Wanted: Public signals, private capital
Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global temperature increase “well below 2 degrees” above pre-industrial levels will require private and public leadership to shift financial flows. Neither government nor the private sector can achieve these ambitious targets without each other, and without relentless pressure from civil society.
In particular, markets need proof and consistent government signals that investing in clean technologies, production methods, products and services will make more money than investing in dirty sectors. That is why countries such as the United Kingdom and France prioritize promoting the recommendations from the high-level Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. And that is why investors also need sustainable asset valuation tools.
Promoting the green
As part of the signalling toolkit, governments can help shape, focus and leverage market action through a new generation of green industrial policy. This so-called renaissance in green industrial policy can, for instance, use government funds to act like venture capital to help kick-start innovative clean technologies and markets.
Mobility is a vivid example in this respect: on the one hand, with the right signals from governments, electric cars have been quickly and firmly claiming ground, not only in the West but also in many developing countries. On the other, Volvo, the formerly Swedish auto manufacturer now owned by Chinese investors, announced that it will sunset all internal combustion engines by 2019.
Electricity generation is another area where markets have seen a dramatic change, prompted by government policies. The cheapest electricity is now from renewable sources, such as wind power at 1.77¢/kWh in Mexico and solar at 3.4¢/kWh in India.
However, a key challenge is aligning public sector leadership with private sector innovation and financing to scale. The October 2017 release of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) High Level Communiqué, including Blending Finance Principles for Unlocking Commercial Finance for the SDGs, is a helpful step in setting out the normative principles to blend or de-risk private sector financing to attract larger pools of private capital. The draft Green Finance Catalyzing Facility of the Asia Development Bank also sets out some operational elements to identify, pool and de-risk low-carbon investments.
China is uniquely placed to demonstrate how to integrate public sector finance with private market innovation in building a systematic approach to scale up green finance. Today, green bonds have reached an estimated USD 95 billion, with China being the largest issuer. While this is a tiny fraction of total bond market liquidity, green bonds in China represent one part of an ambitious systematic approach to building a green financial system that includes banking regulations, insurance, the stock market and other key actors. The potential to align China’s leadership in green finance within the G20 Green Finance Study Group to the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to amplify green development.
Demoting the brown
Spearheaded by Canada and the United Kingdom, the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), unites 25 founding governments in phasing out coal. The goal is “to accelerate clean growth and climate protection through the phase-out of… existing traditional coal power” and place “a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations.” With the PPCA launch seen as a “political watershed,” the emerging sense in the markets is that coal is on the wrong side of history, and even though it is clear in countries such as China and India, the transition away from coal will take much longer than in Canada or the United Kingdom.
But the jury is still out on whether oil and gas will be sun-setting in the same way as coal anytime soon. Norway is an interesting litmus text in this respect. The Norwegian Sovereign Fund, which, at USD 1 trillion, is the largest in the world, started divesting from coal in 2015. Divestment from coal has improved the fund’s financial performance, its managers say. In the same vein, in November 2017, the Norwegian Central Bank announced its recommendation for the fund’s divestment from oil and gas. The recommendation, which has already sent a strong signal to financial markets, relies on the similar —purely economic— assessment that the value of oil and gas assets would experience a permanent decline in coming years.
However, even Norway faces a dilemma about its future energy choices. Statoil, its government-owned company, still continues massive investments in oil and gas exploration and production and the government itself directly subsidizes coal extraction in Svalbard.
By contrast, an integral climate leadership example in this respect comes from France, which has announced a plan to stop granting new exploration permits next year as it seeks to end all oil and gas production by 2040. Although France does not have significant hydrocarbon extraction at present, its new legislation would not only put an end to its domestic debate on shale gas development, but it would also set an important precedent—a G7 country acting on the recognition that carbon pricing and other demand-side policies alone are not enough to respond to the climate challenge.
