During a strategy session in 2018, Vancouver-based Courtney Agencies brought its attention to building its business in a way that is conscious of its impact on the environment, its contribution to local and global communities, and its responsibility to its people.

“We know that we have a pretty small footprint,” said President Paul Courtney. “But we want to be counted with the companies who truly want to make a difference, and access any point of influence we may have to say that this is important.”

Every decision Courtney makes now runs through its lens of social purpose and social responsibility. To get started, Courtney worked to baseline its carbon impact at the operational level and set goals for reduction of paper use and electricity, earning them Climate Smart certification. That work provided a good launching point for its application to be certified as a B Corporation.

B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

Courtney participated in the “Getting to 80” program offered by Decade Impact – a consulting company that educates and supports organizations in advance of making a B Corp application. Eighty is the score that earns B Corp certification; to maintain certification requires the organization’s commitment to continue to make changes and establish programs to increase their scores year over year.

The assessment is divided into six categories: Governance (ethics), Workers (development and security), Community (diversity/inclusion, local purchasing, donations), Environment (facilities and carbon intensity), Customers (stewardship) and Disclosure (openness). Examples of how their commitments have been playing out – in the last two years, Courtney has earned a spot as one of BC’s Living Wage Employers, established a new RSP program for its staff, purchased offsets for its own operations-level carbon emissions, developed the plan to establish a carbon calculator and offsets for clients and, most recently, made a corporate donation plus matched giving for staff who want to support Ukraine.

Courtney’s data is now under assessment with B Corporation – and they are eager to get their report card. Even if this first application results in information about where they can strengthen the next one, Courtney is eager to learn where it can make positive change.

In addition, Paul is adding his voice to the larger conversation about the environmental impact of the shipping industry as a whole. He uses his blog and social media to amplify messages such as those about the World Trade Organization’s social responsibility and social priorities as articulated by Director-General Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

“This is not being done with a view to make us more competitive — we wholeheartedly invite others in our industry to join us. There is still a need for educating each other and our customers on how to balance price, planet and people.” Paul added.

There are stories of more and more companies stepping up to reduce their carbon impact — including what happens at the hands of their suppliers. Moves in this direction are good business practice and have the potential for good growth.

Paul Courtney is a member of the CIFFA Sustainability Committee* and welcomes the conversation with all members about why and how to think and act like a global citizen.

*The mandate of the CIFFA Sustainability Committee is to identify best practices in the areas of sustainability and to provide guidance on the development and implementation of sustainability goals to membership (Read full text). Discover the 13 CIFFA National Committees.

CIFFA’s Executive Director Bruce Rodgers on why Canada’s Competition Laws need more bite

On Monday January 31st the federal government will convene a summit to discuss supply chain frustrations with a wide variety of participants.  Despite the odds against rapid success, it’s a welcome effort.

The stubborn supply chain mess affects virtually every consumer and community. And although the problems are certainly international, there are things that can be done right here in Canada, to improve the situation.

Ottawa has been tiptoeing along a very narrow line: trying to be seen as active on the problem, while avoiding any expectation that the government could craft a “solution” that solves all the problems.  Presumably political advisers were telling the Cabinet “you touch it, you’ll own it.”

But south of the border the U.S. President took an aggressive tack, travelling to a California port and personally urging railroads, truckers and ports to take extraordinary measures. By Christmas the White House was touting evidence the situation was improving.

Driven to do something, the Canadian federal government announced the “summit” to allow all the various parties a chance to comment. Although easily criticized as a communications gesture, the decision to put all the players in one place is actually a pretty fair idea.

One feature of the problem – the first priority – is the need for widespread cooperation. Cargo moves from ship to port, terminal, warehouse, rail, truck…it really is a chain.  If one party – warehouses, say – make a move to tackle the backlog by extending their hours of operation, it doesn’t help if the port and the truckers don’t follow the lead. That’s why we wrote to the Prime Minister just days after the last election suggesting he name a special representative to bring people together and recommend their most useful suggestions back to the Cabinet.

