A Need to Create Corporate Climate Accountability in Canada Webinar Recap
We’re excited to organize A Need to Create Corporate Climate Accountability in Canada webinar featuring 1% for the Planet’s Kate Williams, CEO, and Ecojustice’s Alan Andrews, Program Director, and Devon Page, Executive Director, on April 20, 2022. See below for the recording or continue reading for the webinar recap.
The Beginning of the Giving Back Movement
1% for the Planet was founded by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, in 2002. Although they had both built “giving back” into their companies, they felt like most other businesses are not putting greater emphasis on giving back. They wanted to shift giving back from being just an extra thing you do at the end of the year to being a core part of doing business – like paying staff and rent, giving 1% of revenue should inevitably be part of running a business. Thus, 1% for the Planet was born.
1% for the Planet’s Model
1% for the Planet’s model comprises of three elements: advise, certify, and amplify.
1% for the Planet engages with their members and advises them on their giving strategies. Some members know what they want to do and just need some support in connecting with partners. Others have never given before and need help in creating an environmental giving strategy that aligns with their brand, business outcomes, and employees’ passions.
1% for the Planet has a team that vets environmental non-profits before entering 1% for the Planet’s network. Every certified donation from a 1% for the Planet member must go to an environmental non-profit that has been approved to be part of the 1% of the Planet network, such as Ecojustice.
Additionally, every member has to go through an annual certification process where they need to provide documentation of their revenue and the giving they have done. This process holds members accountable to their commitments and pledges, as members are annually checked to ensure they uphold their giving based on their revenues.
1% for the Planet works with their member network to tell the story of all the giving that’s happening. Sharing the narrative around corporate giving that’s certified by a third party is important, as consumers want to know where their dollars are going and know that the claims being made by businesses are legit. Communicating these stories to our consumers allows them to see, believe, and understand how their dollars can create change. The more we’re able to equip consumers with how they can make choices that drive change through consumer purchases, the more powerful this movement can be.
The Intersectionality of Environmentalism
Over the past few years, environmental and social issues have been more and more connected. 1% for the Planet has recently focused on expanding the boundaries of how they define the environment and environmental non-profits. They’re using UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework to help them in their process of vetting environmental non-profits, so they can make clearer connections to things such as poverty and the environment.
For instance, in the past, if a 1% for the Planet member wanted to give to a food bank, 1% for the Planet wouldn’t allow it, as the food bank was not seen as an environmental non-profit. However, nowadays, most food banks are diverting food from waste, which is connected to the reduction in greenhouse gases. Food banks is one example of an intersectional non-profit, as they’re both reducing greenhouse gases and addressing hunger for those who are underserved.
Launching Planet Impact Fund
1% for the Planet launched the Planet Impact Fund in partnership with National Philanthropic Trust. Open to both members and non-members, donations are accepted to 1% for the Planet, and they then create grants given to a select portfolio of non-profits every year. The idea is to accelerate the impact alongside their existing membership model.
Although the world faced a global crisis the past couple of years, 1% for the Planet saw significant growth in business memberships in 2020 and 2021. 1% for the Planet hopes to continuously grow, as more growth means more giving and more impact.
Ecojustice – Canada’s Largest Environmental Law Charity
Ecojustice started in 1990 with one lawyer and now has grown to more than 70 people, 29 of whom are lawyers and some scientists. Ecojustice’s mission is to use the power of law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment for all of us. They do that by primarily specializing in strategic public interest litigation. That means suing governments and corporations when they break the laws that are meant to protect the air, water, land, and climate we all depend on. Ecojustice also works on environmental law reform to strengthen our environmental laws and help craft new ones.
Ecojustice’s model is representing clients, ranging from other environmental non-profits to indigenous groups, grassroots community organizations, and individual Canadians, free of charge. They are 100% donor-funded – that means receiving funding from individual supporters, foundations, and environmentally-conscious companies, such as Cove. They also don’t accept any government grants or funding from industry groups who may become defendants in their legal action.
