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Tag Archives: Finance and the Economy

By: Martin Pharand

I first heard of social impact bonds (SIBs) when I attended an IPAC conference in Toronto, in late November. The purpose of the conference was to introduce new professionals in the public sector with the sector’s future challenges, and then run a brief workshop on some tools to overcome them. The most formidable challenge presented at the conference, and that we are living today, is the need to cut program spending. In the face of this, SIBs were presented as a potential solution to cut costs in the realm of social policy. The man who introduced the idea was one Howard Yeung, a marketing guy representing Deloitte’s GovLab, a public sector innovation think tank.  (Deloitte’s own document is the best place to start understanding SIBs)

SIBs

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By: Clement Nocos

With Canada’s largest trading partners, the European Union and the United States, headed off the proverbial fiscal cliff, the federal government has sought out high growth Asian markets as our economic back up plan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent jaunt through India and the Philippines aimed to secure these economic Plan B’s, but as the tour comes to a close and while aside from the whole scandal over the cost of flying armoured security vehicles, the results of the foreign trade mission have shown to be rather lackluster.

While Harper tried to warm economic relations and pushed hard for a bilateral trade deal to even Canada’s current trade deficit, the Indian government instead pressed to resolve security matters with claims that our government has left Khalistani extremism unchecked in Canada. While outstanding investment and trade deals ultimately send jobs and investment to India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not think Canada and India had the ‘Bollywood’ relationship that Harper asserts. In the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino talked about immigration while Prime Minister Harper again pressed for trade.

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By: Chris Burke

I want to kick off a discussion by asking the question, “If numbers demonstrate that consumers are not to blame, then why has the environmental movement in Canada become so focused on creating green consumers?”  There are two possible explanations, in my opinion.  The first is that people simply do not know.  They are unaware that the statistics cited are often misleading.  The second explanation is that people are aware that blame doesn’t lie with the consumer, but want to avoid taking real action to address climate change as they are afraid of what that implies: a radical change from our current system.  Encouraging changes in consumer habits is not a difficult thing to do in a consumer-driven culture.  Most people want to change their consumption habits because they want to do their part.  Plus, it could mean more money and better health for them in the long-run that is to say: these are fairly easy lifestyle changes that can be made.

However, as I argued in my previous post, these efforts will not be enough.  The true source of overconsumption is industry.  Drastic changes to how goods and services are produced must be made, but we can’t rely on those in industry to go ahead and make those changes.  Picture yourself as a business owner, you want to meet the demands of the consumer and make a profit.  If your options are a) create a “green” product for the eco-conscious consumer or b) completely change your industrial processes at the risk of profit loss and decreased market share.  The choice of option a) is an obvious one.

You may be asking, “If the business creates a green product isn’t that good enough?” My response is both “yes” and “no”.  Green products found on the shelves today are often misleading, a phenomenon known as “greenwashing”. One example would be products made from 100% recycled materials.  Recycling products is a good thing, no doubt.  What it fails to account for, however, are the industrial process involved in getting that product from the assembly line to the store shelves.  The product is green, but not green enough.

Canadian environmentalists (and everyone else in the world) cannot wait for industry to make the necessary changes because they have reasons not to do so.  It is up to citizens to work for a new way of doing things that does not result in the need for industrial overconsumption a system that encourages smart and sustainable development over unlimited growth and profits.  Only then do we stand a chance of mitigating the worst of climate change.

By: Chris Burke

Canadian environmentalists have long argued that many of today’s environmental issues can be blamed on the overconsumption habits of the average Canadian citizen.  They cite data suggesting that we would need more than one Earth to sustain the current Canadian lifestyle.  As a solution to the impending environmental crisis they advocate for a reduction in consumption, but this is a flawed solution.  Advocating for a reduction in consumption and a greening of consumer habits is not a bad thing.  The fact that there is an interest for this change in lifestyle is encouraging as it indicates that many are concerned about the current state of the environment and want to do something about it but, as I will argue in this post, the blame for overconsumption lies with industry not with the consumer.  The average Canadian consumer could reduce their carbon footprint to zero, and it would be enough to bring about the reductions needed to stave off runaway climate change.

There’s no doubt that the global North consumes on a level that is completely out of proportion to its actual needs when compared with the global South.  Environmentalists are correct in pointing out the massive differences in North and South consumption, but from here their argument starts to weaken.  When they begin to focus on the consumption levels of the average consumer, they start to go down some misleading roads.  The point that environmentalists often miss is that inequalities in consumption levels exist in the countries that make up the North.

“The average consumer” is a misleading term.  The numbers environmentalists cite to demonstrate that absurd levels of waste and consumption exist in the North are often calculated in a manner that factors in the waste and consumption of industrial processes.  The “average” is sometimes misunderstood.  It cannot always be used to draw a reliable conclusion.  How the average was calculated must be known.  In this case, the average is heavily skewed making the average consumption of your everyday consumer look worse than it actually is. Other way to think of this is to picture a neighbourhood where four people make $50,000/year and 1 person makes $1,000,000,000/year.  The average early earning is $200,040,000.  The data shows that this figure is misleading, but if you didn’t have that data you’d never know and would assume that this is a very wealthy neighbourhood.  Likewise with consumption and waste levels, we think that the average consumer is an overly affluent individual consuming more than what the planet can sustain.  However, the industry numbers skew the data.

Another example of misleading numbers comes from the book Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis (Angus, Butler, Hartmann, and Kovel, 2011).  In 2007, greenhouse gas emissions from “Residential” sources were 15%.  Yet, as Angus, et al (2011) point out, these emissions include those produced from natural gas and electrical providers i.e.  The emissions are not being produced by your average resident.  There are more examples like this, but space here is limited.  Readers of this blog are encouraged to ask for more information on this topic.

How has it come to this?  If the numbers demonstrate that consumers are not to blame, then why has the environmental movement become so focused on creating green consumers?  That’s the question I want to leave readers with for now.  Another post will be up on the blog shortly in which I will provide my own answer to that question.

In recent years, governments around the world have been forced to confront increasingly unsustainable debt levels. The financial crisis has forced massive deficit spending as governments strove to provide stimulus to contain the economic recession. As a result of decreased investor confidence in the credit-worthiness of several governments, some have proposed the adoption of austerity …

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