The Role of Business in Sustainability

This morning I gave a talk for the Niagara Sustainability Initiative on The Role of Business in Sustainability. It was great timing, since Ontario formally announced yesterday that it is implementing a cap and trade system to put a price on carbon. The audience was excited to learn more about the policy, and how it will impact their bottom line.

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Ideas for Ontario's Climate Change Strategy

After releasing a discussion paper on climate change, the Ontario government has opened it up to public consultation. Here is my open letter to Glen Murray, Minister of Environment & Climate Change:

Dear Minister Murray, 

Thank you for opening this topic up for discussion. I am excited that Ontario is taking a leadership role on climate change, and I applaud you and your staff for the work that you are doing.

Great job on the mission statements. It’s very clear what we are trying to accomplish:

  1. Establish Ontario as a leader in climate change mitigation and science
  2. Redesign and build strong carbon neutral economy, communities, infrastructure and energy
  3. Leave a legacy of a healthy world for our children and future generations
  4. Protect ecosystems, including air, land and water  

Since you’ve opened up the floor, here are my ideas:

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Divestment Won’t Sacrifice Returns

When I talk about ‘responsible’, ‘ethical’, or ‘sustainable’ investments, people often jump to the conclusion that they will be sacrificing financial returns. It seems there is an inherent psychology that assumes that cheaters, polluters, and exploiters will earn higher profits. Fortunately, this isn’t the case!

I crunched the numbers of my model portfolios (through Jan 31, 2015) and here is a table of the results:


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SolarShare, ZooShare, Centre for Social Innovation Collaborate on Community Bonds Factsheet

Looking to make the world a better place while growing your money? 

According to a recent report from the Responsible Investment Association, more than $4 billion has been allocated in Canada to “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”. This definition speaks to the notion of a ‘blended’ return whereby investors are rewarded with both a financial return AND a social / environmental impact. It’s a clear win-win-win for the economy, society, and the planet.

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How Sustainable is the Jantzi Social Index?

I often have difficulty communicating the benefit of socially responsible investments (SRI). There’s definitely a feel-good element from ‘doing less evil’, but I always felt compelled to measure it. In an attempt to quantify the impact of SRI in Canada, I decided to compare the sustainability scores of companies in the traditional S&P/TSX 60 Index with the scores of companies in the more responsible Jantzi Social Index (JSI). The results were disappointing. The weighted score of the S&P/TSX 60 is 65.86, while the Jantzi Social Index scored only marginally better at 68.03. 

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Divestment Convergence Presentation

Later today I'll be presenting at the Go Fossil Free divestment convergence at McGill University. Students from Universities across the country have converged in Montreal to share learnings and get inspired to keep pushing their schools' endowments to divest from fossil fuels. Here is my presentation on Strategies for Divestment & Reinvestment:

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Why I’m Hopeful Regarding Climate Change

On September 21st, I joined more than 400,000 people in New York City for the People’s Climate March. It was a remarkable experience. Marching was great, but the best was stopping to watch the stream of people pass by. It was so inspiring to see so many different people, from so many different places. Although each person had their own reasons for showing up, we were united in a clear voice for climate justice.

Lingering from the experience is a strong sense of hope. Hope that there will be enough leaders in time. Hope that we will avoid the worst case scenarios of climate catastrophe. Hope that an economic transition is coming. Here’s why I’m optimistic:

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The Home That Community Bonds Built

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) is a co-working space founded in 2004. I joined in 2009 as an aspiring social entrepreneur out to transform the world of finance, and in doing so, found my home in Toronto.

‘The Home That Community Bonds Built’. That’s what I like to call the big red building at 720 Bathurst Street in Toronto. People are always asking me to define social enterprise or quantify the impact on a community bond. Instead, I simply invite them to come visit CSI Annex and join me for a beverage in The Coffee Pub. A quick tour of the building, and they get it. When I tell them it was financed through a community bond, their jaw hits the floor as they start to understand the potential for community finance to change the world.

CSI is looking to buy another building in Toronto, and is expected to issue another round of community bonds soon. Anyone interested in investing can contact Leah Pollock leah[at]

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Investing Sustainably in the Financial Sector

I love clients who push me towards new ideas in sustainable investment. Currently, I’m working with a lovely couple in Toronto who hold the honour of being my ‘deepest’ green clients so far. They are adamant that not a single dollar be invested in fossil fuels, and won’t tolerate any banks who themselves hold investments in coal, oil, and natural gas. I can’t, in good conscience, let them lose out on the strong financial returns and diversification benefits that come with exposure to the financial sector. So I got creative within these constraints, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

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Don't let your money do things you wouldn't