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Government updates corporate social responsibility strategy for extractive industry abroad

In 2009, the federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development introduced a corporate social responsibility strategy for Canadian extractive businesses operating outside Canada. After the document’s first five-year review, the department has “enhanced” the CSR strategy in a number of ways. The review found that Canadian companies extracting natural resources in foreign countries are recognizing “the need to consider CSR in planning and operations.” Businesses asked the government for more assistance—“CSR tools, guidance and advice.”

The department hopes the strategy will help extractive companies respect human rights, apply best practices and meet international guidelines “to manage social and environmental risks … and also bring lasting benefits for those affected by their projects.”

Specifically:

…the Government expects Canadian companies to … understand the impact of each of their functions on the surrounding economy, community and environment, and adjust their activities and operations to create value for themselves and for other stakeholders.

Corporate social responsibility “is a way of doing business that not only contributes to success abroad but also reflects Canadian values and reinforces Canadian leadership in responsible business practices.”

That is what it means to do business the Canadian way.

The enhancements to the strategy include:

  • Strengthening support for CSR initiatives at Canada’s diplomatic network of missions abroad, aimed at ensuring a consistently high level of CSR-related service to the Canadian business community around the world, building networks and local partnerships with communities, and reinforcing Canadian leadership, excellence, and best practices in the extractives sector.
  • Increasing support and additional training for Canada’s missions abroad to ensure trade commissioners and staff are equipped to detect issues early on and contribute to their resolution before they escalate.
  • Re-focusing the role of the Office of the CSR Counsellor, including strengthening its mandate to promote strong CSR guidelines to the Canadian extractive sector and advising companies on incorporating such guidelines into their operating approach. The CSR counsellor will also build on the work conducted at missions abroad by refocusing efforts on working to prevent, identify and resolve disputes in their early stages.
  • In situations where parties to a dispute would benefit from formal mediation, the CSR counsellor will encourage them to refer their issue to Canada’s National Contact Point (NCP), the robust and proven dispute resolution mechanism, guided by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on responsible business conduct, and active in 46 countries.
  • Expecting companies to align with CSR guidelines and offering enhanced economic diplomacy to those that do. Withdrawing government support from companies that do not embody CSR best practices and refuse to participate in the CSR Counsellor’s Office or NCP dispute resolution processes.
  • Incorporating the CSR guidance released since 2009, namely the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.
  • Flexibility to build awareness of a broader range of extractive sector-specific CSR guidance, including those developed in Canada, e.g., the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining, and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s e3 Plus.

Find the updated strategy, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s website.

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Adam Gorley

Editor at First Reference
Adam Gorley, B.A. (Phil.), is a researcher, content provider and editor. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks and Internal Control blogs, HRinfodesk and other First Reference publications. His areas of focus include broad human resources issues, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and government policies, information technology and labour market trends.Read more
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