GLOBE-Net, November 20, 2014 – On November 14 International Trade Minister Ed Fast announced an enhanced corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance CSR in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad.
The enhanced CSR strategy is intended to deliver on a commitment by the Harper government to review the initial 2009 CSR strategy. Based on extensive cross-country consultations, the enhanced strategy strengthens Canada’s leadership and earned reputation for excellence in CSR noted the Minister.
“The enhanced CSR strategy bolsters our commitment to helping our Canadian extractive companies strengthen their responsible business practices. We expect our Canadian companies to promote Canadian values and to operate with the highest ethical standards,” said the Minister.
He also launched a selection process for a new CSR counsellor and issued a call for qualified candidates.
See also the GLOBE-Net Article: Earning Public Support for Resource Development
Key elements of the enhanced CSR strategy include:
- making, for the first time, the Government of Canada’s “economic diplomacy” conditional on a Canadian company’s alignment with the enhanced CSR strategy;
- withdrawing of Government of Canada support in foreign markets as a result of a company’s non-participation in the dispute resolution mechanisms of the Office of the CSR Counsellor or Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises;
- increasing support and training for CSR initiatives and services at Canada’s diplomatic network and missions abroad to ensure a consistently high level of CSR-related services for Canadian businesses and local networks and communities;
- enhancing the CSR counsellor’s mandate to work with Canadian companies to ensure CSR guidelines and best practices are reflected and incorporated in their operating approach abroad;
- re-focusing the role and efforts of the Office of the CSR Counsellor on working to prevent, identify and resolve disputes in their early stages;
- referring disputes requiring formal mediation to the Canadian National Contact Point, the robust and proven dialogue facilitation function guided by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises active in 46 countries; and
- including benchmark CSR guidelines released by international organizations since 2009 and keeping flexibility to build awareness of CSR guidelines developed in Canada.
“The Government of Canada is setting a high bar for corporate responsibility performance—one that our members embrace. The new strategy will add distinction to Canada’s mining brand and should send a clear signal to other mining countries to take note,” said Pierre Gratton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mining Association of Canada.
While the Canadian mining industry has gone on the record supporting the new framework some oil industry compamies are opposed to publishing information on individual projects. Some are seeking exemptions from reporting payments when operating in countries with laws or contracts that prohibit such disclosure. Some critics believe granting such exemptions would undermine the fundamental purpose of the new policy and would hold back on positive changes in the way companies operate abroad.
The strategy is intended to provide enhanced support so that local communities in host countries can realize the economic and social benefits of natural resource development and local procurement opportunities, while providing host governments and investors with the confidence they need to partner with world-class, responsible Canadian extractive companies.
This new policy approach builds on the work of the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI), a centre of expertise in improving and strengthening resource governance in developing countries. The Institute is a coalition of The University of British Columbia (UBC), Simon Fraser University (SFU) and École Polytechnique de Montréal (EPM), working in partnership with the Canadian Government, civil society and industry.
Additional reference materials:
- Canada’s Renewed CSR Strategy – Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance CSR in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad
- Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor
- Canada’s National Contact Point for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
- Backgrounder – Canada’s Renewed CSR Strategy: Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance CSR in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad