Big Six banks among Canada’s cleanest companies

By Katie Keir | June 8, 2017 | Last updated on December 6, 2023
3 min read

All six of Canada’s major banks, along with some insurers and smaller institutions, have been recognized as companies that are best-positioned to thrive in a clean-capitalism economy.

If you look at Corporate Knights’ 2017 Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada ranking, these banks and institutions placed all across the spectrum—with Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity) coming in first place overall, while the remaining 11 identified firms ranked between second place (Desjardins Group) and 44th (National Bank).

Looking at banks alone, says Corporate Knights in a post, “Desjardins placed second and HSBC Bank Canada was third, while the Big Six banks rounded out the rest of the list, led by RBC.”

For its part, credit union Vancity has been a top contender for the last four years. Corporate Knights says the company also came out on top in 2016 and 2013. For 2017, Vancity had “some of the best scores in most of the 10 categories relevant to the financial services industry, including energy and waste productivity, gender diversity and low employee turnover,” while its “lowest scores were for water use and taxes paid.”

To come up with its top-50 list, the magazine looks at 14 key performance indicators that measure how responsibly companies manage their resources (e.g., their energy use and waste), employees (e.g. how diverse and happy their workers are) and finances (e.g. taxes and CEO-Average employee pay ratios). Effective October 2016, Corporate Knights says it introduced a new rating methodology.

Check out the full list of recognized companies.

Roadblocks to responsible investment

Most Canadian investors are drawn to responsible investment, but they know little or nothing about it.

So finds the Responsible Investment Association’s (RIA) 2017 investor survey, which polled 1,084 investors via an online survey between March 21 and 30. RIA says 77% of respondents are interested in RI and, in particular, 71% reported interest in impact investments dedicated to solving social or environmental problems.

The issue, adds RIA, is 73% of those polled don’t know where to start, even though they currently invest and own securities—in fact, only 5% of respondents reported knowing a lot about RI.

To help, investors want advisors to suggest suitable investments in the RI space and for financial institutions to offer more educational information. This would make them “more confident in the financial performance of RI funds,” says RIA, a result that respondents said would drive more investment and interest.

And it shouldn’t take much to start RI conversations with clients, given RIA finds “a large proportion of Canadian investors see the long-term benefits of investing in companies with strong ESG performance, with 77% strongly or somewhat agreeing that [these] companies […] are better long-term investments.”

Unsurprisingly, younger investors are more likely to try out RI: 85% percent of those aged 18 to 35 are interested, compared to 80% of those aged 36 to 65 and 69% of respondents aged 55+. This is partially because people’s interest correlated with their time horizons; consider that only 43% of investors say they’re very likely or somewhat likely to invest in an RI fund or product in the next six months versus 64% over the next five years, says RIA.

So don’t wait to kick start the conversation. For more on RI and how to discuss it, read RIA’s report. Also, read and share these articles.

Sustainable ways to offer responsible investing

4 drivers of growth in responsible investment

Not on top of ESG investing? Don’t ignore it

How to divest properly

Desjardins Global AM wants to ‘make headway’ in RI space

Most investors want disclosure of pay by gender: poll (same survey, which included a focus on gender diversity)

Experts dish on ESG investing trends, challenges

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Katie Keir

Katie is special projects editor for and has worked with the team since 2010. In 2012, she was named Best New Journalist by the Canadian Business Media Awards. Reach her at