For governments, giving the right signals to markets is also not only about regulating them, but also about removing subsidies to fossil fuel production (around USD 100 billion per year) and consumption (around USD 260 billion in 2016) as well as stopping public finance to oil, gas and coal projects domestically and overseas. These subsidies artificially lower the cost of fossil fuel energy, leading to its wasteful consumption and, as a result, more emissions. Phase-out and reallocation of fossil fuel subsidies is a low-hanging fruit for financing climate action and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Instead of requiring financing, like many other sustainable development policies, fossil fuel subsidy reform could free up hundreds of billions of dollars for supporting health, education, renewable energy and a just transition of workers from brown to green jobs.
For the Earth to remain a safe place for us to live, the leadership bar has to rise much faster than the global temperature.
Every month, we ask different participants of our Leadership Winnipeg class to blog about their experience.
Each year, Winnipeg welcomes thousands of newcomers. They may come as international students, young families looking for a better life for their children, or as refugees forced to flee their homes. Each person has unique needs and stories, but they are all united in their desire to feel at home again.
Recently, the 2018 Leadership Winnipeg class had the opportunity to visit three agencies that support recent refugees and immigrants making Winnipeg a place to call home.
Our first visit was to the Immigrant Centre at 100 Adelaide Street. Stepping into the building, it felt like I was entering a trendy tech start-up, with beautiful hardwood floors and exposed beams and offices without doors. At 8:45 am, the front lobby was already busy with clients, chatting in several languages while sitting on the over-sized plush benches that lined the waiting area.
Jorge Fernandez, Executive Director of the Immigrant Centre, and an alumnus of Leadership Winnipeg, met with our class and shared the organization’s vision and mission. The Immigrant Centre serves all newcomers that arrive in Winnipeg, assessing their needs and creating a personalized plan to help with the settlement process. Clients receive information and services to assist with housing, banking, employment, language and nutrition. In some cases, clients access services while they are still in their country of origin through the online Pre-Arrival Centre.
Jorge is an immigrant himself and was a client of the Immigrant Centre when he arrived in Winnipeg in the late 1980s. Today, Jorge is what one of my classmates described as, “the happiest CEO in history,” and the pride and optimism he demonstrates for the Immigrant Centre was contagious. It’s clear Jorge and his growing team of staff and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure they meet the needs of newcomers.
We left the Immigrant Centre and walked a few blocks down Bannatyne to the Welcome Place, which is run by the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council (MIIC). The MIIC was founded in 1948, when Europe’s post-war instability and uncertainty led to thousands of displaced people and immigrants. Today, the Welcome Place serves the needs of refugees arriving in Winnipeg, including government-assisted refugees, privately sponsored refugees, and refugee claimants. In recent years, the Welcome Place has been dealing with an increase in refugee claimants crossing the border from the United States.
Felicien Rubayita, Co-Manager of Settlement Services, spoke to us about the unique challenges refugees face and the ways the Welcome Place assists once they are in Winnipeg. Compared to someone who chooses to immigrate to another country, a refugee is fleeing their country of origin because they have a well-founded fear of persecution. They rarely have time to plan, learn the language of their new country, or take many belongings.
Felicien’s story reflects this desperate flight. A former medical doctor, he fled his home country of Rwanda in 2008 in the middle of the night. When he finally arrived in Canada, he discovered he was missing one document to prove his qualifications and was forced to start his education in Canada at a Grade 12 level.
When a refugee comes to Winnipeg, they are met at the airport (or the border in the case of many refugee claimants) by MIIC staff and taken to the Welcome Place. There, their immediate needs are looked after and they are given clean, safe accommodations for up to two weeks. The staff works with their clients to process paperwork, locate housing, and teach them valuable skills for living in Winnipeg, such as how to take a bus or adjust to the climate.
