Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 18, No. 2, December 17, 2013

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In this issue we touch on some of the issues that fall under the general heading of environmental democracy, especially including where some actions are leading to shining light into dark corners to help change behaviours hopefully for the better for people and the planet.

We look at a range of interesting topics on this theme, including the David Suzuki Foundation's efforts to entrench the right to a clean environment in the Canadian constitution, the Liberals' claim that the Conservatives are selling out the environment, the chemical industry's past support for chemical weapons, the Agent Orange mess, one area of environmental stock index failure, Fox's greenhouse gas emissions reduction program (is it 21st Century Fox company or Fox television news commentators that are hypocrites?), a State lawsuit against food industry political action in Washington State, the problem of mercury pollution around the world, oil and gas industry environmental disclosure, and the Sustainable Electricity Company brand.

We also review the WTO decision against Canadian non-indigenous seal products, a possible major game-changer in other ethically-based trade matters, and the Communities in Bloom program. We review a new book called Green Birding, a website on greening corporate grounds, the federal commitment to ‛circling of wagons', and a guide to responsible business engagement in climate change policy. We report on the CP Rail Holiday Train's appearance in Hamilton, Ontario, and we conclude with a commentary on Nelson Mandela's commitment to overcoming food insecurity.

We will begin the New Year, our next issue, with a feature article on Environmental Whack-A-Mole. A further clue, and a great seasonal song for kids that may drive you crazy when they get hold of it, can be found at Meanwhile, please send your comments on the articles in this issue, or on any other business and environment topic of national or international interest to, A selection of the most interesting will be published in future issues of Gallon Environment Letter.

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Lots of negativity surrounded the recent UN climate conference in Warsaw, Poland. Many commentators in the popular press seemed to regard it as a failure and an ngo walkout towards the end of the conference reinforced that perspective but the reality is that the conference was never expected to achieve any major breakthrough, the ngos were never at the negotiating table so they were not really walking away from anything, and the conference followed a pattern on what has become current practice at international negotiations: tough bargaining, mostly for domestic political consumption, followed by quiet agreement.

The fact is that the Warsaw conference achieved most of what was expected of it, described in 27 adopted reports, and the parties, including Canada, agreed unanimously to continue work towards an international agreement to be presented at a similar conference in Paris in 2015. Certainly the process could still fall apart but if it was going to collapse it seemed that Warsaw was set to be the defining moment. The fact that Warsaw concluded with an agreement to continue would seem to make it that much more likely, perhaps at least 50-50, that an agreement is ahead.

The Paris agreement will not give everyone what they want. Negotiations rarely do. But at least it looks as though it will contain a framework under which the world can move forward to address climate change issues. What is needed now is a concerted effort to encourage recalcitrant governments, such as the Canadian Government, the US Congress, and the new Government in Australia, to move forward with their own domestic climate change programs.

One of the most effective levers for a Canadian climate change program may be the Government's desire to conclude the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. All EU governments and the European Parliament must ratify CETA before it can come into effect. Canada's currently poor environmental reputation, including our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, in which the EU is still an active and participating member, looks increasingly likely to be a barrier to that ratification. European parliamentarians may be expressing their concerns about Canada's environmental reputation right around the October 2015 Canadian federal election.

Colin Isaacs


A multi-volume study at the University of British Columbia called the Canadian Audit of Democracy had trouble even defining democracy but said that the challenges presented to Canadian democracy by significant changes in demography and values are captured in these three benchmarks: participation, inclusiveness, and responsiveness.

What environmental democracy encompasses may be even more difficult to define but likely involves similar benchmarks including involvement not only of government and business in environmental decision-making but also the public, community and advocacy groups, workers, native peoples, professionals in environment-related fields such as climate researchers, health, engineering, chemistry, environmental industry, buildings, etc. It could be all these groups are all equally misinformed and short-sighted but broadening the view is seen as more likely to identify and take into account long-term social, economic and environmental consequences. Quite a few global companies are economically bigger than many countries and have more clout with politicians than the citizens in the country. Environmental democracy is a broad term that includes concepts such as the right to a clean environment, environmental justice, transparency and access to information.
Auditing Canadian Democracy. Edited by William Cross. UBC Press. 2010.


A campaign by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice asks Canadians to sign a petition to include the right to a clean environment in the Canadian Constitution. The idea of legislation on a federal environmental bill of rights goes back some decades. Among examples of what would be included in these rights were the public right to participate in regulatory process; right to a clean and healthy environment including preservation of natural, historic and aesthetic values for present and future generations and the obligation of government to ensure the preservation; the right to sue polluters without having to show private interest in order to protect the environment; protection against reprisals of employees reporting environmental damage; shifting of proof so that alleged polluters would have to prove environmental safety of their operations; and the right to access information and obtain adequate intervenor funding. Constitutional guarantees are seen as more difficult to repeal or amend. However, it is also much more difficult to get changes into the constitution in the first place.

During the 1981 discussions on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, environmentalists sought a constitutional guarantee to ensure that both provincial and federal governments protected the right to a clean environment in every statute. There is nothing substantive in the Charter about the environment but perhaps given how many diseases are associated with air pollution, unclean water, and agricultural and other chemicals, the Charter guarantee to the "right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof" could eventually be interpreted to include environmental protection. If one can't live in a place because of pollution, land degradation, and extreme weather impacts such as flooding and drought, can one really be said to have the rights given under the Charter.

David Suzuki Foundation. Right to a Healthy Environment.
and action call: Join thousands of Canadians in a movement to guarantee the right to a healthy environment.

Douglas, Kristen, Law and Government Division. An Environmental Bill of Rights for Canada. November 1991.

