In 2009, the Government of Canada launched its first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy, “Building the Canadian Advantage: Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector.” It outlined Canada’s commitment to promoting CSR, defined as the voluntary activities undertaken by a company, over and above legal requirements, to operate in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.
Canada is strengthening its commitment to enhance the ability of Canadian extractive sector companies to integrate CSR into their practices through a renewed Strategy, building on experience gained since 2009. The strategy makes clear the Government’s expectation that Canadian extractive sector companies reflect Canadian values in all their activities abroad. While its primary audience is intended to be Canadian extractive sector companies, the Strategy is also meant to provide a more general audience with an overview of Canada’s approach to promoting and advancing CSR abroad. For Government of Canada representatives, the Strategy provides a framework to guide their efforts to promote CSR policies, tools and guidance.
Experience has shown that, particularly for extractive sector companies operating in challenging environments, those that go above and beyond basic legal requirements to adapt their planning and operations along CSR lines are better positioned to succeed in the long term, and to contribute to a more stable and prosperous environment for all affected parties.
Many Canadian extractive sector companies, particularly those in the mining industry, understand that incorporating CSR practices into their operations contributes to their success. By doing so, companies can manage risks more efficiently and effectively; foster good relations with investment partners, employees, and surrounding communities; increase access to capital; and improve their reputation. Managing social risks, including through conscious efforts to respect human rights, is increasingly important to companies’ success abroad.
The CSR Strategy, however, was criticized by the Opposition Parties as ineffective and “toothless” for its emphasis on voluntary and collaborative initiatives over mandatory mechanisms. After a review of its CSR Strategy, on November 14, 2014, the Federal Government of Canada announced its second and “enhanced” CSR Strategy renamed “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad”.
One of the key changes from the previous CSR Strategy was to introduce consequences to non-compliance with CSR standards and non-participation in dispute resolution processes. In addition, the new CSR Strategy adds to its list of endorsed CSR Guidelines, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), an international human rights framework that delineates expectations of corporations to address the human rights impacts of their operations internationally; and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.
The global presence of Canadian extractive companies represents a potential force for responsible resource development around the world. Many Canadian companies are committed to high ethical, environmental and social standards – indeed, Canadian industry associations and extractive companies have been recognized domestically and internationally for their leadership on these issues.