Winnipeg has seen a drastic increase in the number of refugees coming to the city. As we toured the site, we could see the strain this has put on Welcome Place’s already busy building. Extra workstations were set up in hallways and the residences were full. The bedrooms were clean and functional, but basic. The Welcome Place provides each family with a care package containing kitchen items and toiletries, which is theirs to take when they move to their next home. It’s a small but meaningful gesture that helps their clients rebuild their lives in Canada.
We left the Welcome Place and walked over to Edmonton Street. In a nondescript building tucked behind the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, is Holy Names House of Peace. Founded in 2004 by Sister Lesley Sacouman, House of Peace provides a safe, peaceful home for 18 refugee and immigrant women (“Neighbours”) for up to two years. As we removed our shoes and crossed over the threshold, a quiet calm surrounded our group.
Sister Lesley gave us a tour, stopping to point out the beautiful furnishings and decorations that surrounded us – each item thoughtfully donated by community members or former Neighbours. As Sister Lesley explained, “I don’t think any of us heal in chaos… and so I wanted for them, a home that would be beautiful.”
In addition to providing a safe home for the Neighbours, Holy Names House of Peace serves the community of Winnipeg with a variety of programs, workshops and support groups. The St. Francis chapel is open to anyone looking for quiet and warmth.
Canada has a long history of immigration and providing refuge to newcomers in need. The Immigrant Centre, Welcome Place, and Holy Names House of Peace continue that tradition and each provide crucial services to Winnipeg’s newcomers. While they have different missions and approaches, each organization believes in supporting newcomers so they can heal, thrive, contribute and, ultimately, feel at home in Winnipeg.
Leadership Winnipeg is grateful for the support of our Vision Partners
This op-ed first appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.
There’s an outdated notion that support for business growth and success comes at the expense of social programs and community well-being - and vice versa. Nothing could be further from the truth. Business and community prosperity are interwoven. We are in this together.
That’s one reason The Winnipeg Chamber weighed in during the province’s just-concluded consultation phase on a new poverty reduction strategy.
The Winnipeg Chamber believes the best way out of poverty remains a good job. Median household incomes are close to 10 per cent lower in Manitoba than our Saskatchewan neighbours, and we lag below the Canadian average. Raising Manitoba’s median household income levels to the national average would constitute an over $1-billion income increase.
To create the jobs that foster this rise in income, we’ve pushed the province to develop a provincial economic development strategy – one that works in lockstep with a poverty reduction strategy.
We’ve also advocated for actions that improve educational outcomes, given the well-documented link between higher education and good incomes. Among other suggestions, we recommend re-profiling the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative and increasing investment by $14 million a year to offer significant tuition reductions to students from Manitoba families earning less than $70,000 a year.
We should also ensure younger students can actually get to the place of considering post-secondary. It’s critical we address a child’s physical needs so they can bring their whole selves to class. The Chamber strongly recommends Manitoba strengthen breakfast and lunch programs with a focus on our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, setting the conditions for young minds to excel. In a recent Toronto study of over 6,000 students in a high poverty neighbourhood, a breakfast program was credited with increasing high school graduation rates by 20 per cent. Not only were there more graduates, but they had higher test scores as well.
Statistics show Indigenous Manitobans face disproportionately higher poverty rates. A specific focus in Manitoba’s strategy is required. Our full submission included a number of suggestions around culturally appropriate, specifically tailored training programs to elevate education and employment outcomes aligned with Indigenous communities’ needs and aspirations. Likewise, new immigrants, who are projected to be a growing part of our community and workforce, need tailored programs to address the disproportionate poverty they face.
We also believe it’s time to revisit mincome and an overhaul of our social support framework. Other Canadian jurisdictions have drastically raised the minimum wage in a misguided effort to address poverty – the right objective, but the wrong tool for the job.
The Winnipeg Chamber believes a guaranteed annual income is a more targeted tool that may prove to be more effective in helping people meet their basic living needs. Such a study was done in Dauphin in the 1970’s. It is time for another, evaluating measures such as social outcomes and employment impacts. Perhaps the study may find a guaranteed minimum income actually works in reducing poverty while reducing administrative costs of the current myriad of social supports.