Canada Justice Laws Website. Constitutional Documents Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982.


"Canada's impotent environmental legislation and international commitments are like a dog with no teeth, void of repercussion and providing fertile ground for further Conservative ambivalence." wrote John McKay, MP, Scarborough-Guildwood and Liberal Environment Critic as of August 2013, in an article in a recent Huffington Post edition entitled "Harper couldn't care less about the environment" which reviewed the recent reports from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

GallonLetter generally has little problem with governments promoting industry and business e.g. through trade missions and other initiatives, especially as GallonLetter's parent company once engaged with Industry Canada's Sustainable Cities Initiative which was designed to help cities in other countries become more sustainable with the assistance of Canadian business. But there must be a zone or line somewhere where government, especially one touting free markets, is squandering public funds and trust rather than serving the public interest. The present Canadian government seems to use its "economic" focus as a rationale for a serious erosion in environmental monitoring, environmental reporting, environmental protection laws and environmental enforcement. As one of the commentators to McKay's article wrote, ".....Harper reminds me of a farmer, that has just discovered he can make money selling off his topsoil, with absolutely no thought to the long term consequences or the next generation."

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From World War 1 to the 1960s, the chemical industry and the American Chemical Society, the association for professional chemists, was very much publicly involved in promoting the use of nonconventional weapons including chemical weapons, for the disarmament of which the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in October 2013. In 1926, the ACS Secretary wrote to ACS members urging them to petition senators not to ratify the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases & of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare. Mostly the argument was that there wasn't much difference between any type of killing so poisoning by gas was just as acceptable as bullets. Use of defoliants such as Agent Orange was supported by the editor of Chemical & Engineering News magazine, an ACS publication, in 1965, again that on the grounds the grenades were more likely to kill civilians in a much worse way than flushing enemy combatants from hiding under the jungle canopy with "mild chemical agents" and "comparatively harmless efficacy of the unpleasant gas being used." In contrast to the editorial opinion, the indiscriminate destruction of crops and agricultural, and spraying of toxic chemicals on innocents created a very strong public reaction.

According to one of the Editor's Pages produced each month to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Chemical & Engineering News, Maureen Rouhi writes that the chemical industry and scientists eventually did a U-Turn to publicly oppose chemicals for warfare. Dr. Charles Price, speaking at the US House Subcommittee on Security Policy and Scientific Developments in 1974, said that in contrast to earlier chemical warfare, chemical agents now could do widespread damage to civilians. The definition of chemical weapons should be as broad as possible and include riot control agents and herbicides, two classes of chemicals exempted by the Nixon Administration. Closing potential loopholes by not allowing these exemptions would prevent States from labelling new agents as falling within the exemptions, "scuttling the intent of the protocol."

At the 1989 Government-Industry Conference against Chemical Weapons held in Canberra, Australia, most of the chemical companies and a number of international chemical organizations affected by the Geneva Protocol, including those from Canada, came to commit with governments to deal with the industry's concerns while working to "effective practical implementation." The conference produced "The first collective statement by the world's chemical industry of its commitment to assist Governments in bringing about a total ban on chemical weapons through a comprehensive chemical weapons convention."

Later news indicates that a number of chemical companies refused to supply chemicals to the Pentagon on the grounds that their ethics codes and company policies forbad sale of chemicals for chemical weapons even though the Pentagon could have ordered the sales by law. Although today we all know that chemical weapons haven't gone away, some observers have commented that this corporate resistance helped to restrict the availability of materials for making chemical weapons in the US and elsewhere.

GallonLetter notes that some defence research literature indicates a trend away from weapons created by traditional chemical companies to weapons more toxic for death and incapacitation made by biotechnology (genetic engineering) and pharmaceutical companies producing biotoxins and bioregulators such as tetanus. And we also think kudos are due to ACS for publishing an article which provides negative as well positive views of the science organization’s position.

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Although other chemical companies were involved in supplying Agent Orange for the Vietnam War, articles on social and other media are connecting the toxic legacy of Agent Orange to a campaign against Monsanto's quest to sell genetically modified seeds to farmers in Vietnam and worldwide. The US views Vietnam as a strategically important Asian trading partner and is likely to negotiate corporate-friendly rules for large American-based companies including those in the chemical, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector in any future Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. One Vietnam Local News article states "It would be ironic if Vietnam becomes a willing party to a lethal product made by the same US company that manufactured Agent Orange." The Chair of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange, also a legislator, asked the Minister of Agriculture about the government's position in May 2013 and received what is described as an evasive answer.

The Toxic Legacy of Agent Orange

Although difficult to determine, according to a 2012 Congressional Research paper, an estimated 18 to 20 million gallons of herbicide were applied during the Vietnam war with more than half being Agent Orange contaminated, as were some of the other 15 herbicides used, with TCDD, a dioxin which is thought to be responsible for many of the medical problems experienced by multiple generations of Vietnamese and American veterans. About 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) were sprayed; the Vietnam government has said nearly 10% of the country was sprayed, some more than twice and some more than 10 times. Among the companies contracting the US military for the chemical were Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, Hercules Inc., Monsanto Company, T-H Agricultural & Nutrition Company, Thompson Chemicals Corporation, and Uniroyal Inc.

The US military gave little consideration to the long term environmental and health effects of use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and there is much uncertainty about how much and where the chemical was sprayed. Vietnamese moved back to their villages away from the jungles where they were sprayed. Little data has been collected through blood and tissue samples and soil samples, as the Congressional Research Service states, "in part because of the political implications of findings of such studies". For the Vietnamese government, the cost of $1000 per person for blood and tissue tests is beyond the financial resources of a poor country. Also lacking is a Vietnam national birth defects registry and other measures to assess the size and scope of disability due to the chemicals used during the war.

