Hey You!


A bird drinking from the Closed Beaches of the Ottawa River

A bird drinking from the Closed Beaches of the Ottawa River

Did I get your attention?

Today I would like to discuss accountability. Who is to blame for the mess that we are in?

Well the answers I received at a recent seminar astounded me.

  • The guy driving the new F150 blamed big oil.
  • The one with the slave labour designer clothes blamed the big fashion houses.
  • The one with the backyard hot tub that needs to drained and refilled every month complained about how we are not protecting our waterways.
  • The one whose dog has viciously  attacked and bloodied three complained about others’ human rights track record.

As I looked about the room, I saw discomfort in the faces of many. So I took a stand.

Actually the question has only one answer. “I am.”

We each are responsible for the mess we are in. Until consumers stand up and realize that it is our collective choices that have created this then and only then can we make a difference.

So I asked a second question. “What one thing can you do today to fix a little bit of the mess?”

It took a while for people to warm up to this. I realize that it is because for many of us, when we see a big problem, we can not chunk it into a workable plan. I get that. The problem seems so overwhelming that we feel that we can not make a difference so we don’t do anything at all. Or we consume. The tragedy is that as we continue to consume the wrong products, many of us are contributing to making the problem even bigger.

There are those among us who have the gift of being able to chunk massive problems into workable plans. They can create order out of chaos. We need those people to speak up and take a stand…..four people did.

Jessica Alba, Brian Lee, Christopher Gavigan and Sean Kane built the Honest Company….

But more on that Thursday….


yours in Corporate Social Responsibility

Cara MacMillan MBA

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In honour of the 2016 Paralympics

Corporate Social Responsibility measures how a company respects diversity. One aspect of inclusion is how a company treats and respects all of its able customers, employees and suppliers.
The Paul Menton Centre at Carleton Univeristy in Ottawa, Canada has a beautiful mandate: Choose to focus on the ability.The Paul Menton Centre believes in integration, individualism and integration

I have removed the word disability from my vocabulary. Everyone has something that impacts their performance. For some it is limited sight or hearing, the loss of a limb or a muscular disease. For others it is anxiety. For some it is a lack of self esteem, an excess of pride and others, it is ignorance.

Corporate Social Responsibility demands that we too see the ability. When we include people who have different abilities from our own, we learn and grow. When we include, we learn how to include customers and suppliers who face similar challenges but whose work ethic and commitment may align with the values of our own company. CSR sees the ability and measures companies ability to demonstrate respect and inclusion for all people.

Many people believe that Corporate Social Responsibility is about only the environment. Well that is only one of the tenets of CSR. The aspect of respect for all people is also a key tenet of CSR. It is time to demand more respect for those who are excluded for whatever reason: physical or mental illness or limitations, culture, race. gender, socio economic, religion, or age.

The EU has written out its strategy for 2020. The evolution of CSR to include all the tenets of CSR is outlined. The focus to grow jobs in the Eu through structural reforms, fiscal responsibility and
investment are explained. Hopefully this strategy can expand to the EU’s trading partners.

Thank you EU for leading our world in CSR.

The EU 2020 Growth Strategy.

The EU 2020 Growth Strategy.

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The Perfect Cherry Pie

Gay Cook teaching me to bake Cherry Pie

Gay Cook teaching me to bake Cherry Pie

“Don’t use bleached flour!” Gay Cook spoke with a passion and authoritative tone that makes you want to listen. The energy level of this 85 year old Ottawa foodie is wonderful.

“For some people wanted white flour – I guess they thought that their cakes would look better whiter. So the manufacturers put in stuff like chalk or bleach to make the flour white.” A multitude of “eeewww” and “yuck” went through the audience.

I had come to the amazing Cherry Pie event at the Experimental Farm and Agricultural Museum in the heart of Ottawa with the hopes meeting the amazing entrepreneur and educator, Gay Cook and I was certainly blessed. Along with about 99 other people packed into the demonstration kitchen, we learned the secrets of healthy baking. I have to admit, I did not expect some her tips:

  1. Use real butter
  2. Always use unbleached flour.
  3. Maple syrup is a better addition to a pie than sugar.
  4. Prepare the crust with feel and not just a recipe.
  5. Ingredients are made by nature so in dry years, your dry ingredients will need more liquid to the same consistency as you will require.

And we watched, each one of her 100 kitchen guests listened as quietly as possible. Her passion for the food was electric in the room. Her tone made you feel like you too could bake. And then, Gay pulled out three pies and proceeded to cut them up so that everyone could have a taste. What was the most interesting is that those 3-4 bites of pie were so incredibly filling. It was such a sensual experience from the preparation through to the enjoyment of flavours that the actual eating with only a part of it what the made the evening special.

So I started to think, I wonder if some of our issues with eating disorders, extreme food waste and food sensitivities might be from our dissociation with nature and the natural food processes. I wondered how much chalk I have eaten and I vowed to eat simpler.

And since my lovely evening with Gay and 99 of her kitchen guests, I have successfully achieved a healthier, natural and respectful friendship with the simpler joys of food preparation and enjoyment.

