Corporate Knights

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Corporate Knights
Categories Clean Capitalism
Frequency Quarterly
Circulation 130 000+
First issue June 2002
Country Canada and USA
Based in Toronto
Language English
ISSN 1703-2016

Corporate Knights (CK) is a media, research and financial information products company based in Toronto, Canada, focused on promoting an economic system where prices fully incorporate social, economic and ecological costs and benefits, and market participants are clearly aware of the consequences of their actions. The company calls such as system "clean capitalism." Founded in 2002, Corporate Knights Inc. has two subsidiaries: CK Media, which includes the award-winning business and society magazine Corporate Knights, and CK Capital, which produces corporate rankings, research reports and financial products based on corporate sustainability performance. Its best-known rankings include the Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada and the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. In June 2013, Corporate Knights was named "Magazine of the Year" by Canada's National Magazine Awards Foundation.[1]

In addition to its two subsidiaries, Corporate Knights Inc. spearheaded the creation in 2012 of the Council for Clean Capitalism, a multi-industry group of leading Canadian companies dedicated to advocating economic and social policy changes that reward responsible corporate behaviour and remove barriers to clean capitalism. The council's 10 members include Telus, Vancity, Teck Resources, and Hewlett-Packard Canada.


Corporate Knights Inc. was co-founded in 2002 by Toby A. A. Heaps and Paul Fengler. Fengler was an International Relations and Russian Language graduate, and Heaps majored in Economics and International Development.[2] The pair created the magazine as a "halfway house between Adbusters and Forbes," according to Heaps.

The magazine was first published in the wake of the accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom with the objective of holding companies more accountable while recognizing that "power is where the money is, and if you want to make social change, it’s through business." Heaps has made clear since the magazine was founded that there's no pretending that corporations are saints. "There are no Mother Teresas here. But these are the best we've got."[3] As such, two of the magazine's major goals has been to publicize positive business practices and rank the sustainability performance of companies.

CK has expanded both its reach and research over the past decade. In 2011, the company was split into two subsidiaries: CK Media and CK Capital.

CK Media

Corporate Knights' magazine is the centerpiece of CK Media. It is a business and society publication focused on how companies, markets and governments are advancing social and environmental sustainability worldwide. Calling itself "the magazine for clean capitalism," it highlights and analyses trends around sustainable corporate practices and investment products. In 2012, veteran business writer Tyler Hamilton (reporter) was brought on as editor-in-chief to oversee an overhaul of the magazine's content and design, alongside the new managing editor Jeremy Runnalls. On June 6, 2013, the National Magazine Awards Foundation named Corporate Knights "Magazine of the Year". The publication was also nominated for having Best Feature Package and Best Artistic Package in 2012.

There are approximately 110,000 copies of Corporate Knights magazine distributed quarterly through the Washington Post and Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. The magazine is also direct-mailed to corporate and political decision makers worldwide. It's largest presence is in North America and Europe. A digital version was launched in spring 2012 through iTunes in partnership with e-publisher PixelMags, and another 6,000 digital copies are distributed through the Globe and Mail's Globe2Go e-paper delivery service.

CK Media also produces an e-newsletter, podcasts and social media, and in 2013 launched a series of quarterly roundtable events to stimulate discussion and action on clean capitalism initiatives. The roundtables are high-level, closed-door gatherings involving senior political, business and NGO leaders. Also in 2013, the magazine launched a mobile app called CK Ranker that lets any company rank its sustainability performance and compare itself against industry peers. The magazine published its November (Winter 2013) issue on paper made from 60 per cent wheat straw, a first in North America, part of a partnership with Prairie Paper Ventures, a company co-founded by actor Woody Harrelson, who appears on the issue's cover.

Corporate Knights Capital

Corporate Knights Capital (CKC) is a boutique investment research company formally created after Corporate Knights Inc. closed a financing round in 2012 with a group of investors, led by Vancity Community Capital.[4] According to managing director Doug Morrow, "CKC specializes in building enhanced equity and fixed income indices that incorporate material sustainability factor analysis. Investment services are powered by a unique quantitative research process that identifies sustainability and financial factors linked to corporate share price performance, with a specific focus on risk-adjusted stock returns."

