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Purpose of the Corporation

THE COVID-19 CRISIS has revealed a great deal about the character of humanity. It has demonstrated the extent to which people can come together, and it has laid bare the systemic inequalities within our current economic structure and social fabric. As the world looks to governments to lead through a pandemic, corporations are also being asked to assist in tackling the inequalities that have bubbled up to the surface, in order to create a ‘new’ normal.

The public looking to corporations to support societal reform should come as no surprise. There have been discussions happening for quite some time on how to modernize capitalism by changing the purpose of the corporation. A movement is afoot that views the role of business as something different from previous generations – instead of simply focusing on profits or value for shareholders, corporations are increasingly expected to contribute positively to all stakeholders.

For a corporation’s purpose to truly broaden in this way, it must support efforts to address the challenges faced by its stakeholders and the communities in which it operates. Indeed, the drive to rethink the purpose of the corporation is fuelled by the public’s desire to have business assist in overcoming global challenges such as climate change, wealth inequality, systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a whole new level of responsibility thrust upon business. The days in which a corporation could simply focus on financial metrics, such as margins, productivity or profits, are over. A business now needs to evaluate – and correct when needed – its impact across a whole suite of social concerns, such as the environment, racism, poverty, gender equality, and more.

With these enhanced responsibilities comes an expectation of concrete and authentic action to tackle such important matters within the organization itself. In addition to monitoring and improving a corporation’s impact internally and externally, business leaders are now being compelled to speak out on these matters publicly. The assumption is that when an individual, organization, or government falls short of the public’s expectations regarding a certain social question, business will ‘call out’ or cut ties with the party, or exert some other type of pressure to influence and encourage ‘better’ behaviour and outcomes.

These three layers of the enhanced responsibility business faces are interlinked. A business must use the levers of its impact on communities, the globe, and society; its internal practices which can hinder or advance important and needed social reforms; and its capacity to influence others; all at the same time. As recent weeks have demonstrated, it is a grave public relations mistake for a corporation to speak out in support of an important social cause if it has not yet taken internal action to advance the objectives of that same cause.

 

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Business leaders will undoubtedly need support in meeting their new responsibilities and in ensuring their organizations are purpose-driven and focused on contributing positively to all their stakeholders. The newly created Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation will offer support to Canadian businesses and organizations as they work to redefine, strengthen, and advance the scope of their purpose and values through their operations, their impact on all their stakeholders, and their ability to influence others to do the same.

It will not be easy for business to meet the evolving expectations placed on them by the public and civil society. Nevertheless, the movement afoot makes it clear that change is on the horizon for capitalism one way or the other. With change comes uncertainty. What is certain, however, is that the purpose of the corporation is more important than ever. Let’s hope that the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will provide inspiration for business leaders to embrace a new approach to corporate leadership which would be a big first step towards modernizing capitalism and helping humanity overcome the challenges facing this generation.

Now that’s a purpose worth fighting for.

Letter from the Chairman

IN THE BEGINNING of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, a plague has descended on the kingdom of Thebes that ravages crops, livestock and citizens alike. We find Oedipus, king of Thebes, imploring his subjects to stop praying and instead “act as the crisis demands,” to find a cure. The oracle at Delphi informs Oedipus that the “great pestilence” will only be lifted through an act of justice: the previous king’s murderer must be killed or exiled.

Eventually, Oedipus’ quest for justice—and with it, a cure—brings him to the blind prophet Tiresias, who informs him that Oedipus himself is the killer and that his kingdom was founded on incest and patricide. In the end, the king, no longer blind to his own crimes, gouges out his eyes and stumbles from his palace.

While an imperfect analogue for the challenges of COVID-19, Sophocles’ tragedy bears an important lesson for our time: namely, that pandemics reveal the deepest, most entrenched and often least visible injustices of our politics and our society. What’s more, no one is immune to these lessons. From dictators and doctors to schoolteachers and presidents, all are doomed if they remain blind to the revelations of our new reality.

In this edition of Perspectives, the Navigator team sheds some light on that reality and what COVID-19 means for the future of business, issue management and public affairs. We will also look at some of the most important trends in these fields and how they are evolving.

While the pandemic has taken a toll across every industry and walk of life, the response has hardly been even. Certain sectors have proven more agile and less susceptible to the disruptions we all now experience in our daily lives and have cautiously moved to reopen. Others have wildly careened, in the name of economic reward, toward a “back to normal” that surely can no longer exist.