Lawsuits by Vietnamese in the US have been unsuccessful, sometimes due to US laws protecting government defense contractors even if they supply defective products. A 2005 court ruled that use of the defoliant wasn't against international law because it was directed against the jungle not the humans. In contrast, although the court dismissed similar claims by US veterans from the Vietnam War, manufacturers agreed to $180 million out of court settlement to Americans. The US government also provided funding support for American veterans impacted by Agent Orange on a scale much more generous than funding towards helping Vietnamese victims.

Cleanup costs for individual hot spots such as airbases in Vietnam are rising by the tens of millions as cleanup is delayed by the US Department of Defense despite commitments with the Vietnamese government to remediate some of the hot spots. Health related services to Agent Orange victims are in the range $200 to $300 million.

Monsanto's View of its Involvement: Now That it Is an "Agricultural Company Selling to Farmers" 

"That was then, this is now" is a common theme of corporate positioning on bad things they have been perceived to have done. Monsanto's backgrounder on its involvement with Agent Orange is sanitized. After all it was "more than 40 years ago" and it was "the former Monsanto Company." And of course, another theme is "It isn't our fault and we aren't the only ones." Monsanto says between 1965 and 1969, it was one of nine government contractors making Agent Orange, "The government set the specifications for making Agent Orange and determined when, where and how it was used. Agent Orange was only produced for, and used by, the government." Monsanto is also redefining itself from a biotechnology and chemical company to an agricultural company serving farmers.

The company history is also sanitized skirting any mention of the problems created by the persistent toxic chemicals manufactured, including DDT, Agent Orange and PCBs. Studies of air and soil in the orchards of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia decades after the ban of DDT and DDE in the 1970s, show robins and earthworms have enough DDT or DDE in some cases to have mortal or reproductive effects and air samples indicate that "soils are continuing to emit legacy pesticides into the regional atmosphere."

Some critics say that the millions Monsanto and other companies have spent lobbying against labelling GM food would be better spent helping Agent Orange victims and taking responsibility for past pollution.

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A 2011 paper by Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and author of Getting Green Done, and Michael Toffel, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, states that too many environmental ratings, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, focus only on operational aspects such as compliance, pollution levels, environmental reporting and stakeholder engagement. They say, "Compared to companies’ efforts to green their own operations, corporate political actions—like lobbying or campaign funding—can have a vastly greater influence on environmental protection, and arguably represent the greatest impact a company can have on protecting (or harming) the environment. In fact, the very existence of a debate on climate science in the United States, and consequent lack of policy action, has been attributed to massive corporate support for the “denial industry.”

Some of the companies get rated highly at the same time they are doing everything to undermine environmental policy. For example, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News and News Corp announced that the company was carbon neutral but its media undermines the reality of climate change and action required and features opinions by climate deniers like Glenn Beck; the company received a triple A, the highest possible score on one rating called MSCI ESG (environmental, social and governance) Global Socrates. MSCI Inc describes itself as a “provider of investment decision support tools to investors globally, including asset managers, banks, hedge funds and pension funds. “

The working paper suggests amendments to rankings to include things like political contributions, what advocacy work the company engages in especially by the CEO and more criteria for which activities and organizations the company engages with or supports are promoting or undermining climate progress. Changing how companies are ranked could be a factor in solving key world problems.

Schendler, Auden and Michael Toffel. What Environmental Ratings Miss. Working Paper 12-017. Harvard Business School. September 21, 2011.


So despite its political and other positions in most things against climate change and environmental regulations (see separate article), in its annual report, 21st Century Fox with Rupert Murdoch as Chairman and CEO states that it is "committed to minimizing its environmental impact, growing sustainably, and inspiring others to take action. Through the Global Energy Initiative (GEI), the Company’s comprehensive environmental sustainability program, 21st Century Fox has measured its greenhouse gas emissions across worldwide operations since 2007. This work has been overseen by third-party experts at Deloitte and independently verified by Cventure LLC.  The 21 Century Fox’s web site says, “As a result of rigorous and transparent measurement, improvements in operational efficiency, investments in renewable energy, and audience and employee engagement programs, 21st Century Fox has reduced its environmental impact, saved millions of dollars across its operations and supply chain, and been recognized by key third-parties as a leader within the media industry and beyond."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


In Washington State on the November 5, 2013 ballot was Initiative 522 (I-522) which required mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods, seeds and seed products in the state. Voters rejected the measure by 51.75%. The US Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has over 300 members in the food, beverage and consumer products sectors donated funds to get voters to vote No on I-522. The State Attorney alleges that the GMA collected funds from its members for this activity and failed to report the funds as required by law which the AG says would have required GMA to form a political committee, register it in Washington State and then comply with the state's campaign finance disclosure rules before funding the No campaign.

After the AG filed a lawsuit on October 18, GMA formed a political committee and reported $7.2 million dollars in contributions from its members. Then in late October, the association reported another $3.8 million in contributions from its members which raises the issue that even as a political committee there were possible violations. The AG amended its lawsuit against GMA November 20, 2013 to $10.6 million, which is described in the press release as "This is the largest amount the state has ever addressed in a campaign finance concealment case."

There are already increasing concerns that large corporations are skewing the democratic process with large amounts of money. What is of particular concern in this case depending on what is proven in court is that it seems that the members of the association, the food manufacturers didn't want the public to know that they were funding the No side. Companies often claim to be open and transparent but may be telling the public one thing and lobbying behind the scenes in an entirely different direction. “Washington state voters demand transparency and openness in elections." AG Bob Ferguson said, " All sides must follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.”

