Good Companies Have Good Indigenous Relations

Standing Rock #DAPL

With greater awareness of environmental and social issues investors have asked companies to report on how their activities impact communities. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports are standard for large corporations nowadays which let investors (and interested parties) see what the company has been up to reconcile any negative impacts the company has perpetuated. Increasingly, investors are asking for CSR statements to include indigenous issues since companies that ignore local concerns tend to perform worse, a good example of this is the recent debacle of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

In Canada and around the world, we are entering a time where the prudent company is the company that secures Indigenous consent before beginning activities, involves Indigenous peoples as partners, and works with them to establish a clear framework for ongoing relations in order to renew and maintain relationships. For investors, strong Indigenous relations are a marker that a company is a stable investment, with management foresight, solid partnerships and prospects for sustainable growth.

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New Fish Food Doesn’t Require Killing Fish

ocean shore

When fish farms kill their fish for food some of that food is ground up and fed to other fish as nutrient pellets. It’s well known that current fishing practices are really bad for the environment and that fish farms aren’t good for their local environment. Anything we can do to help reduce the damage done by fish (and eating fish) will make this world a little better.

A new company, NovoNutrients, has created a solution to the fish feed problem by addressing another global issue: too much carbon. The company has a process which takes carbon from factories and feeds it to microbes, which in turn grow to become fish food.

The startup’s process uses carbon dioxide, along with other emissions, to feed microbes that can then become protein for companies that make pellets of food for fish. Those microbes are similar to ones that evolved to live near gas vents in the ocean; the startup arranges them with other species into “microbial factories” that work together to make the whole process more efficient.

The company is also developing new microbes, using synthetic biology, that can produce particular nutrients–vitamins or probiotics, for example–that can also be used as ingredients in feed. All of this will happen in pipes that help the gases dissolve in water, rather than in the large tanks that are used for fermentation in a brewery or some pharmaceutical companies. The pipes can connect directly to a cement plant or other industrial emitter and then into a fishmeal factory next door. Hydrogen, which can be produced through electrolysis of water using solar power, can provide energy for the system.

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Baristas with developmental disabilities making brilliant coffee

Employees at the Coffee Shed's Surrey Place Centre location, from back left to front right: Mimi Yickman Yiu, Rachel Boardman, Paul Wong, Alexander Saab, Andrew Mathew.

At a local Toronto coffee shop, a group of baristas as tight-knit as you’ll ever find, brew up delicious coffee.  But more than that, the staff here are given purpose, life-skills, and a chance to make genuine connections with their peers.

 At the Coffee Shed, all of the baristas have developmental disabilities. And, thanks to an ingenious social enterprise model, they also run the place.

The Coffee Shed is part of the Common Ground Co-operative, which operates three such coffee kiosks in Toronto, a bakery called Lemon and Allspice that supplies the Coffee Sheds with their sweet treats, and a newly added toy-sanitization company, which sanitizes toys used in children’s behavioural therapy programs. The goal is for adults with developmental disabilities to call the shots and create their own workplace community: after training and apprenticing, staff members can get voted in as a “partner.” They draw an income and run the place as a business partnership.

And for the record — the coffee’s great.

Jennifer Warren, CBC

Check out this radio piece and article for more information, and how to support the Common Grounds Co-operative at their three Coffee Shed locations, and their upcoming bowl-a-thon fundraiser.

There’s Profit in Reusing Office Furniture

Office room

When opening an office a key thing to take into consideration is where people are going to work. In these modern times just letting employees sit on the floor won’t cut it. Buying furniture can be expensive and add a lot to startup costs, so an enterprising company has taken to selling used furniture.

When companies upgrade their offices they just throw out their old furniture -8.5 million tonnes of it went into the trash last year! There’s money to be had in saving that furniture from landfills, and that’s where reusing office furniture becomes profitable.

“In Canada and the United States, the purchase of new office furniture is in the realm of a $10-billion-a-year industry, so the amount of churn is exceptional, and for the most part it’s always been considered a waste stream,” said Richard Beaumont, vice-president of strategic accounts at Green Standards. “Through resale, metal recycling and charitable donations we, on average, divert just under 99 per cent from landfills by weight.”

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Uruguay Defeated Big Tobacco

Large tobacco companies that operation multinationally and earn billions of dollars a year off of an unhealthy addictive drug often fight poor nations. They fight poor nations in the courts and the markets when those poor nations try to increase the well being of their citizens by managing tobacco sales. Recently Uruguay won a legal battle agains Phillip Morris (part of Altria) through the International Centre for Investment Disputes – it’s a massive victory too!

First, the Uruguay case will embolden other governments who have the political will to fight the tobacco epidemic but have been understandably circumspect about the possibility of multi-million dollar litigation. But the fact that Uruguay won is not the only positive lesson from the case. PMI and other tobacco multinationals have nearly limitless resources – they can launch cases even when they are sure they will lose.

Second, Uruguay did not stand alone. Philanthropists (especially former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg), civil society and academics lined up to support the government, committing both funding and in-kind help. PMI’s vast resources and the power that unfortunately often seems to flow from immorality were trumped by solidarity and a confidence of being on the right side of history. David had only his sling and stone. Uruguay had a volunteer army. Mayor Bloomberg, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have already set up an emergency fund to support other countries who fall into Big Tobacco’s cross-hairs. Those governments can count on the same army of volunteers.

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Thanks to Delaney!