After months of social distancing and shutdown, we emerge to a world which in many ways looks identical to the one we knew before. But looks, after all, can be deceiving and as in Sophocles’ time, the transformative “black swan” is less the pandemic than our response to it.

In the coming weeks, we will release new Perspectives pieces digitally, beginning with a very exciting contribution by Navigator Senior Advisor and former Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant. Brian’s piece examines the drive to rethink the purpose of the corporation and how it will shape business, policy and society. Senior Consultant Jeff Costen has contributed a timely article on the rise of grey media and whether COVID-19 has endowed traditional media outlets with a new relevance.

Some things have not changed. As always, Perspectives will feature interviews with prominent Canadians and Dispatches from our Western and Quebec offices. While the format has evolved to adapt to these times, this edition of Perspectives contains the same level of insight and deep analysis as always, albeit with a new focus. Our hope is as much to arouse new questions as provide answers, and in doing so reveal the opportunities which exist alongside the challenges ahead.

Rush Hour

The race to judge others may be rooted in fear. But it increasingly poses a threat to the rules that underpin civil society.

Anger is the Russian nesting doll of emotions. A twist of its hard, glossy exterior reveals smaller versions of it: fury, violence, self-righteousness, judgment, prejudice, disdain and fear. Fear may be the smallest and most frequently overlooked of the dolls, but it is also the most powerful.

There are a number of reasons why anger is all the rage these days, manifesting itself in a collective rush to judgment.

At a time of pervasive uncertainty, socioeconomic fragmentation and weak leadership, individuals, organizations and communities are vulnerable and acutely aware of it. Familiar touchstones such as trust, integrity of information and the right to privacy have eroded. Foundational social values such as telling the truth, fair play and community service are bleeding in the ditch. Thanks to the force of social media, everyone is talking at high volume all at the same time and no one is listening much.

The pace of all this tumult has often been dizzying.

The more threatened and fearful people feel, the greater their need to impose order on the chaos they perceive around them by lashing out at others and judging them hard. Where the prevailing mindset was

once focused on due process and the right to a fair hearing, that’s no longer the case. From business to politics to personal conduct, public opinion has become harsh and swift, ready to overwhelm facts that may never be shared or corrected.

Whether it’s rooted in fear or not, widespread anger is having a material impact on how we interact as individuals within a society. For companies, stakeholder backlash

has become a real and constant danger that must be anticipated at every turn. The insistence on institutional accountability means it has never been harder to contain the damage caused by outrage.

Anger leads to a punitive mindset that has a direct bearing on how long-term decisions are made in public and political life, regardless of whether the anger is articulated, acknowledged or even related to the decision at hand. It’s all the more significant because anger, more than any other emotion, typically incites action—the more immediate the better. Given the mechanisms that exist to turn decisions into action, the potential consequences are formidable.

According to the Journal of Behavioral Decision-Making, the more anger one feels, the greater the drive to place the responsibility for negative outcomes on others and to hurt them in return. This inclination to quid pro quo is noteworthy at a time when free trade and protectionism are under attack in North America, Britain is in the process of withdrawing from the European Union, and the pent-up fury over male sexual misconduct has been transformed into an international movement of remarkable force.

When Marcel Met Kent

French author Marcel Proust is famous for his gentle remembrance of things past, his eponymous character-revealing questionnaire and his love of madeleine cookies.

Kent Monkman is a modern-day national treasure. He is an artist and advocate who packages a harsh social message about the treachery behind Canada’s national myths and the violation of Indigenous rights in the lush neo-classical style of David and Delacroix. He and his alter ego, the fabulous Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, are of Cree and Irish ancestry. They have gained an international reputation for the power and beauty of both the medium and the message.

What is your greatest fear?
To be irrelevant.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Impatience.

Which living person  do you most admire?
Alanis Obomsawin, for blazing a trial for all Indigenous artists to follow, and for making over 50 films (and counting).

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Temperance.

On what occasion do you lie?
To my smallest nieces and nephews about the missing and murdered Indigenous women and men. They are too young to know that their lives are considered by many in this country to be worthless.

Which living person do you most despise?
Donald Trump. He epitomizes the dangerous shift towards lack of empathy in our world today.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Kindness.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
I love the warrior-like strength in all women.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My painting practice.

When and where were you happiest?
Any time I’m painting in my studio.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing.

What is your most treasured possession?
My imagination.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To be without friends and family.

What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Weesageechak (the Cree trickster).

