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Investment giant's move toward sustainability offers hope for climate activism: Don Pittis – CBC.ca

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One of the reasons people are worried climate change will be almost impossible to stop is that pumping carbon into the atmosphere is simply way too profitable.

Even as new reports yesterday from NASA and the British weather service showed climate change had created the hottest decade in history, according to the traditional rules of capitalism, if companies make fortunes from digging coal and building pipelines, then nothing is going to stop them.

With so much money at stake, not only do shareholders and employees get onside, but governments may often be persuaded to actively back increased carbon output, even when they have evidence it will ultimately damage the local and global economy.

That’s why this week’s announcement by BlackRock — often described as the world’s richest money manager, with about $10 trillion to invest (no, the T is not a mistake) — is both surprising and encouraging.

All just talk

Although it is easy for climate activists to insist BlackRock has not gone far enough, the moves it has made — seen partly as a response to outrage that the company’s previous green talk was just that, talk — appear to offer evidence that business can be swayed by public pressure.

The news is especially interesting because, while global in scope, BlackRock is a U.S. company — a country where the Trump administration seems to be doing everything it can to stand in the way of climate action, from defanging the Environmental Protection Agency to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Australia’s government supports increased coal production from places like the western coalfields in New South Wales, though recent bushfires in the state have caused widespread devastation, with many pointing the blame at a changing climate. (David Gray/Reuters)

That is not the way things are supposed to work, and according to people like energy economist Mark Jaccard, it is governments that must be forced by public pressure to take the lead on climate change.

“You need to get climate-sincere politicians in there; you have to be able to identify them and you have to keep them there,” Jaccard said in a recent interview. “And it turns out with something like climate change, that’s really difficult.”

Jaccard is the kind of guy who supports anything that works to solve the climate problem, but, as he contends in his book The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, we must not depend on the motive of profit.  

Because of the low cost and high commercial efficiency of continuing to use fossil fuels, the only effective climate action entails voters forcing governments to change the rules.

BlackRock and coal

While most climate advocates say that remains true, BlackRock’s moves to cut investments in companies that earn more than 25 per cent of their revenue from fossil fuels, get out of coal, and require companies in which it invests to reveal their level of climate risk (sometimes called climate transparency) seem to belie the idea that corporations have no morals.

Many commentators scoff at that idea, including Ian McGugan, who writes in The Globe and Mail that “BlackRock’s Green Investing Strategy is Not a Moral Awakening.” Like many others, however, he concedes that huge protests specifically naming the company have likely influenced its change in focus.

It may be that coal is simply a bad investment today. But the fact that “the world’s most powerful investor” says so too makes it harder to ignore.

And while it is easy to say that green credentials are just an exercise in public relations, expressions of public morality, such as the campaign against blood diamonds, have had a real business impact.

As with all moral questions, the argument over whether business leaders are merely parroting a growing public anxiety to earn greater respect applies just as well to the rest of us. On the other hand, companies are not just machines. They are organizations made up of people, some of whom worry about the world their children and grandchildren will inherit.

And even in giant corporations, opinions on climate change matter. 

Also this week, James Murdoch, son of global media mogul Rupert Murdoch (and a company board member), made global headlines when he criticized News Corporation’s influential media outlets for promoting climate denial during Australia’s recent fires.

A BlackRock executive rings the opening bell above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange last summer. The company wields enormous clout in the U.S. financial community. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

BlackRock’s new position on climate is no reason for activists to stop worrying; as Jaccard insists, government rules and public pressure remain crucial. 

And as the company has outlined, one of the reasons to begin adjusting its portfolio now is that a groundswell of public and (some) government support for climate action means climate-unfriendly businesses will no longer be good investments.

For a company investing for the future, that matters.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” said BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in a letter to company executives.

Yesterday, the World Economic Forum, whose annual Davos gathering of the very rich and powerful which begins next week, released its latest annual risk report, titled 15 Years of Risk: From Economic Collapse to Planetary Devastation. Four of the Top 5 worries delineated by the world’s business and political elite had to do with climate.

In the past, the activist group BlackRock’s Big Problem have accused the investment giant of being “the biggest driver of climate chaos you’ve never heard of.”

And while it remains to be seen whether the company’s efforts will truly make a difference, at the very least, its latest move means a lot more people now have heard of them.


Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

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London Community Foundation tackling lack of housing with $20-million investment – Global News

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The London Community Foundation (LCF) is committing up to $20 million to addressing London’s affordable housing crisis.

The funds will be used to create a dedicated affordable housing fund of $17 million to $20 million to support the creation of more affordable housing options in the city.

“Adequate, safe and affordable housing should not be out of reach,” said LCF president and CEO Martha Powell.

“The shortage of affordable housing in our community is at a crisis point.”

London currently has a housing shortage of 3,000 units and more than 2,400 individuals and families accessing emergency shelters each year.

The fund is designed to offer flexible financing for community organizations interested in creating affordable housing.


READ MORE:
London is rethinking how it addresses homelessness and housing instability

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According to the LCF, a major barrier to entering the affordable housing market is the high startup costs.

LCF is proposing low-interest, early-stage, flexible financing to help groups with initial startup costs like fund assessments, land acquisition, and planning and zoning expenses needed before the first phase of a project can be completed.

This idea builds upon the concept of LCF’s $10-million Social Impact Fund, which has helped to create 341 units of affordable housing.

In addition to the $20-million fund, the foundation announced the establishment of a Housing Action Committee, which will identify organizations that have an interest and capacity to help create affordable housing but who need more information and financial assistance to develop their plans.

“We hope to help those already providing housing solutions and those who may be able to help,” said committee chair John Nicholas.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Kate Middleton and Prince William host glamorous reception for UK-Africa Investment Summit

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William a speech at the event in which he spoke about the important relationship between the UK and Africa.

“The African continent holds a very special place in my heart,” the Duke of Cambridge said in a speech after arriving in the Music Room for the event. “It is the place my father took my brother and me shortly after our mother died.

“And when deciding where best to propose to Catherine I could think of no more fitting place than Kenya to get down on one knee.

“Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to spend time in many other parts of Africa. I’m also honoured to be the Patron of the Royal African Society.

“And as Catherine and I have said to several of you here tonight, we hope to have the chance to visit many more countries in the future and share our mutual love of your continent with our children.”

Photo: © Yui Mok/AFP via Getty Images

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Supporting employees and families in crisis is a good investment – Campbell River Mirror

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Coping with stressful situations can be difficult at the best of times.

Supporting coworkers who are trying to process the loss of a loved one, marital separation, addiction issues or other life circumstances can also be challenging. While one’s co-workers, managers – even business owners – may be supportive and well-intentioned, they may not be equipped to adequately help someone through a difficult time or crisis.

It’s an issue more companies are addressing as a way to invest in their employees’ health and well-being, says Kelsi Baine, executive director and certified counsellor with Upper Island Counselling in Campbell River. Having a professional outside agency on standby to help employees and their families manage difficult times can be a good short- and long-term strategy, she adds.

Putting the ‘human’ into HR

If you oversee human resources for your company, no matter what its size, knowing how to respond when a staff member needs personal help can be tricky. Baine says many of her member companies learned about UIC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program through conversations and referrals from other HR professionals.

“For those in HR, when someone is struggling in their office, they want to support them, but they recognize they’re not a counsellor,” Baine says. “So they want to have a trusted and effective resource they can suggest as a way to best help them. Sometimes we’ve heard that one HR director will tell another, ‘if you don’t have this resource in your back pocket, you’re missing out.’”

Getting people the help they need

Brian Cruise, of Cruise HR Solutions, works with employers on ways to better support their staff. He agrees managers often struggle to help employees deal with personal issues that may be affecting their work.

“Those of us in the HR world, we’re not trained counsellors, so you often hesitate to involve yourself with employees because it’s unfamiliar turf,” he says. Not only that, he adds, employees can be reluctant to divulge personal struggles fearing that doing so may reflect badly on their work performance. “People are much more likely to talk openly and honestly with someone not connected with their workplace.”

Healthy workers mean healthy companies

With company owners or upper management focusing on running the business, it’s often operational staff who initiate discussions about the need for outside resources, Baine says.

“Frontline workers know when something is going on in someone’s life that requires taking time off or the availability of counselling supports,” she says. “When requests for more supportive services come from the ground up, many employers are receptive – they see it as a wise investment in their people, and we couldn’t agree more.”

If you’d like to find out how Upper Island Counselling can help you, your family and the people you work with, visit uics.ca or call 250-287-2266.

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