The federal summit is possibly a step in that direction, and maybe Transport Minister Omar Alghabra will play the role of coach-referee-investigator that’s required.

Somebody must. Solutions to the congestion and delays will include operational changes, government regulatory simplification and spending on improved infrastructure.  Business and government both need to come to the party with items to offer.

At the Summit it’s very likely many speakers will mention the U.S., both because of President Biden’s activism, but also because of the aggressive defense of U.S. interests by the Federal Maritime Commission, the “independent federal agency responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system for the benefit of U.S. exporters, importers, and the U.S. consumer.”

Our equivalent is the Canadian Transportation Agency, with a more modest role and substantially weaker legislative “bite”.  Over the course of the pandemic the Americans have been much more active in confronting both service deficiencies and the spiralling costs faced by customers.

The government should significantly increase both the mandate and the legal power of the Canadian Transportation Agency in addressing marine issues.

Trade into North America uses ports and railways in both countries. Much of the cargo coming through Canadian ports is U.S.-destined, just as considerable volumes of cargo landing in California and Washington ports will make its way to Canada. We are closely locked together economically, and it’s entirely appropriate that we cooperate legally and politically too.  Ottawa should do all it can to establish close ties with U.S. federal and state governments on marine matters.

The ocean-going shipping industry is a powerful force, answering to no government.  Organized in explicit cartels called “conferences” the shipping giants have feasted in the pandemic. Recently Bloomberg offered an example: Denmark’s A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s second-largest container carrier, was on track for an annual profit last year that would match or surpass its combined results from the past nine years.”

Traditionally nations have accepted these cartels  – Canada has a specific law on the books exempting them from our Competition laws – but the gigantic costs and uncompetitive behaviours may have triggered an international rebellion.  Several nations are considering legislation to break up the cartels and force more competition. Canada should follow the 2015 advice of our then-Commissioner of Competition and join the international trend towards competition.

Once assembled, the participants in Canada’s supply chain will offer suggestions to reduce the backlog and smooth the flow.  Most of the measures will be small changes to operations and regulatory processes. Collectively they may add up to real improvements. But the crisis is also an opportunity to make larger reforms that strengthen the marine sector and the supply chains that rely on it.



June 14, 2021.

Att. The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Finance

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario,
K1A 0A6



Dear Minister,

We are writing to express alarm and frustration at recent developments in the marine shipping sector which will have negative impacts on Canadian businesses and consumers.

In the last week major shipping lines have announced new “Destination Terminal Handling Charges” on Canadian imports and exports. These fees are not justified, or justifiable.

Ocean shipping has enjoyed an extremely lucrative period during the Covid 19 outbreak.  Demand has been at record high levels and, in addition, shipping firms have been levying huge penalties on Canadian customers struggling to access containers amid the congestion in ports and terminals.

(This latter practice is so egregious it has triggered an investigation by US marine authorities.)

As Minister of Finance you will be preoccupied with concerns about rising inflation.  Clearly, we will experience some unprecedented trends in our economy as we emerge from the Covid pandemic and no one can be blamed for that.  But opportunistic and punitive charges such as these are not in that category. They are levied by service suppliers who see an opportunity in the chaos caused by Covid-19 and unafraid of any reaction from the traditionally supine Canadian regulators.

We urge you to investigate this situation. As you may know, the marine container sector has a long history of domination by explicit cartels. With 80% of our trade exposed to this industry, hardly a Canadian business or consumer is unaffected by price manipulation of this kind.


With best wishes,

Bruce Rodgers            Executive Director, CIFFA

Julia Kuzeljevich          Public Affairs Manager, CIFFA 

The Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) represents some 260 regular member firms from the largest of global multi-national freight forwarding firms to small and medium sized Canadian companies. CIFFA member companies employ tens of thousands of highly skilled international trade and transportation specialists. As a vital component of Canada’s global supply chain, member firms of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) facilitate the movement of goods around the world. Freight forwarders provide a vital link in Canada’s global supply chains, enhancing export capabilities and assisting in the delivery of competitive solutions to Canada’s importing and exporting communities.

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