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Eugene Delacroix, because of his passion for painting, and his articulate challenges of the society he lived in through his art and his writing.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Murray Sinclair. His work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was ground-breaking, and with his wisdom continues to offer guidance to all Canadians that is wise, generous and essential in these turbulent times.

Mindful Diversions

Values and integrity are shaping the new corporate agenda as stakeholders demand that corporate leaders demonstrate social responsibility. The relentless pursuit of accountability and collective morality can be exhausting, however… Navigator Consultant Arabella Goldring reviews some ethical options for rest and relaxation.

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Ecolodges

Nimmo Bay Resort

Stay in an inter tidal chalet at this wilderness adventure resort that adheres to sustainable tourism practices. At Nimmo Bay Resort in Port McNeill, B.C., guests can take advantage of activities from whale watching to glacier trekking and heli-hiking.

Trout Point Lodge

This eco-destination allows guests to return to nature in a part of southwestern Nova Scotia so remote that there is no cellphone service. Trout Point Lodge is a five-star inn located on a wooded estate that borders on the scenic Tobeatic Wilderness Area. The inn offers guests all of the amenities needed to put outdoor recreation and relaxation at the forefront of their vacation.

Algonquin Eco-Lodge

This all-season eco-lodge offers wilderness lovers a unique way to explore southern Ontario’s Algonquin Park, with limited impact on the local environment. Algonquin Eco-Lodge is powered by 100 per cent micro-hydro electricity, generated by its own waterfall. Hike, horseback ride or relax lakeside at this award-winning reatreat.

Hotel Sacacomie

Hotel Sacacomie, a 90-minute drive from Montreal, provides cozy accommodations next to the Mastigouche wildlife reserve. Luxury meets the backwoods at this log cabin that hosts a spa offering a full range of services.

 

Minimalist architecture/architects

Architecture firms around the globe are increasingly committing to making more environmentally conscious decisions with their designs. Here are some examples of industry trailblazers:

 Beat Box housing built by Danish firm Arkitema includes 20 apartments in 48 shipping containers that revitalized a neighbourhood in Roskilde, Denmark. (Source: Danish Design Firm Arkitema Is Building an Apartment Complex from Shipping Containers)

 For Dubai Design Week 2017, boutique Indian firm Fahed + Architects repurposed coil springs from discarded bed mattresses to build a temporary pavilion. The structure, which resembles a cloud-like form, was constructed out of 100 per cent recyclable material. (Source: Abwab D3 Pavilion 2017)

 Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, famous for his quickly erected, inexpensive structures in disaster zones, built a replacement cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, after the city wasdevastated by an earthquake in 2012. The temporary cathedral, completed in 2013, was constructed out of 98 equal-sized cardboard tubes and eight steel shipping containers. (Source: Newly Released Photos of Shigeru Ban’s Cardboard Cathedral in New Zealand)

 

Sustainable food/dining

These popular farm-to-table restaurants are showcasing all that Canada has to offer:

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Annalena
Vancouver   |    www.annalena.ca

 

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Mallard Cottage
St.John’s   |     www.mallardcottage.ca

 

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Pilgrimme
Galiano Island, B.C.   |     www.pilgrimme.ca

 

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Market
Calgary   |     www.marketcalgary.ca

 

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Wolf In The Fog
Tofino, B.C.   |     www.wolfinthefog.com

 

Top books for minimalist living

Zero Waste Home
By Bea Johnson

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide
By Francine Jay

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
By Marie Kondo

 

Meal-kit delivery services

As an alternative to buying all of the ingredients for a meal at the grocery store, why not opt for simplicity with a full meal in a box delivered right to your door? Try these meal-kit subscription services:

GoodFood

Delivers in: Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes
Price: $9.38 per meal/person

Cook It

Delivers in: Quebec and Ontario
Price: $10.83 per meal/person

Chefs Plate

Delivers in: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Manitoba
Price: $10.95 per meal/person

 

 

Apps that promote brain health

calm

Calm

Apple’s 2017 App of the Year, Calm facilitates mindfulness and meditation. This app offers guided meditation, sleep stories, breathing programs and relaxing music to help its users get better sleep.

 

headspace

Headspace

Use this guided meditation app in moments of high stress. Headspace offers the basic breathing exercises and visualizations used by celebrities and business leaders alike to help manage stress.

 

sporcle

Sporcle

Sporcle is an addictive trivia application that quizzes users on such subjects as sports, movies, television, music and geography. This app is sure to challenge your memory and exercise your brain.