That is the key to the new strategy: focusing on what works. The province has limited resources at its disposal, and it should only put them into programs that have shown to have the greatest impact.
The province doesn’t have to and shouldn’t go it alone. Delivering an effective poverty reduction strategy will require partnering with the private and non-profit sectors. Both are ready and willing to lend their expertise and knowledge.
The private sector is well-positioned to build affordable housing options if the right regulatory and tax regimes are in place. The new federal housing strategy provides an ideal opportunity for collaboration, and we recommend moving to a housing-first model. While there is a higher upfront cost in providing housing for homeless individuals, having them housed can drop the cost of delivering services by 70 per cent. The long term savings are immense; Alberta recently estimated a fully implemented housing first model could save their province billions over the long term.
Another example of a skilled partner is Manitoba’s growing social enterprise sector. Several organizations, for example, have demonstrated effectiveness in re-integrating those with a history in our justice system into the workforce. The province has made steps in reforming our justice system, and we encourage them to work with our social enterprise sector members to reduce recidivism, which leads to savings for taxpayers.
There are no easy, quick fixes. We all need to pull in the same direction – a direction the province needs to provide guidance on. That direction needs to be grounded in a concrete, measurable goal.
So why not be bold? If Manitoba is to be Canada’s most improved province, let it be in changing the lives of far too Manitobans for whom daily life is a constant hardship. If we can do that, then Manitoba will be more than the most improved province – it will be the model for shared prosperity.
Read full Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Poverty Reduction policy
The Winnipeg Chamber: What does Creative Office Furniture do?
Stephen Ishmael: We work with Manitoba businesses to understand how they use their work spaces, the challenges they face with their floor plans and recommend the furniture that best suits their spaces and budgets.
WC: What sets your organization apart from others in your industry?
SI: Our team has over 34 years of combined experience providing furniture solutions to Manitoba businesses. In addition, we provide space planning services to help in furniture selection and layout to match your office floor plans. We also sell Canadian made office furniture.
WC: What's your favourite place to visit in Winnipeg?
SI: Assiniboine Park. It brings back memories to me of the many times I took my son there while he was growing up.
WC: What question are you asked most frequently by clients and prospects?
SI: Questions like, "What furniture can I get within my budget?" and "Where is your furniture manufactured?" I'll also get questions about the lead times for furniture delivery and if we can come out to measure office spaces - which we can.
WC: Why did you join The Winnipeg Chamber?
SI: I joined because I feel your team is really working hard to help make business connections for its members.
WC: What's your best piece of business advice?
SI: Always keep the customer in mind and you will grow your business.
WC: What's your best business success story?
SI: I worked with the CEO of a HVAC company who wanted to update their boardroom entirely to reflect the growth and maturity of their company to their corporate customers.
By working with our space planner we provided our recommendations that accurately captured their image and presence. I won their business.
The following piece was written by Phil Gass for International Institute for Sustainable Development April 17, 2018
“Fossil fuels are so much cheaper than renewable energy!”
“Renewable energy destabilizes the electricity grid!”
“Carbon pricing is just a way for a government to place a tax on everything!”
Chances are, if you have stumbled upon this blog post, you have also stumbled upon some of these statements. Perhaps in local media, or over dinner table conversation, or in a tweet with the hashtag #FakeNews.
This blog post breaks down four common myths about renewable energy and carbon pricing. Feel free to use these facts next time someone tells you that coal is the future or that carbon pricing is just a hoax invented to increase your taxes.
Facts are facts and, as you will learn, the truth is that renewable energy is cheap and effective and that carbon pricing is a smart way to control pollution and promote the shift to a strong, low-carbon economy.
Myth 1: Renewables cost more than fossil fuels
You have likely heard this one before—some version of a statement that natural gas and coal are so cheap that renewables don’t make sense and will only cause us to pay more for our energy.