Thanks Gay Cook – you are an inspiration!

For awesome natural recipes!  Check out her book…I did.

enjoy today

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In Partnership with Development 3

Last week I had the honour of being the guest blogger for Development3

A new perspective

An Alternate Perspective

Here is a copy of that article:

This week we have a fantastic opinion post from Cara Macmillan, Co founder and Vice President of  Sustainability at the Halcyon Consulting Group. Here she looks at the importance of responsible investing in  being social responsible.

Capitalism is an economic model where private individuals have the right to own property and investments. With rights, comes responsibility. People don’t usually have issue with the right to own their homes, or to have a say in how they spend their money.

We take issue when we feel that we do not have power. We get angry or worse, we get quiet.

Social Responsibility is about empowerment. It is about the opportunity for each of us to responsibly own property; financial or real estate. With ownership comes accountability.

My neighbour has a compost pile in his backyard. He believes that he is acting responsibly. It is his right because it is on his property. The problem is he doesn’t know how to properly compost so now deer mice have come to my backyard and his. Deer mice carry hantavirus and that virus is deadly. He owns property but is he acting socially responsible? No.

And while he is doing what he believes is right, my neighbour is lowering the asset values of all of us in our neighbourhood….oh and he is putting all our health at risk. Our legal system protects us from people who may have good intentions but are causing others harm. The legal responsibility we each have to provide for each other without causing harm which is called our Duty of Care; is obvious and we have a means to enforce the responsibility to compost without attracting animals carrying disease.

But what about companies?

Companies have become individuals under the law. When we took back ownership from the nobility and gave it to people and corporations, we didn’t think everything through. It is confusing – how can we hold a corporation accountable for wrongdoings like deer mice droppings that are infected with hantavirus? There is no real person with whom we can try to speak or educate. So what can we do?

We can demand Corporate Social Responsibility through tools like Socially Responsible Investing.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Socially Responsible Investing are working to clean up corporations’ backyards. Corporations have good intentions to make money and pay dividends to pensioners each month. Corporations employ people and their salaries provide shelter, food and education to the families. Yes the model works well. Or does it?

Regardless of your opinion, it is the only model that we follow right now. And it is not perfect. So how can we ennoble ourselves to monitor our neighbours, our corporations to step up and provide a higher Duty of Care? A higher responsibility?

If you believe that your pension should not be investing in a company that makes a mess and puts people’s health at risk – speak up!

When you speak up to investor relations and your pension manager why you want this improved…they will change. It will take time, but when we speak up, things change.

When you speak up because you know that eventually this will cause a lawsuit and that lawsuit will lower the profits and hence the ability to make monthly pension payments, then eventually things will change.

Companies are judged to be big and impersonal. They seemed to have their own rules. They seemed to be above the law. Corporations seemed to be able to make money at the expense of society.

But those times have changed. The legal systems are beginning to demand a Duty of Care from our corporations. But what about each of us? How else can we demand more? Today, we speak up through social media and through our spending choices.

People often ask me why I even talk about making a difference. You simply can’t make money and make a big difference they say. Well my portfolio proves you wrong. For years now I have been following the Principles of Responsible Investment.

Principles for Responsible Investment integrate environment, social and good governance principles into investing.

One of the slogans of the financial world is:

“Follow the money”.

You see investing along the principles of our collective world is in fact following the money.

Let’s walk through this.

Our world has changed. We feel record heat waves. We feel record rain fall and torrential storms. With these shifts in our weather, we spend more money on repairs, maintenance and insurance. So when I see a change in my personal spending habits, I check with others and ask the same questions. We compare notes and then ask which companies are benefiting from our spending. Consistently I hear the same answer:

“We focus our spending on quality not quantity. In a time when people are saving and paying off all debts, the simpler joys are the most important.”

So from my statistically inaccurate survey:

  • Quality food that is healthy and tastes great. We focus on quality not quantity.
  • Locally made so that it is fresher and I can support my neighbours. After all we all worked together to dig out after the storms and the floods.
  • an online presence so I know that they have a smaller real estate footprint and those overhead costs are not passed along to me
  • I am not buying from that store because they treat their employees terribly. Management is rude and condescending to the staff and are inflexible.
  • I will not bank with that bank because they had a layoff last year in my town and 80% of the staff that was let go were in some way disabled. It was probably just a coincidence or was it?

So what does this really mean? Translated into an investment philosophy it means that many people invest responsibly and they do not even know it.

Responsible investment is the practice of involving your values into your investment decisions. That decision can be a consumer purchase, a place of employment or an actual investment choice.

For the people who choose quality over quantity, you represent the responsible investment tenet of investing for long term sustainable profit rather than the short term. You look for consistency and reliability. You don’t want to worry about surprises like dishonest accounting or serious environmental damage lawsuits against the company.

Companies that focus on paying a dividend to its shareholders and are committed to growth are usually committed to quality over quantity. But check the financial reports and do your due diligence. These are the types of solid companies that Responsible Investors choose.

