, and tops from the forest to the biomass boiler. The system is very efficient and therefore minimizes the usage of biomass in the production.

Bio-DME can replace half of the total diesel production for heavy goods vehicles in Sweden. The plant in Pieta currently uses only 1% of the black liquor in the pulp mill. The potential in Sweden, and for countries like Canada, is enormous.

The project has opened the door to a future transport system. For the participants the next step is to make the full-scale production a reality.

Other titles of interest:

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