This may have been true a decade ago, but not anymore. The cost of global renewables, (especially solar power) is plummeting (Figure 1) to the point where they now are on par with each other. Meanwhile, the cost of coal power is increasing around the world, as carbon pricing places a true cost on the pollution and health impacts from burning coal.
Furthermore, the fossil fuel sector’s dirty secret is that it is massively subsidized, which is part of the reason why fossil fuels are cheap. In Canada alone, over CAD $3 billion in subsidies support the production of oil and gas (Figure 2). Without these subsidies, the true cost of fossil fuels is actually much higher. What’s worse: these subsidies are paid with public money coming out of your pocket that could be better used to support clean energy, hospitals, schools, or just given back to you in lower taxes.
Myth 2: Renewables will destabilize the electricity grid
This argument holds that if there are too many intermittent renewables on the grid, utilities will be unable to meet demand—for example, during peak times, if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.
While it is true that renewable energy is intermittent, the more you build across a wider area, the better your odds are of getting strong average production. The sun is always shining somewhere, and the wind is always blowing somewhere. Besides, there are also battery technologies to store energy, as well as more predictable renewables such as hydropower, where water can be held back to support times of peak production, and biomass, where as long as you secure supply, you can always keep the lights on. Hydroelectric systems dominate energy storage capacity worldwide.
Myth 3: Carbon pricing doesn’t work
This myth takes one of two forms: either 1) carbon pricing doesn’t reduce emissions at all, or; 2) it only reduces emissions if a carbon price is several hundred dollars per tonne.
Quite simply, this is wrong.
Multiple academic studies show carbon pricing does work, even at relatively low levels. Several of these studies have looked at the carbon tax in British Columbia, Canada, and shown marked improvement in per capita fuel consumption and reduction in greenhouse gasses since the carbon price came in (Elgie and McClay , Rivers and Schaufele , Duke University ). In addition, the performance of the province’s economy has outpaced the Canadian average since the carbon price came in, further busting the myth of the "job-killing carbon tax."
Besides, saying we shouldn’t implement a carbon tax just because it will only be a low rate and have a small initial impact is akin to saying “I have to train for a marathon, so there is no point in running a 5k.” We have to start somewhere.
Myth 4: A carbon tax is just another tax on everything
The misconception here is that a carbon tax will just make everything more expensive.
The truth is that a carbon tax is a progressive tax, and an avoidable one at that. You can avoid or reduce paying a carbon price by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle or keeping your thermostat at 19°C instead of 23°C.
In many jurisdictions, such as British Columbia and Alberta, residents have benefitted from associated tax rebates and reductions to the point that the average person actually pays less tax than they did before the carbon tax came into place, and, as mentioned above, they can now control how much they pay.
In British Columbia, the government lowered income tax rates to offset the impact of the carbon tax. You can avoid a carbon tax by buying less gasoline—you can’t avoid paying your income tax. Finally, a carbon price also focuses on raising prices on things that are bad (pollution) and can make things that are good (income, jobs, renewable energy) more affordable, depending on how the revenue is spent.
Cybercrimes are growing exponentially, posing tremendous threats to our financial markets, undermining public confidence, violating our privacy and costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
A recent PWC survey found over half of Canadians companies have been a victim of cybercrime. Accenture found few Canadians know how to respond to cybersecurity threats.
Booth UC, in partnership with global cyber education leader Cybint, is answering the call and offering two online cyber literacy courses this fall. The courses are relevant for anyone including the public and professionals who are hoping to stay ahead of the growing trend in cybercrime.
Using a unique "micro-learning" concept for maximum retention, these courses offer a comprehensive overview of cybercrimes, covering terminology, best practices to protect against cyber threats, unique online search and analysis techniques, and methods to uncover hidden data and recover deleted data from around the web.