GallonLetter notes positively that the Attorney General in Washington State has issued a number of press releases showing the progression of this lawsuit including links to filings in court.

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For the last number of years, especially apparently as an excuse for rescinding legislation related to the Kyoto Protocol, the Canadian Federal Government has said it couldn't set an example on how to reduce greenhouse gases because "We produce just a tiny, two per cent of global emissions." (Environment Minister Peter Kent, December 2011). Sometimes inconsistency is a good thing: the Canadian government did not see being responsible for a relatively low percentage of contribution to the global emissions of mercury as a barrier to signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The treaty must be ratified by 50 countries to come into force and then, in order to be effective, Canada and other ratifiers must implement it, usually the most difficult part.

In climate change treaty negotiations, Canada's government is adamant that Canada should not have to do much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions until all or most of the other countries (major emitters) do. However, Canada signed on to the mercury treaty without seeming to have applied that argument. It is already part of the negotiating process of international environmental treaties to involve as many nations key to the issue as possible and even to say that the treaty doesn't come into effect until so many signatories with a certain percentage of emissions sign on.

Within the UN climate convention, Canada has been adamant about changing or not complying with the Article 3.1 adopted in 1992 which obliges developed countries which contributed most to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the past and which benefited from wealth from fossil fuels to take the lead. Article 3.1 says, "The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of future and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

While the Durban talks seemed to be heading towards removing the distinction between countries in order to agree to a treaty by 2015 for implementation in 2020, the Warsaw conference saw developing countries reiterate the need for the equity principle in which the developed countries take the lead so developing countries can raise living standards of their citizens. Without the large emitters like China and India whose collective emissions now exceed or soon will exceed many of the developed countries historical emissions, it will be difficult to impossible to remain below 2degC so there is a need for the developing world to reduce emissions or at least stop the growth of their emissions. However, GallonLetter can't help but think that Canada's position is a kind of true lie; ie there is truth in the concern about the rising actual and proportion of emissions by developing countries but it is a lie because the Canadian government has no intention (or perhaps insufficient skills of management even to track never mind to implement its assortment of changing “commitments”) so the position is more about avoiding taking any action as a nation rather than working through what is admittedly difficult international negotiations.

Global Mercury Assessment

North America as a whole is responsible for just 3.1% of anthropogenic emissions according to a 2013 Global Assessment focussed on air emissions but also on release to and fate in aquatic environments. This is about 60.7 tonnes per year compared to a total emissions of 1960 tonnes globally. Europe and North America have a total of about 8% of global mercury emissions.

The assessment was funded by the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Japan, Sweden, Norway, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the EU. Without transparency and documentation, it is difficult to construct estimates of mercury emissions and pollution.

Most of the global emissions are due to artisanal and small-scale gold production followed by coal combustion. Some of the sectors contribute only small percentages but they add up as there are quite a number of small emission sources including primary ferrous metal production, cremation, mercury production, and oil refining.

In the future, more research is to be done on sectors for which insufficient information is currently available: examples are mercury emissions due to the extraction of oil and gas (before transport and their combustion), dental uses currently not quantified, and secondary metal production. Countries "are encouraged to produce reliable national emission and release estimates, and to provide transparency in methods used to develop national estimates."

Mercury Emissions over Time and Space

Like carbon emissions, there has been a large increase in mercury emissions due to human activities especially burning of fossil fuels and use of mercury in gold and silver mining since the industrial revolution. This has loaded environmental reservoirs with mercury. Some regions are more prone to being contaminated with mercury than others. For example, in 150 years, there has been a ten-fold increase of mercury in belugas, ringed seals, polar bears and birds of prey in the Arctic. More than 90% of the mercury is thought to be from human sources. Average rate of increase in mercury in these animals is one to 4 percent per year even though globally mercury use has declined. Fifty-nine percent of preschool children in three regions of the Arctic have greater mercury intake than the provisional tolerable weekly intake for children.

Stored mercury is also re-emitted from these reservoirs. One of the goals of the UNEP Global Mercury Assessment is to reduce current anthropogenic mercury emissions so as to deplete these reservoirs. Over a long time, natural processes will "remove" mercury, for example through settling into deep sea sediments. Climate change through higher temperatures is likely to increase the re-emission of volatile substances such as mercury from the surface of the Earth to the atmosphere. Like carbon emissions, there is so much mercury also stored in the environmental reservoirs, that human-caused mercury emission reductions will not result in an immediate decline in the amount of mercury in human food chains especially in mercury levels in marine food chains.

According to the World Health Organization, there are no safe limits to mercury and its organic compounds. With growing awareness of the risks of mercury, global demand has decreased from about 9,000 tonnes per year in 1960 to about 4,000 tonnes in 2006. A global mercury treaty is expected to sharpen the decline as mercury-using industries reduce mercury in products and processes as required by their countries signed on to the obligations of the instrument. Delay in global efforts in reducing mercury emissions means delays in noticeable reductions of mercury in global ecosystems.

