Interpretation and application of Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy

Petition: 377

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement, corporate social responsibility, governance, human/environmental health, natural resources

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Montréal, Quebec

Date Received: 28 May 2015

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition highlights environmental concerns related to the foreign operations of Canadian mining companies. It presents two examples of Canadian-owned mining operations linked to environmental damage in foreign countries: an operation in Guyana that, in 1995, ruptured a mine tailings dam and damaged the country’s main waterway, and an operation in Chile that, in 2013, was fined for not complying with the country’s environmental requirements. According to the petition, the same operation in Chile was charged again in 2015 with further environmental infractions.

The petition states that Canada is a leading country in the global extractive sector, with more than 800 Canadian mining companies active in more than 100 countries around the world. The petition also states that in 2012, the value of Canadian mining assets overseas was $144.2 billion, accounting for close to 65 percent of total Canadian mining assets.

The petition cites federal government responsibilities outlined in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD). According to the petition, the 2009 strategy aimed to improve “the competitive advantage of Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad by enhancing their ability to manage social and environmental risks.” Revised in 2014, the strategy is now known as “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad.” It focuses on providing guidance on CSR, networks and partnerships, and facilitating dialogue toward dispute resolution.

Questions in this petition focus on understanding what constitutes CSR best practices, widely recognized CSR-related guidance, and enhanced economic diplomacy. It also asks how the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor will know whether a company is compliant, who is responsible for determining if a company fails to embody CSR best practices, and under what circumstances the government would withdraw economic support. The petition requests clarification of how the government determines compliance or non-compliance and what steps are taken in the event of non-compliance. The petition also seeks clarification of the link between the provision of government support and corporate performance, as outlined in the CSR Strategy. The petition asserts that the strategy does not clearly demonstrate how closely a company must align with CSR values to receive support from the government. The petition also seeks clarification of the roles and responsibilities of Export Development Canada (EDC) as they relate to CSR oversight and evaluations. EDC is Canada’s federal export credit agency and is part of the DFATD portfolio.

Federal departments responsible for reply: Foreign Affairs Canada, Trade and Development