Angela Davis, chair of the business program at Booth UC, says, “Educating everyday users, employees or both on cybersecurity risks is key today. These courses provide that education and also include practical tools that students can start using today. In addition to our financial crimes major in the BBA program, Booth UC is providing unique opportunities for the community to improve cybersecurity."
"Cyber literacy has become a core necessity within the workplace, and the demand for expertise in the cybersecurity and cyber intelligence fields continues to grow," says Roy Zur, Cybint CEO and global cybersecurity and cyber intelligence expert. "Our programs are designed to provide cyber literacy at both the individual level and managerial level – creating a broad network of cyber expertise that extends beyond typical technical expertise and adds value in any professional or business environment."
Although the courses begin this fall, for those looking to secure a spot in these popular courses registration is open now. For additional information contact admissions@MyBoothUC.ca or phone (204) 924-4887 or toll-free: 877-942-6684 ext. 887
What is mindfulness?
The word mindfulness has become a buzz word in our culture as of late. We see reference to it on the front pages of magazines, we hear celebrities referencing it, and we notice people taking courses of study on it. The interesting thing is that many of us are not completely clear as to what this word means and how we can integrate it into our everyday life.
In a world that is operating at the speed of light, the concepts that are conveyed in mindfulness practice are extremely counter-intuitive to the culture we live in. It has been said that the average person checks their phone over 110 times per day, we are working longer, harder hours than we ever have before in history, and the levels of anxiety and depression are out of control. We have been culturally conditioned to believe that our success is equated to doing more, making more, and being more. As a result, we are living in a time where there are extreme pressures on individuals to find a proper work/life balance.
Mindfulness practice invites us to slow down and check in with the present moment. When we are living our lives at such a fast pace, it becomes next to impossible to truly be present. Our minds race from one task to the next and as a result, we end up accomplishing a lot less at a much lower quality.
Mindfulness practice however, becomes a lifestyle that promotes accomplishing more at a higher level by trying less. Some of the results of mindfulness practice are less chances of burn out, higher levels of creativity and innovation, and a renewed sense of gratitude, energy, and passion for life in the present moment. Mindfulness is not simply a check box on your to-do list. It is a practice that must be embodied in your day to truly experience its powerful affects.
How can I implement mindfulness into my day?
I would like to invite you to begin your mindfulness journey by trying a few practices throughout your day today. Notice what changes as a result.
Chris Hall is giving Winnipeggers the opportunity fly through cityscapes, tackle obstacle courses in space, and take a shot at chasing zombies.
Hall is the owner and operator of The Portal, Winnipeg’s first virtual reality arcade, which he opened in October 2016.
Just months earlier during a trip home to the United Kingdom, one of Hall’s friends he calls “a bit of an early adopter” invited him over to try his new HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset that had just been released.
“I was absolutely blown away by it,” says Hall. “As anyone who tries virtual reality, it’s beyond what they imagine the technology is able to do by millions of per cent.”
Virtual reality is a computer-simulated 3D environment where users are able to interact with everything they can see, hear, touch, and sometimes smell by wearing a headset and holding controllers.
The Brookhaven Experiment, a zombie-shooter survival game, was one of the first games Hall played with his friend where zombies run at you in waves as you try to survive.
“It’s terrifying,” says Hall. “I smashed [my friend’s] low hanging light with my hand trying to stab a zombie at one point.”
Hall says it’s one of the most popular games they have at The Portal now, and there’s a lot more space to play it than what was in his friend’s apartment.
“It was the level of immersion that I felt playing that game that made me think it could be a business here,” says Hall. “It’s an expensive kit, it requires a lot of space, and it’s at the early-adopter stage.”
This was the excuse Hall needed to go out and get his own HTC Vive, and with his wife’s permission, they began building a business.
Hall’s wife, who’s from Winnipeg, is the reason he made his move across the pond. He was drinking in a pub when he signed up for a dodgeball team that, little did he know, had his future wife on the roster.