Who Needs to Act

There are roles for everybody in the UNEP Guide called Mercury: Time to Act. Governments should ensure regulatory frameworks to transition to mercury-free products and encourage investment in best available technologies by industry to reduce use and release of mercury. Industry can invest in these technologies, establish better controls to prevent mercury releases and develop alternatives to mercury in products. Intergovernmental and environmental organizations should support governments in these efforts, provide technical assistance, capacity building and resources. Citizens can become aware that they are vulnerable to mercury exposure through the food chain with some like fetuses, children and pregnant women most vulnerable. Consumers can choose mercury-free products and take care to properly dispose of mercury-containing products. Mercury is used in everyday life in consumables such as cosmetics (e.g. skin lightening cream and mascara), dental fillings, energy efficient light bulbs, electronic devices, thermostat switches, batteries, health measurement instruments such as blood pressure products. Many food products including fish and rice commonly contain mercury. Mercury is also used in the production of vinyl chloride monomer.

Global Mercury Partnership

One of the categories for the Global Mercury Partnership is on Mercury in Products. Case studies of two companies in the EU and the US examining the "Economics of Conversion" found that mercury-free medical devices and button cell batteries could be transitioned to be mercury-free economically but required a regulatory framework and increased market demand. The en. lighten project seeks to get low mercury in compact fluorescent while transforming the market to efficient lighting. The impacts of mercury on human health have been known for a long time; some essential uses of mercury may continue for some time.

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An investment product sold by Bloomberg gives the top big 10 Canadian energy companies low marks, averaging 31.7 out of 100, on its 2011 Environmental Disclosure Score. Suncor Energy and Imperial Oil Ltd scored higher than 35 but lower than 50. Competitors in the US and Europe received higher scores. These scoring processes are always open to criticism e.g. how is it possible that given the history of BP's Gulf spill BP could average out to such a relatively high score of 62? Nevertheless, the low ranking of Canadian energy producers is described by commentators as tightening the noose on an industry which doesn't provide evidence to the public on what it is doing to protect the environment. GallonLetter isn't sure that such scoring does much to upset the power brokering that such big and wealthy companies can finance but public opinion can change political decision-making and lack of transparency is certainly something critics of the oil sands have been voicing.

Suncor's See What Yes Can Do Campaign

Suncor has a campaign "What yes can do" with videos on categories called: social, innovation, environment, economic and people. Suncor is often identified as among the best in Canada for Corporate Social Responsibility in the oil sands. The company's 2013 Sustainability report says, Suncor is collaborating with independent organisations like the Walrus Foundation and the Pembina Institute to "help generate a public dialogue on Canada's energy future." The idea is to "make a real difference on some of the big issues that impact both society and Suncor." Whether it is even possible for a large oil company engaged in the oil sands to lead such a discussion in any kind of unbiased way is questionable but certainly the idea that Canadians ought to be more involved and informed about the implications of energy choices and the effect on climate and the environment is a positive one.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


While the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility does not allow for certification of companies, the Canadian Electricity Association allows companies who commit to specified core subjects, issues, actions and expectations to use the brand "Sustainable Electricity Company". The six steps in the approval process include:
The only company so far designated a Sustainable Electricity Company (on April 24, 2013) is Horizon Utilities Corporation one of the largest municipally owned electricity distribution companies in Ontario providing electricity and services to 237,000 residential and industrial customers in Hamilton and St. Catharines. Hopefully more will follow soon.

GallonLetter's parent company assisted in development of the standard for the brand.

Canadian Electricity Association. The New Sustainability Seal of Approval.


The World Trade Organization ruled against Canada and Norway in a panel ruling which favoured the European Union's 2009/10 regulations to ban the import of seal products. The issue of ethics in trade came front of centre in the panel ruling.

The ban includes both processed and unprocessed products e.g. meat, skins, clothing, accessories such as jewellery, art, omega-3 oil capsules. Placing on the market of seal products is allowed where the products are from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities contributing to their subsistence (IC hunts). Most of the seals hunted in Canada don't fit that exception. A few other exemptions allow transit or other types of seal imports such as personal use items and the by-products of hunting when the purpose is to manage marine resources sustainably but only the IC hunts can put products on the EU market (which means selling it for commercial reasons ie payment).

The panel report says that the EU claimed that the import regulation wasn't about conservation but about "public moral concerns on the welfare of seals." Article 20 (ie XX) of GATT 1994 allows trade restrictions which "(a) are necessary to protect public morals, (b) necessary to protect human, animal or plant life and health. Public morals are defined as "standard of right and wrong conduct maintained by or on behalf of a community or nation." In order to qualify for the meaning of "necessary", the regulations must make a material contribution to achieve the objective. Canada claimed that the exception shouldn't apply as there is no moral harm because the commercial seal hunt in Canada kills seals humanely. However, the panel considered there was insufficient monitoring and other assurances about the humaness of seal hunts, so the EU had few alternatives if it wanted to avoid importing seals hunted inhumanely.

The panel concluded that the EU regulation had some flaws especially in allowing IC hunts and the marine byproduct exceptions but overall was essentially compliant due to the public morals exception. One of the reasons the panel supported the EU was because of evidence that there was public concern and distress about seal hunts and the EU had objectives related to animal welfare. The panel found that the EU has taken action to protect animals including enshrining animal welfare in its constitutional treaties and its seal regulations clearly make a material contribution to achieving its objective so as to justify such a strong trade restriction. although the exceptions such as the Indigeneous Hunt weaken this objective. So the EU seal law was considered necessary under the meaning of Article XX(a) of the GATT 1994. The EU never tried to make a case about the ban being for the protection of the health of seals so Article XX(b) failed.

"This is big news for the animal welfare movement, as the decision marks a precedent in WTO deliberations, whereby the question of public moral concerns over animal welfare are found to be a valid reason to ban product imports" and "the panel report is a victory for seals, animal welfare and Europeans.” read a press release from The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW).