The business was founded on the belief that institutional investors are increasingly interested in investment products that provide satisfactory returns and align with clean capitalism investment philosophies. Its mandate is to identify trends re-shaping economic growth in the 21st century and take into account the risks posed by these trends. As part of this, CKC produces benchmarking and research reports, including sustainability performance rankings/ratings, for over 2,000 companies globally. At the core of CKC's evaluation methodology are 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) covering resource management, financial management and employee management. The KPIs were selected with input from institutional investors on the basis of their prevalence in regulated and voluntary corporate disclosures and their overall financial materiality.

A significant portion of CKC's research is used in the rankings and reports published in Corporate Knights magazine.

Reports and rankings[edit]

Corporate Knights magazine issues annual rankings, special reports and annual awards for companies. Some of which are listed below (date indicates the year each began):

  • 2001- Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada (annual ranking);
  • 2005- Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies (annual ranking);
  • 2005- Knight Schools Ranking (ran from 2005 to 2012)
  • 2006- Greenest Prime Minister (special award)
  • 2007- Diversity Report (periodic ranking);
  • 2007- Cleantech Ranking (annual ranking);
  • 2012- Sustainable Countries Scorecard (annual ranking);
  • 2012- America's Greenest Presidents (special report);
  • 2013- Global Green MBA Survey (annual ranking);
  • 2013- Canada's Greenest Chief Executive (annual award);
  • 2013- North American Sustainable Cities Scorecard (annual ranking);

Annual Rankings

  • The Global 100

In 2005, CK started the first annual list of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. This annual ranking is a comprehensive data driven analysis of the world's largest public firms. It has been recognized as a leader in transparency and industry best practices for sustainability rankings, according to SustainAbility’s Rate the Raters project.[5] The Global 100 seeks to mainstream sustainability in the business community to demonstrate that large, successful companies in a range of industries can be fiscally responsible, financially successful and focused on sustainability.

  • 50 Best Corporate Citizens in Canada

Since 2001, CK has published the annual list of Canada’s top corporate citizens. Companies are transparently ranked on their relative carbon, water, waste and energy impacts as well as citizenship indicators including pension fund quality, board diversity, ratio of CEO-pay to lowest paid worker, and tax dollar generation, as well as sector specific indicators such as renewable energy investments (for financial companies) and respect for human rights (for resource extraction companies).

  • Cleantech Ranking

Corporate Knights began publishing a special report on the cleantech sector in 2006, when it created its Cleantech 10 and Next 10 lists of established and up-and-coming Canadian clean technology companies. A Cleantech 10 list of U.S. companies was also created in 2012 in partnership with the Cleantech Group. In 2013 the magazine shifted gears by focusing its coverage on the Cleantech Group's Cleantech 100 list of global cleantech leaders, part of an effort to better represent its North American (and global) readership.

  • Global Green MBA Survey

The magazine created its annual sustainability ranking of Canadian MBA schools in 2003. Called Knight Schools, the special section periodically ranked engineering and other professional schools over the years. In 2013, a decision was made to expand the ranking beyond Canada. Managing editor Jeremy Runnalls led the initiative, which resulted in Knight Schools being rebranded as the Corporate Knights Global Green MBA Survey.

Awards of Distinction

  • Greenest Prime Minister

This was a one-of award. In 2006, Corporate Knights solicited the input of prominent Canadians, including Elizabeth May, Maude Barlow, Sheila Copps and Monte Hummel, to rank the environmental impact of Canadian Prime Ministers.

Selected as having accomplished the most to improve Canada's environment, Brian Mulroney was honoured at an Earth Week Gala dinner in Ottawa as the 'Greenest PM in Canadian History'. The event brought together current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, television host Ben Mulroney, US Ambassador David Wilkins and other dignitaries to recognize Mulroney's positive environmental impact. His government established the Acid Rain Accord, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Great Lakes Action Plan, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and ratified the Montreal Protocol.

Canadian comedian Rick Mercer provided commentary throughout the evening, which was broadcast live on national television.[6][7][8]


Global 100 Dinners

At the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland, CK hosts the Global 100 Davos Dinner and announces the year’s most sustainable companies. Each year the event has had a theme.

  • 2006- Effects of Corporate Sustainability on Company Valuations
  • 2007- The Investor as the New Regulator
  • 2008- New Challenges for the Long-term Global Investor
  • 2009- The Next Motor That Will Power the Global Economy
  • 2010- Scaling Up Global Finance for Cleaner Capitalism
  • 2011- 21st Century Balance Sheet for Cleaner Capitalism
  • 2012- How Can the Bond Markets Save the Global Economy—and the Planet?