“And the rest is history,” says Hall. “I’m a very proud Winnipegger.”
After getting help with his business plan from Entrepreneurship Manitoba and Futurpreneur, Hall was faced with the obstacle of finding the right location for his new business.
The Portal was originally called “The Portage Portal” because their first location was in an office building on Portage Avenue, but with their equipment set up and a fresh coat of paint on the walls their occupancy permit fell through.
“We were within three days of opening, and had no location,” says Hall.
After a six-month stint in a small, shared space on Corydon, they found their new and current location in Winnipeg’s Exchange District on the seventh floor of an office building on McDermot Avenue.
“I really wanted to be in the Exchange District,” Hall says. “I like being part of the gentrification of the area.”
Now they have room for two groups at a time and have partnered with Pizzeria Gusto and The Merchant Kitchen for help with the food and drinks.
“It’s good food, alcohol, and virtual reality at the same time,” says Hall.
Hall is trying to change the stereotype around gaming by strongly encouraging group sessions at The Portal rather than the typical video game experience of playing by yourself.
“It’s a social experience,” says Hall. “We want people to be able to have a drink and watch what’s going on.”
That goes for corporate groups as well as friends and couples on dates. Hall recalls his team setting up their mobile unit for the Young Presidents’ Organization holiday party in the basement of an Academy Avenue pizza restaurant with 36-hours’ notice… while he was traveling in the U.K.
“Apparently the plank experience – a simulation where you walk out on a wooden board 80 stories over the street – was a smash. The organizer reached out right after to set up a Christmas party partnership.”
Some of Hall’s favourite guests are a group of women he believed were in their seventies. They had their first virtual reality experience at The Portal with a retired game called theBlu that gives players the ability to explore the ocean and come face to face with whales.
Hall says the women took turns playing for over an hour.
“They were oohing and aahing,” Hall says. “The experience and the expressions that [people] make is absolutely fabulous.”
Prepared for The Winnipeg Chamber by Haley Hayward, a Red River College Creative Communications student.
The Winnipeg Chamber: How does the fact your customers are owners change how you operate?
Nigel Mohammed: As a financial cooperative, ACU employees recognize that we are ultimately accountable to the 120,000 Manitobans who own our credit union together. Understanding that they are our member-owners serves to underscore the importance of providing trusted advice, access to adequate and appropriate credit, competitive financing and investment offerings, exceptional member service, and ensuring bottom line profitability of the credit union to better respond to member and community needs. Our credit union success is measured by our members’ success.
WC: Can you dive into your commitment to be “socially, environmentally, and ethically responsible” in your practices? How has that influenced your choices?
NM: It starts by making sure you have people in the organization (from board to management to employees) who are aligned with our vision of “a world where financial services in local communities contribute to a sustainable future for all.” Then you integrate this commitment into your policies, strategies, and targets and hold yourselves accountable for results on all measures – financial strength, social impact, members, employees, and environment.
For example, we’ve worked together as employees to reduce our GHG emissions by 56 per cent since 2012. We operate branches in communities that have been abandoned by all the banks, like Winnipeg’s North End. We provide over $85 million in financing towards affordable housing initiatives to create homes for over 3,100 of our most vulnerable neighbours. We provide ethical investment fund options so our members can put their money to work in a way that aligns with their values, and we focus our purchasing power as a credit union in a way that also aligns with our vision. And at the same time we were ranked one of the top financial institutions in Canada for member service, while also winning a 2018 Top Employer Award here in Manitoba.
It is about being financially strong so we can provide world-class service and advice to the local owners of our credit union, while making sure we are doing our part to have a positive impact on the environment we all share, and doing our part to reduce poverty and create social and economic inclusion for all in our community.
WC: Finance is one of the most rapidly changing sectors in the world. What are you doing to keep up with evolutions in fintech and cryptocurrency?