When you choose to support your neighbours because they are there for you through the storms then you are investing your community which is another tenet of Responsible Investment. This builds local wealth which can be reinvested into schools, hospitals and services that maintain or raise the quality of life.

Labour practices are an important aspect of responsible investment. I never make a decision on an investment based on hearsay. There are many research firms that review labour practices. This information is available from many reputable charities and non-governmental agencies. Many research firms make this information publicly available. We just need to look.

Negative screening is another way to participate in Responsible Investment. If you lost someone to lung cancer, you can choose not to invest in tobacco. If you have a disabled family member that was laid off and you do not want to be associated with that company, then you have the right to make that choice. You can still have a balanced portfolio because there are many other solid choices in the same sector from which you can choose. The key to Responsible Investment is that it lets you put your money where your values are.

So how does one make Big Money and a Big Difference? You go with the flow. The flow of Big Money like pension funds, insurance companies and endowment funds are investing in Responsible Investment. They recognize that fiduciary responsibility means more than just making money and managing financial risk. It means making money with integrity and quality consistently over time.

Yours in Corporate Social Responsibility,

Cara MacMillan MBA, caramacmillan.com

It Is Only Money: And It Grows on Trees” is a book written by Cara and is available on Amazon. 10% of the gross proceeds are donated to Development and Peace (devp.org).

“The worst impacts of climate change are being felt by the Global South, yet they contribute the least to the warming of our common home. It is time to act and create a climate of change!”

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Entrepreneurs: Commit to your Guiding Principles

A Code of Conduct is the collective understanding of how individuals will behave and act. It includes the corporate vision, mission, and guiding principles and affirms the company’s commitment to core values and beliefs. The language of a Code of Conduct should be easily understood. It should not be legalistic but rather it should be empowering. The entire corporate team should see this Code of Conduct as an opportunity to solidify its existing commitment to a high standard of ethical behaviour.

Our Guiding Principles

Our Guiding Principles

In preparation for the strategy session, each team member was asked to take a personal values assessment. There is a free tool online which we employed: Barrett Values Center. Each person took the assessment and brought the report to our strategy session. Values were then shared as a group. The values that were important to the team were:



  • Integrity
  • Caring
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Respect
  • Accountability
  • Future Generations
  • Wealth
  • Consistency
  • Social Justice
  • Good Governance

There were other values as well. But we found that these were the ones which we could link to our Vision and Mission. The corporate Vision is: Calm from Chaos. The corporate Mission is: To lead our Clients into growth as they prepare to be a mid-sized pre-publicly traded company.

By the end of Day 1 of the strategic planning session, the directors had created the Code of Conduct for Halcyon Consulting Group:


We believe and practice respect, integrity, caring and accountability. We consider environmental awareness, social justice and wealth as building blocks for future generations. We behave consistently. We practice and promote good governance within Halcyon and with our stakeholders.


As a team, we each signed and we have now added this Code of Conduct to our contracts. We expect our stakeholders to understand our Code of Conduct, and to support us in its application. An introductory letter is included with our expectations for our stakeholders:

The Code of Conduct is a corporate tool that allows a common understanding of what are the values and principles of a corporation. In a world of cross cultural globalization, what is an acceptable behaviour in one culture may be a violation of basic human rights in another. As a world, we have decided to step up and move beyond what is legal to hold ourselves to a higher ethical standard. Ethics is defined by Webster as a guiding philosophy. It includes a set of moral principles which define what is good and bad. We built our Code of Conduct to align our individual values and principles with our professional values and principles. We ask that you sign with us so that together we can consistently deliver principled leadership to our clients.


Our next step is to create a guide that will give each of examples of situations where we need to make a choice; a decision. The guide will help us learn and apply the guiding principles in both our lives. I choose to say lives, because when you work with family, it is more difficult to have these discussions and uncomfortable when one is corrected. We have added a beautiful dimension of growth to all areas of our partnership.

Our team is culturally diverse and the vocabulary that we chose resonated with us but we soon learned that words can be misleading. We followed the suggestions outlined by Robert Audi in “Creating a Framework for Ethical Decisions”.

  1. Classification
  2. Identification of Conflicts of Obligations
  3. Ethical Assessment of the Obligations
  4. Selection of Ethically Viable Options
  5. Decision on a Course of Action

(Source: Audi, Robert)

Conflict in the workplace comes from a difference in the application of our principles and values. The Code of Conduct is a tool that ennobles corporations and individuals to conduct business at the highest ethical standards. We can work aligned with our guiding principles and be authentic to ourselves. It is my hope that by (finally) creating the Code of Conduct with my leadership team, we will be better equipped to work as a team. We will lessen confusion with respect to decision-making, improve communication and employee engagement. Our stakeholders will engage with us because of our guiding principles so that at the end of each day, that gut feeling of disgust that one feels because of working with an unethical person will be a distant memory.


Have you created your company’s Code of Conduct? Are you ready to?


yours in Corporate Social Responsibility

Cara MacMillan MBA

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