WTO Appeal Process

"Canada remains steadfast in its position that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable and well-regulated activity. Any views to the contrary are based on myths and misinformation, and the Panel’s findings should be of concern to all WTO members," says the press release issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada announcing Canada's pending appeal of the WTO decision.

Under the old GATT procedure, a single country could block the adoption of the panel report but the Uruguay Round Agreement has reversed the consensus needed: now panel rulings are automatically adopted unless there is a consensus to reject it; the country losing can't block adoption though either side can launch an appeal. An appeal is not expected to add more than a part of a year (estimated 60-90 days for appeals report and 30 days for Dispute Settlement Body DSP, which is essentially the General Council of the trade agreements. DSB sets up the panels and adopts the final panel report or if appealed, the appeals report. It is quite difficult to overturn a panel report through an appeal although there may be changes and amendments made to the ruling. Panel decisions aren't binding on other cases but the panel reviews previous decisions for guidance.

Environmental Disputes

Whether or not the seal trade dispute is an environmental one may be up for debate because of the positioning of the EU being more focussed on public concern about inhumane seal hunting rather than the health of the seals per se. Countries are supposed to consult and mediate to reach resolutions at all stages of the dispute settlement process. Since 1995 when the WTO dispute settlement procedure took over from GATT, three proceedings have take place on environmental or human health related measures under GATT Article XX:
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Boissevain, Manitoba a prairie town (population 2,300, 1600 in town and 700 in rural areas with a land area of 1090 sq. km) has won in Communities in Bloom over 17 years with support of volunteers and businesses. In 2013 it entered into the Grand Champions category which was won by The City of Stratford for its LOCAL Community Food Centre with community gardening and active centre for community groups.
Like many communities, Boissevain has hanging baskets and petunia "trees". Depending on how the plants are selected, the potted flowers selected for maximum colour power cannot be seen as environmentally preferred. While the Communities in Bloom program does recognize environmental action, (150 points out of 1000) there are an equal number of points for tidiness, 200 points for landscape such as turf and 175 points for floral display which tends to be counter to environmental benefits. Bees and other pollinators enjoy hiding in nooks and crannies more available with less tidiness although avoiding and cleaning up litter also counts as tidiness. Many of the flowers planted for a good floral show are double which means most or all of their pollen-making parts have been converted to petals so they are little use to bees. Many flower varieties grown in baskets are non-native so less attractive to insects such as butterflies which need specific native plants. Also baskets require a lot of water and energy e.g. often a tractor or other fuel-using machine is needed to water regularly and to move all the stuff. The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario is researching how to make petunia "a very popular and a very thirsty plant" more drought tolerant. Benefits would include not only less water used in pots and baskets in which petunias are grown but in the supply chains, "Less water means less use in the greenhouse, less weight for shipping, less staff time and cost for the retailer, and better quality for the consumer." GallonLetter thinks that growing fewer baskets of flowers might be an even better answer.

Points in the Communities in Bloom program are also given for urban forestry. Boissevain has more Elm Trees than people and is one of the few areas in Manitoba with a low Dutch Elm Disease mortality. Tree planting is ongoing and the trees provide a canopy over many streets. It is surprising to walk along a prairie town's streets under the shade of mighty trees. Most recycling centres are located in industrial type settings but in Boissevain the Recycling Committee has turned the Recycling Centre into a flower haven. A lot of the CIB program is a result of resident and local business effort.
Local Effort Attracts Tourists and Potential Future Residents

Communities in Bloom encourages web site readers to explore the communities participating in the program on the web and of course, there may be much interesting for tourists to visit as well. For example, Boissevain is near a large birding and waterfowl lake, the International Peace Garden and is welcoming new residents to enjoy the friendliness and peacefulness of a town only 45 minutes from Brandon. From 1987 to 2001, Boissevain ran a very popular turtle derby which is now represented by a giant statue Tommy the Turtle. GallonLetter's editor visited during a turtle derby which probably generated some animal rights issues although it was fun - a kind of slow pace but there was all the excitement of the sounds as the gates open for the racers (even though turtles even those 8-12" long are a little low to the ground) and betting coupons (for very small amounts). What was even better was the interactions with the people; quite a number of the rural people came in covered wagons pulled by horses; the people used the wagons for sleeping and cooking. Community in Blooms attractions are part of other tourism and attractions for potential residents e.g. twenty five murals, an Art Park, wildlife museum, new library, new theatre/drama club and a new regional landfill site.

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Sticking closer to home and getting to know birds in your patch, closer to home, is one of the steps to green birding according to a small but readable book on that topic by Richard Gregson, President of Bird Protection Quebec.

Although many homeowners and business take inordinate pride in closely cropped turf, Gregson says to attract birds you have to think like a bird looking for food, shelter, and you know what which results in a need for nesting sites. Beauty is in the bird's eye view: "All too often, a tidy "beautiful" garden for people is little more than a desert for birds. Birds need a little clutter, a little comfortable disorder." One of the key items in one of those scruffy corners is a pile of logs in a shady spot. Called stumperies in Victorian times, this combination of fresh and rotting wood and bark is home to insects and fungi, which attract beasts which in turn become food for birds.

Even the birds become food for other birds as Gregson describes how much he enjoyed watching a Coopers' Hawk catching a Mourning Dove from a feeder in his garden and eating it in the snow. His laid-back attitude may reflect the cycle of nature but when a hawk spent nearly an hour stripping a Mourning Dove to hardly any remnant at our table feeder our first reaction was more guilt and then acceptance rather than enjoyment; it was a bit of a twist on bird feeding but the hawk would have found similar food anyway. An enjoyable book even for non-birders in that it gives ideas to think about how to green other activities that people enjoy.