NM: As an organization we continuously review and assess new market entrants and changes in technology. Rapid technological change is impacting the way banking is being done, and we need and want to provide our members the most convenient ways to continue to do business with us.
This constant evolution means we need to be responsible and efficient with our technology investments. We view the fintech space as an opportunity to leverage those investments to ensure we are providing effective solutions for our members. With respect to cryptocurrencies, this is an area we are monitoring with a particular focus on research and pilots related to blockchain/distributed ledger technology. We work closely with our Credit Union peers and partners at a local and national level to leverage economies of scale while also looking internally as to how we can most effectively deliver services to our members.
We know technology will continue to evolve our business model and we have multiple ongoing strategic initiatives that - at their core - are focused on how we can use technology to better serve our members.
WC: As an organization that helps people manage their finances, what’s your view on the current debt load Canadians have? What tools do you provide to help people manage their finances better?
NM: The current debt load carried by Canadians is at an all-time high and is concerning for both individuals and businesses, questioning how long it can be sustained. At ACU, we provide our members with MoneyFit.
MoneyFit is a simple, convenient and easy-to-understand set of tools that supports and guides our advisors through the collection and analysis of their members’ personal financial information. MoneyFit also helps our advisors present their findings to our members in such a way that they:
WC: What should attendees expect at the Member MeetUp on April 25?
NM: Chamber members can expect to hear an overview of banking solutions available through ACU’s Business and Community Financial Centres that support the success of local businesses and non-profit organizations. We look forward to welcoming all in attendance and sharing what ACU has to offer.
This piece first appeared in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Five Minutes for Business April 12, 2018
A few years ago, BC Comfort Air Conditioning, a B.C.-based company with over 45 years experience in mechanical HVAC services, noted employees were leaving the doors wide open in the chilly season for convenience.
One simple change—asking workers to keep that bay door closed—helped cut natural gas use by 65%, saving the company $7,000 a year and reducing carbon emissions by the same amount as planting 500 trees.
The company appears as one of 12 case studies in a new report, 200 Million Tonnes of Opportunity: How small and medium-sized businesses are driving Canadian clean growth, a report from Climate Smart Businesses. 200 Million Tonnes features stories from 800 SMEs in 13 sectors Climate Smart has worked with, offering real-world examples on how to cut costs by reducing emissions through actions like route optimization, paperless operations, heat recovery, employee engagement and more.
In another example, a company saved $65,000 in hauling costs by diverting 35% of its waste from the local landfill, reducing emissions by an amount equivalent to three tanker trucks of gasoline. A hotel chain in the Yukon was able to save $180,000 a year by upgrading its incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. Sometimes the company’s return on investment was not in savings but in happier employees or improved reputation.
Many small businesses, however, are short on resources but long on to-dos. When it comes to considering the sustainability of business operations, it can be intimidating to figure out that first step.
Luckily, there are tools to help. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet @Work program provides a list of activities and programs people can use to start the conversation in their workplaces. The WWF’s Smart Office Challenge focuses on IT, which as a part of almost every business and a significant energy consumer, is a natural starting point for sustainability newbies. The tool offers a check list of simple actions that can have a big impact. For example, cutting energy consumption from PCs by half can be as simple as getting employees to turn them off at night. More information is available in this interview with the Canadian Chamber.
The Canadian Chamber is also partnering with Climate Smart to help share its training program across the chamber network. The Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Mississauga and St. John’s boards of trade will pilot the outreach program, offering their members a $1,000 discount. SMEs that belong to other member chamber of commerce are also able to access the discount on a first come-first served basis. Contact Christine VanDerwill to learn more.
Flashy new innovations or clean technology start ups are exciting stories that make headlines and it can sometimes seem that is what sustainability is all about, but much of the time, going green can simply mean finding ways to use resources more efficiently.
When a business reduces its environmental impact by making better choices about how it uses energy and materials, some call it sustainability, but the practice has an older name: common sense. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.