A Strong Victory for Climate Accountability
Ecojustice was instrumental in Canada’s passing of Bill C-16, Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. Ecojustice helped draft the legislation requiring the government to articulate a clear plan on how they’re going to meet their climate commitments. Canada has commonly made commitments to achieving a climate target on the national and international stage and they have failed to meet every one of them, thus, accountability is a must in the country. Seeing the federal government introduce this legislation is a huge win, and lays the foundation for Ecojustice’s next plan…
Need for Canadian Corporate Climate Accountability
The next phase in climate accountability in the country is extending it to the corporate and financial sectors and giving Canadians the tools to hold their companies and financial institutions accountable for delivering their climate promises.
Although Canada has signed the Paris Agreement and has made a lot of promising commitments on climate change, our country has been a massive supporter of fossil fuels; we are the second largest public financier in fossil fuels, just behind China, and Canadian financial institutions continue to be some of the biggest fossil fuel funders in the world.
At the same time, many banks and financial institutions are attempting to greenwash their actions. They consistently claim to be aligned with climate goals set by the Paris Agreement, and recently committed to a new initiative at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow (GFANZ, standing for Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero), which commits them to come forward with targets and plans that align with the Paris Agreement. However, it gives them a very generous timeline for completing their targets, and so far, we have not seen any credible plans on their end, but rather, seeing them double down on fossil fuel finance.
What Does Corporate Climate Accountability Look Like?
The goal is to have business operations align with the 1.5 degree objective set by the Paris Agreement. To do so, Ecojustice has set out three elements that need to be in place: standardizing climate disclosure, creating science-based smaller-sized targets, and having credible plans.
Standardizing Climate Disclosure
Climate change bears a huge financial risk to companies and financial institutions, so the starting point is to require uniform disclosure and calculation of the climate-related financial risks. Since climate change is complex and a highly uncertain phenomenon, it is very difficult for the market to accurately price risk in this way, which is why disclosure is just a starting point; more still needs to be done.
Creating Science-Based Smaller-Sized Targets
We see a lot of companies committed to being net-zero by 2050, but what’s more meaningful is the interim targets that make an impact on day-to-day business decisions. Having both long-term and short-term goals be science-based is important, as well.
Having Credible Plans
Targets are meaningless if they don’t drive action. A credible plan needs to be in place to achieve these targets. A framework to building a credible plan is what Ecojustice succeeded in introducing to the government with the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. With Bill C-16 acting as a blueprint, similar logic can be applied to corporations.
Going for the Big Players
Ecojustice has begun taking action by focusing on the 10 largest public pension funds in Canada. And that’s for one big, very good reason alone – these pension funds hold trillions of dollars in assets. The leverage they have over the companies they invest in is enormous and influencing them means influencing the entire Canadian economy.
Ecojustice has written to the 10 pension funds outlining what they think the fiduciary duties should be for pension fund administrators when it comes to climate change and asking pointed questions about how the pension funds are planning to align with the Paris Agreement. So far, Ecojustice has received nine responses. They’re currently going through the responses and will be sending follow-up responses, drilling down on what they want to see from these pension funds. The next phase could be litigation against one of the pension funds or elsewhere in the pension world so that ground-breaking precedence can be established, setting the fiduciary duties expected of pension funds when it comes to climate change.
Support Corporate Climate Accountability
Ecojustice is taking real steps in ensuring that the largest offenders in climate change are held accountable to the climate commitments they’re making. Focusing on the big players is important in transitioning where investments go. Trillions of dollars need to be moved away from fossil fuel and other climate-harmful investments to drive real, revolutionary changes. To support Ecojustice’s journey in tackling corporate climate accountability, donate to our fundraiser or donate to them directly. To become a member of 1% for the Planet and include the commitment of giving into your business, visit them here.