Gregson, Richard. Green Birding: How to See More Birds and Protect the Environment at the same time. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2013. $18.95 and web site run by Gregson http:/


In the Greater Toronto area, Toronto and Region Conservation, Credit Valley Conservation and Evergreen help businesses and institutions create habitat and other environmental benefits while improving aesthetics on their grounds. Benefits are said to include:
GTAA Partners in Project Green. Greening Corporate Grounds.


Failing to understand the Harper Government's idea of common interests made a folk hero out of a Senate staff, Chris Montgomery, who tried to obstruct the takeover by the Prime Minister's Office of the Senate audit of Senators' expenses and other business to do with the Senate Chamber . The Senate’s role under the Constitution is to provide sober second thought to decisions made by the elected House of Commons. Headlines such as "Plucky Tory staffer stood his ground against PMO on secret Duffy plan" contrasted to the email from the Nigel Wright of the PMO saying "Chris simply does not believe in our goal of circling the wagons."

The phrase "circling the wagons" conjures up some uneasy history as it is a term which was used when settlers circled their wagons for shootouts with the native peoples whom most, at the time, regarded as savages. Is that the relationship that the Harper Government has with Canadians who are critical to their way of doing things? But even if the phrase is used as defined in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary as "of a group united in defence of common interest", the question is raised about who is in this group and what are their common interests and how much in common do these interests have with Canadians, society and the environment. Although the focus recently has been on Deloitte and whether its relationship to the Conservative Party of Canada and its multi-million dollar contracts with the Government affect its independence, more than financial integrity is at stake as large companies are also involved in environmental reporting, audits, assessments and other assurances to Canadians that companies and projects are compliant with environmental regulations even if these have been weakened by the Harper government.

As Canadian scientists protest against government shutdown of key environmental monitoring and communication of scientific information, investors in companies who are inside the circle of wagons and lobbied for this easing of regulations may someday pay the price whether through litigations, delays due to public protests or the pendulum swinging the other way in regulatory oversight and red tape if the public gets really concerned. Certainly if history is instructive, those in Canada and elsewhere will pay a much higher price than most of us estimate for the future cost of environmental damage.

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Scaling up corporate climate solutions and the need for collective action were on the agenda at the Caring for Climate (C4C) Business Forum held in Warsaw during the Conference of Parties (COP). A guide to business engagement in climate change policy was released. (1) The initiative is one of the UN Global Compact, the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Environment Programmes (UNEP) launched by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007. Business is seen as a powerful support in endorsing policy as they bring a perspective of economic costs and benefits and can influence others in the industry, in their supply chain and their customers.

A subset of nearly 350 companies in the UN Global Compact committed to Caring for Climate with its commitment "“Engage more actively with own national governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society to develop policies and measures to provide an enabling framework for business to contribute effectively to building a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy"

Guide to Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy

The guide takes a different approach in that although it includes examples of possibly useful models, there is more of a discussion of what has gone wrong. Companies are seen as having a mixed record for contributing to political progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many have lobbied on the defensive for business as usual on the national and international stage while others have been constructive in helping policy makers create policies needed for a low-carbon economy. Sometimes companies have done a mix of actions, some of which are positive and some negative and some companies try to stay out of debates entirely.

"In the past, efforts by some corporations have significantly slowed the emergence of climate change legislation and this has created unacceptable risks to public safety in general, as well as fiduciary investors in particular. All investors need to understand the risk posed to their whole portfolios by irresponsible corporate engagement seeking to delay climate policy, and the value created by a responsible, pro-climate business voice in helping policymakers deliver on their responsibilities to protect citizens. With the date for agreement on a global climate deal set for
2015, this report shows how businesses can play a positive role in helping politicians and civil society deliver a robust, necessary outcome over the next two years." says a quote by Paul Simpson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project.

In a related initiative, the UN Global Compact, for which signatory companies align with ten universal principles, found in a survey of the 1700 companies that 60% of companies publically advocate for the Global Compact principles or related UN goals but only 30% adjust their government lobbying to reflect their corporate responsibility commitments including reducing GHG emissions. In the report it is said that some say that one of the reasons that US auto industry ran into such trouble is because of years of lobbying effectively against increased federal average fuel economy CAFÉ standards without regard to the effect of their policy influences. This enabled the Japanese auto industry to supply the market demand with fuel efficient cars.

Core Elements

While not an endorsement of individual companies mentioned in the cases, the report provides guidance on "Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy." Five core elements are:
The 3% Solution

In 2013 Carbon Disclosure Project and WWF published an analysis of the opportunities for companies in the US to achieve annual reductions of about 3% in greenhouse gas reductions in the US, reductions needed to stay at or under the 2degC global target. By 2020, such significant but technically feasible reduction would result in up to $780 billion (net present value) in savings.

Indirect Influences in Trade Associations

Companies are often members in trade associations which take defensive or obstructive positions on climate change. Large companies may be members in a variety of trade associations which makes it more difficult to track industry positions. GallonLetter notes that companies also hide behind trade associations to say what they don't want to say because of possible reputational repercussions.(see article on lawsuit by Washington AG)

Options for Caring for Climate companies include publicly distancing the company from those of the trade association, engaging in discussion within the association, discontinuing membership in trade associations that oppose climate change policies (in some countries, that may not be possible because membership may be compulsory) and form coalitions to counter trade associations opposing climate change policies.

