OTTAWA: The Government of Canada is taking new steps to guarantee ethical practise in the extractive industry after a 4-year policy dry period. On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, announced that the department would be making changes to its strategy on corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The amendments to the current strategy will usher in two key additions: an independent Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and a multi-stakeholder Advisory Body to advise the Government and the CORE on responsible business conduct abroad. The position of the CORE is the first of its kind in the world and represents an effort to strengthen Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct.
Minister Champagne remarked in a press conference that the changes will reflect the values supported by Canada’s progressive trade agenda, and will contribute to Canada’s “reputation as an international business partner of choice”.
Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, added in a statement on Wednesday that “[Government] will continue to support sustainable natural resource development – at home and abroad –that respects human rights and promotes community-level partnerships.”
The new department positions will investigate and advise on human rights issues in the mining, oil, gas and garment industries, as well as resolve human rights disputes between Canadian companies and affected communities.
Yet, this move to keep multi-national corporations in check follows a lag in policy change and political inertia on the issue of conflict minerals.
What is Canada’s CSR track record in the minerals industry?
In 2009 the department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade launched its first comprehensive plan entitled “Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian Extractive Sector Abroad.” It was created with a 5-year period for reassessment in mind to respond to market changes and human rights concerns.
In 2014, at the end of the 5-year period, an enhanced corporate social responsibility strategy was released, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad”
These strategies functioned as guidelines for Canadian enterprises but did not require companies to commit to ensuring responsible supply chains.
Later in 2014, the Conflict Minerals Act (bill C-486) was proposed to provide regulations preventing unethical mining practises by Canadian companies. Bill C-486 would require Canadian companies to exercise due diligence in respect of the exploitation and trading of designated minerals originating in the Great Lakes Region of Africa where profits could be fueling armed conflict. The bill was defeated on September 26, 2014 by a vote of 146 to 127.
Canada’s reluctance in the past to implement concrete regulation on the use and extraction of conflict minerals might lead citizens to question this government’s ability to deliver on the strategy now.
How does Canada’s effort compare to international standards?
Is Canada the leading nation on CSR? Governments with comparable economies such as countries in the European Union and United States are already making an effort to strictly promote OECD guidelines. In November 2016, the EU successfully adopted regulations that will be enacted January 1, 2021 to stop the trade of conflict minerals.
What can we expect from changes to the current CSR plan?
Having an independent body to investigate human rights abuse allegations among Canadian mining companies shows a renewed commitment to Canada’s stance as a leader in global ethics. We can also count on more detailed reporting and monitoring of the CSR plan and implementation of OECD guidelines.
A notable outcome from the change is that Canadian companies caught with alleged human rights violations and affected mining communities now have increased options to settle disputes out of court.
How can Peer Ledger make an impact?
Peer Ledger can provide a trusted system so that all parties; government, industry and community, can work together to ensure Corporate Social Responsibility at home and abroad.
We are working daily on our innovative blockchain technology so that companies and users in the minerals market can rest assured they are following Canadian guidelines and international standards.