Best 50 Gala

The Annual Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada are announced each summer at a gala in Toronto. Awards of distinction are also presented at this event.

E3 Roundtables

CK partnered with the Energy Policy Institute of Canada in 2010 and 2011 for roundtable events across the country. The focus of the events was to bring together thought leaders to create an energy strategy and policy options that would support it. It was emphasized that Canada is in a uniquely favorable position in that it has abundant potential to produce energy ecologically and economically.

Speakers at Corporate Knights events:

Senior Government Representatives

Corporate & Society Leaders

Notable CK Interviewees[edit]

Public policy[edit]

Corporate Knights also undertakes initiatives to influence public policy, including a 2006 $100 billion carbon pricing plan for Canada to reach its Kyoto target,[9] convening the first Energy Ministers' meeting on building a transcanadian grid for transporting green electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed,[10] and the Option 13 initiative to make trade implications a central consideration of the Copenhagen meeting in November–December 2009.[11]

In 2007 CK helped put together a working group to explore a Green Power Corridor summit.[12]

Option13 was an 2008 initiative intended to promote three choices for 2013 in the face of climate change. Ralph Nader and CK’s Toby Heaps published an article about it in the Wall Street Journal.[13]

In 2010 CK supported Bill C-300 and testimony was given by Toby Heaps to support the business case for ethical mining.[14]

Links to External Studies[edit]

Prioritizing Global Reporting Initiative Indicators

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) created the G3 sustainability reporting guidelines as well as 14 sector-specific supplements. GRI identified these barriers to sustainable investing that must be overcome:

  • 1. Lack of prioritization: When investors calculate ROI there are hundreds of indicators not deemed financially significant and if there’s limited disclosure anyhow, investors naturally shy from the challenge.
  • 2. Data doubts: Consensus on ESG factors is hard to come by and even when it is approached there can be uncertainty about sources, limitations and characteristics of available data.
  • 3. Lack of guidance on how to integrate ESG metrics into standard valuation models: There isn’t yet a default model of using ESG data once it is collected and ratified by the investor.[15]

G3.1 is GRI’s most recent iteration of its Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.[16]

In 2010, the Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and the Global Reporting Initiative announced the formation of the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC).[17]

Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants: Environmental, Social and Governance Indicators

In 2010, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) published a report stating that mainstream institutional investors are beginning to factor environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators into their decision making.[18]

Key people[edit]

Current magazine staff

  • Toby Heaps, Publisher
  • Tyler Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Publisher
  • Jeremy Runnalls, Managing Editor
  • Jack Dylan, Senior Art Director
  • Donna Mitchell, Copy Editor
  • Erin Gardhouse, Account Manager
  • Michael Smith, Business Development Associate

Current research staff

  • Doug Morrow, Managing Director
  • Michael Yow, Lead Analyst
  • Brian Lee, Analyst
  • Kyle Balkissoon, Director of Quantitative Strategy


  • Toby Heaps, CEO
  • Sean Flannery, Vice-Chairman
  • Natalie Sorichetti, Publisher's Assistant
  • Usha Sthankiya, Chief Financial Officer

Notable contributors


  1. ^ National Magazine Awards Foundation website
  2. ^ The McGill Daily - McGill Alumni Launch Business Ethics Magazine
  3. ^ The Globe and Mail - Glossy offers new spin on business ethics
  4. ^ Vancity- Toronto-based clean capitalism media company closes investment round to launch capital markets division
  5. ^
  6. ^ Canuck Politics - The Greenest Prime Minister
  7. ^ CTV News - Mulroney praised for his green record as PM
  8. ^ CBC News - Mulroney honoured for environmental record
  9. ^ The Globe and Mail - Opposition MPs mull carbon-tax proposal
  10. ^ The Globe and Mail - Ministers call for national grid
  11. ^ The Wall Street Journal - We Need a Global Carbon Tax
  12. ^ Corporate Knights- Green Power Corridor Summit in Ottawa
  13. ^ Wall Street Journal- We Need a Global Carbon Tax
  14. ^ Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability- Canada must guarantee ethical mining practices with Bill C-300, says panel of experts
  15. ^ EMC- GRI Index
  16. ^ Global Reporting- G3.1 Guidelines
  17. ^ CICA- Formation of IIRC
  18. ^ CICA- ESG Indicators

External links[edit]