Maclean’s Green 30 is a really weird list

The current issue of Maclean’s magazine includes a list of what Maclean’s calls Canada’s Green 30, implying that these are, or are at least among, the greenest companies in Canada. A quick glance at the list left GallonDaily wondering how this very strange list had been compiled. Most notably, there is not a single Canadian manufacturer or energy company on the list nor is there a single company that supplies or operates green technology. There are seven financial service companies and four insurance companies. Almost all of the remaining 19 companies are in a service business: recruitment, marketing, retirement residences, equipment leasing, corporate recognition, management consulting, general contracting, legal services, and so on. In other words, companies that have almost all of their operations inside one or more offices.

Gallondaily is not at all down on office-based companies. After all, GallonDaily is published out of an office, and we certainly encourage office-based companies to do everything possible to increase their level of social responsibility and to lower their environmental footprint. However, the kind of initiatives listed in the Maclean’s article fall far short of being the leading business environmental initiatives in Canada. Maclean’s gives credit to the Green 30 companies for the following initiatives, among quite a few others that are similar:

  • conducting Skype interviews with candidates to avoid transportation costs
  • electronic documents has eliminated more than 50 per cent of print versions
  • standardized printing has saved the equivalent of 40 trees and nearly 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity last year
  • recycling and take-back programs provide customers with no-cost ways to manage their electronic waste
  • volunteer day off included cleaning up the nearby Lake Ontario shoreline
  • office bicycles let staff run errands without the hassle of driving a car
  • recycling centres on each floor
  • energy consumption has been cut with the help of sensor light switches, low-flow toilets and efficient light bulbs
  • so employees don’t have to drive off-site for food, headquarters has free coffee machines and a café serving breakfast and lunch
  • offices are close to public transit, and provide lockers and showers for cyclists
  • every Earth Day, the firm schedules a general office cleanup, complete with big recycling bins and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies
  • a goal in 2013 of eliminating two-thirds of business travel in five years
  • promotes responsible investing by encouraging businesses to disclose statistics on carbon emissions and water management

All of these are positive initiatives but not one of them is ground-breaking, not one of them, or even two or three of them, qualifies a company to be a leading edge green company, and there are hundreds of Canadian companies undertaking similar, if not more and better, initiatives.

Maclean’s does not provide any information on the criteria for a company being included on the Green 30 list except that it is “a collection of Canadian businesses whose employees, according to consulting firm Aon Hewitt, are most positive about their record of environmental stewardship”. Information on how companies were evaluated for inclusion in the Green 30 list is not included in the Maclean’s article nor could we find it on the Aon Hewitt website, though Aon Hewitt does say that the starting point was the Best Employers in Canada and Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada 2014 studies.

If the Maclean’s Green 30 list inspires a few more Canadian companies to take the small green steps that those on the list have taken, then GallonDaily is all for it. But if one of the companies on the Green 30 list starts promoting its inclusion on the list, the it is time to call the list the farce that it is. If Maclean’s wants to repeat the Green 30 list in 2015 it should provide transparent green criteria that go beyond employee opinions (after all, few employees of any ‘best employer’ company are likely to say that their employer is an environmental pig) and a named independent judging panel of real sustainability experts.

The Maclean’s Green 30 article is available, likely for a limited time, at http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/green-where-it-counts-the-green-30/ 

Aon Hewitt describes itself as a company which “empowers organizations and individuals to secure a better future through innovative talent, retirement and health solutions. We advise, design and execute a wide range of solutions that enable clients
to cultivate talent to drive organizational and personal performance and growth, navigate retirement risk while providing new levels of financial security, and redefine health solutions for greater choice, affordability and wellness.” Its news release about the study is at http://www.aon.ca/surveys/BES/Green30-2014.pdf

Aon’s sustainability reporting appears to be a one page statement at http://www.aon.com/about-aon/corporate-citizenship/sustainability.jsp. There are no annual sustainability reports and no measured sustainability progress indicators in the Company’s investor relations web site. If the one page statement is all there is, then Aon still has as long a way to go to becoming an expert corporate sustainability practitioner.

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