From time to time CityHallWatch looks at the major entities that are building the physical and social structure of Vancouver.
This time we have a look at Westbank Projects Corp., the company. While its brand and projects have had a high profile and carefully managed promotions, little data is publicly available regarding the governance of the company itself.
If you are an entity considering entering into business deals or contractual arrangements lasting decades or generations into the future, the requirement of due diligence would call upon you to know fully about your potential partner.
However, no data is publicly available on Westbank in terms of who owns the company, who are the major shareholders, who are the officers and directors and major funders. Likewise, when it comes to matters of corporate social responsibility (CSR), the promotional materials and glitzy media coverage talk about sustainability, but data is limited.
Granted, Westbank is a privately-held company, so it is not required by law to publish this kind of information. But how does it look in terms of corporate social responsibility, transparency, accountability, governance? Is it up to par with the best practices and expectations that society has for corporations today?
|1. Provided corporate governance information publicly on website or other (ownership, shareholders, directors, corporate subsidiaries and affiliates, decision-making systems, policies, etc.)?||No|
|2. Renounced corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery?||No|
|3. Published a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report?||No|
Leading companies of the world today publish CSR or integrated reports following well-established guidelines (e.g., see Global Reporting Initiative). https://www.globalreporting.org/Pages/default.aspx
For a multi-billion dollar company with so much influence on city planning, it would be reassuring to see a public commitment to the UN Global Compact, which is billed as “the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative” and calls upon companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. Many signatories are in the construction industry. (https://www.unglobalcompact.org/).
As an example of proactive corporate disclosure in this industry, consider Concert Properties (http://www.concertproperties.com/about) which is in roughly the same league as Westbank in terms of size. Granted, Concert Properties is not a privately-held corporation, but it is informative to see high level of corporate transparency: shareholders (Canadian union and management pension plans), directors, and executives, and more. It publishes a Sustainability Framework (2019 edition is 44 pages), and provides lots of information about community involvement.
ESG (environment, sustainability, governance) is a key term in terms of corporate sustainability today. Concert Properties covers all of these in its reporting.
The lack of publicly available information about Westbank leaves room for questions in the public mind regarding how it does business. We know the company is influencing decision-makers, but how that happens is opaque. Lobbyist registries exist at the provincial and federal levels, and Toronto has a robust one at the municipal level. None yet exist in Metro Vancouver.
What governance structures are in place at Westbank? The founder and CEO is now about sixty years old. What will the company be like over the potential life of a multi-decade or multi-generational contract?
For further reading, below is additional material on Westbank Projects Corp., examined from various angles. Continue reading