Caring for Climate Signatories

Three Canadian companies are among the 347 organizations which have signed on
BluPlanet Recycling Inc. (Alternative Energy)
CKR (Global Support Services)
National Ecocredit ( Nonequity Investment Instruments)

Among other companies are many categories including:
Note (1) The Caring for Climate Report was under the auspices of the United Nations Global Compact (UN Global Compact), the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with the World Resources Institute (WRI), CDP, WWF, Ceres and The Climate Group.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Relying on elected officials like Canada's Prime Minister Harper and even sympathetic politicians like President Obama is not the way to a just and sustainable world, according to an article in Yes Magazine (from the non-profit Positive Futures Network based in Washington State) in October 2013. Only if communities lead will the elected officials follow. The op-ed suggests that the "all or nothing" fights over Keystone XL and Northern Gateway are too absolutist. By focussing on just a few projects, the "US climate movement right now is structured like an archway, with all of its blocks resting on a keystone -President Obama's decision on Keystone XL."

Once the decision is made, the keystone will disappear and the archway (the climate movement) collapse. If President Obama approves Keystone XL, some people against it will think the game is over because they have lost even though one project will not mean the end of humanity. If the project is rejected, some people against it may think the game is over because they have won even though "stopping one project will not stop runaway climate change."

Political parties both in Canada and the US are seen to be tied to the "fossil fuel industry and corporate capitalism. As seen in similar campaigns in 2009 to pass a climate bill in the United States and to ratify an international climate treaty in Copenhagen, the system is rigged against us." Fraud and injustice has been linked to Keystone as if this was an extreme but the writers say conflict of interests including between Enbridge and federal politicians in Canada are the norm.

Instead of trying to persuade politicians, the authors suggest that instead of a make or break attitude, the movement needs communities to lead to take action on the causes of the climate change to match the world's largest corporations who are extracting fossil fuels "at an unprecedented rate, all as the climate crisis spins out of control. The climate justice movement should have no keystone because we must match them everywhere they are-and they are everywhere."

Brooks: Pipelines Better than Other Bulk Transport Options

Environmental groups should be arguing for slowing down tar/oil sand development separately from opposition to constructing pipelines for moving bitumen, wrote Dr. David Brooks (2) in Alternatives Journal earlier this year. Pipelines are generally better than alternative bulk transportation of raw materials such as railways and trucks, "Provided pipelines are not built through areas of ecological significance nor contravene agreements with First Nations, they offer options that the environmental movement must consider. There are more and there are less dangerous pipelines, and we should concentrate our political and analytical fire on the former." He suggests that the Northern Gateway pipeline fits into the former category and Keystone XL pipeline is less dangerous. He concludes, "Therefore, my bottom line is “Yes” to the Keystone XL pipeline, and “No” to the Northern Gateway pipeline. The temptation to say “none of the above” is just not viable for a movement that wants to make a difference."

(2) Research Fellow - Water Conservation and Soft Path Planning, POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and Associate, International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Brooks, David B. Practical Thinking about Pipelines. Alternatives Journal. May 24, 2013.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


It wasn't surprising that with an estimated 20,000 people attending the CP Holiday Train event in Gage Park in Hamilton, Ontario, there were long line ups to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus, to get free hot chocolate and cookies by a local company Wild Thyme Catering, and to make Christmas ornaments but there were also lineups for people to give bags of food at the Hamilton Food Share's 18-wheeler. The event was free but people were asked to bring food items for the food bank. The train was bright with holiday lights some of them animated. Host CBC's Peter Mansbridge did a surprisingly fine job revving up the crowd to clap and cheer for the mayor Bob Bratina and less well-known people on the stage. Many in the crowd were young or young parents with children in strollers and clearly their interest was the main performance: Great Big Sea, Natalie MacMaster and Tom Cochrane and Red Rider.

CP handed out a cheque for $25,000 to Joanne Santucci, executive director of Hamilton Food Share and $100,000 to Breakfast Club of Canada. Attendees were encouraged also to donate to Breakfast Club of Canada which encourages youth to help out in their fellow kids. Every day before school starts, the Breakfast Buddies and other volunteers feed about 130,000 kids with 21 million breakfasts served each year. CP will match donations until December 19, 2013.

CP Holiday Arrives in Hamilton. CHCH. November 30, 2013.

Escott, Stacey. CP Holiday Train extra special this time around. Hamilton Spectator. November 30, 2013.

Breakfast Club of Canada.


"As a true champion of human rights, Nelson Mandela understood that the hunger of millions of people was unjust and unsustainable," said the FAO Director-General, "Mandela understood that a hungry man, woman or child could not be truly free. He understood that eliminating hunger was not so much a question of producing more food as it was a matter of making the political commitment to ensure that people had access to the resources and services they needed to buy or produce enough safe and nutritious food." About 842 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger.

GallonLetter notes that the Canadian government wouldn't send opposition MPs including Green Party Leader Elizabeth May who knows far more about climate policy than the Environment Minister, as members of the Canadian delegate to the Warsaw climate change conference but sent the Prime Minister and past prime ministers and other people as a Canadian delegation to attend the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Having so many Canadian leaders attend will cost both Canada and South Africa a large amount of money. We will always be inspired by the people, especially Nelson Mandela, who overcame a corrupt and human-rights abusive regime that enforced apartheid in South Africa. World support, including that of Canada through sanctions and other actions, helped achieve a regime change to a democracy but South Africa is still a developing country. Even if the Canadian delegation was invited, there should have been more concern about the costs. If instead, Canada has reduced the size of the delegation and the cost and supplied a food program (see separate article on CP's Holiday Train for fundraising for food programs) here or in South Africa in honour of Mandela, how much more reflective of Mandela's ideals.

FAO - News Article: FAO lauds Nelson Mandela as champion of right to food. Rome, Italy: 6 December 2013, Rome.


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