This writer has never been a fan of former new democratic politician Ed Broadbent nor of the institute that he has named for him. There is no reason for him to be concerned about this as I also hold no briefs for the Fraser Institute, which likely supports the antithesis of the objectives of the Broadbent Institute. I have always been suspicious of think tanks with a built-in bias. Which I suspect is most of them.
Of the 100 or so think tanks in Canada, I tend to pay attention to the Samara Centre for Democracy that describes itself as a non-partisan charity. I expect that we are not the only country wherein our democracy needs charity.
But the bone I wanted to pick with Ed Broadbent today is in regard to his grandiose Canadian Democracy and Corporate Accountability Commission that he created and chaired with publisher Avie Bennett back in 2000. Their purpose was to encourage Canadian businesses to be socially responsible.
This is not to say how long I can hold a grudge. This was not a royal commission nor in any way supported by government. I debated and finally decided to provide them with some of my expertise on the subject. It was some 20 years before that I had spend time giving guest lectures at Ontario universities to business students. I had written quite few articles at that time on the social responsibility of business.
When I appeared before them to support a paper I had sent, I found that Ed Broadbent was rude and Avie Bennett appeared bored. I wrote off the experience as a waste of time and forgot about it.
But the other day, I came across some references to the report that the Broadbent-Bennett effort issued. The gist of it was that business needed to be coerced to be concerned about the environment, human rights and local communities, as well as the countries in which they choose to operate.
What annoyed me about this was that if Broadbent and his buddy had listened for a bit, they would have had an entirely new perspective. What I was saying 20 years before was that business can only benefit from being socially responsible. It is demonstrable that the socially responsible business has lower costs for staff turnover, better recognition in the news media and easier access to politicians. The company can attract desirable board members and can be much more profitable.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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