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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Scandals piling up in world of Canadian business

Source: Derek Abma, Postmedia News, 2 July 2011

This country has long benefited from a strong corporate reputation abroad — a "halo effect," as some call it, from being seen as a kinder, gentler version of our American neighbours. But some might question whether that's still the case, as the country gains attention, and sometimes notoriety, for everything from the oilsands pollution; to Bear Creek Mining Corp.’s loss of its mining rights in Peru; to Niko Resources Ltd.’s recent $9.5-million fine for influence peddling; and to the now re-jailed former media baron Conrad Black.

Christopher Wilson, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Ottawa's school of management, says some scandals involving Canadian business interests are indicative of a corporate culture that puts its emphasis on the immediate appeasement of shareholders, often at the expense of other stakeholders, such as workers, customers and affected communities.

"The orientation is to see the profits in the next quarter as opposed to the long-term health of the organization and the long-term value addition to society," he says. Wilson says English-speaking countries tend to have a business culture that emphasizes short-term needs of shareholders over other considerations. Canada, he says, is perhaps even more so this way than the United States, because the relatively small pool of significant shareholders in Canadian companies limits the diversity of opinion that goes into shaping corporate policies.

"It makes it really, really difficult for Canadian companies to make a change because everybody sort of thinks the same way," Wilson says. "Whereas in the more diverse, less closely held environment of the United States, there's so many other perspectives that come into play." (more..)


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