May 2009

Federal government announces new CSR strategy

CIM to host Centre of Excellence

By P. Caulfield

Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Stockwell Day, recently announced new measures to help Canadian mining and oil and gas companies meet their social and environmental responsibilities when operating abroad.

The four-fold strategy will focus on:

  • Creating a new Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor to help resolve social and environmental issues relating to Canadian mining and oil and gas companies operating abroad.
  • Supporting a new Centre of Excellence as a one-stop shop to provide information to companies, non-governmental organizations and other relevant parties.
  • Continuing Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) assistance to foreign governments to develop their capacities to manage natural resource development in a sustainable and responsible manner.
  • Promoting internationally recognized, voluntary guidelines for corporate social responsibility performance and reporting.

In an announcement, Day said, “Canadian companies are often instrumental in bettering the lives of people in the communities in which they operate. These complementary initiatives will provide the tools, guidance and advice they need to meet and exceed their obligations with respect to corporate social responsibility.”

The federal government has already taken steps to promote and support CSR abroad, including initiatives undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, CIDA and Natural Resources Canada. Canada has also held discussions with free trade agreement partners on how to address CSR during negotiations.

In the future, these strategies will be expanded to include, among other programs, initiatives to enhance the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals and oil and gas, and to channelize the benefit from these resources to reducing poverty.

CIM to host Centre of Excellence

CIM recently agreed to host the new Centre of Excellence, and is well-positioned to assume that role. The Centre will be a forum through which resource extraction industry stakeholders can provide CSR tools and information to clients in industry and government in Canada and abroad. It has also been suggested that the Centre could serve as a source of technical advice to CIDA to assist it in enhancing the capacities of developing countries to manage their natural resources.

“In recent years, CIM has built a foundation on the development of guidelines and best practices in the area of resource/reserve valuation,” explained CIM executive director, Jean Vavrek. “We have also identified areas where we felt we can be more proactive, including safety, outreach, innovation and CSR. In our latest strategic plan, CIM discussed how the Internet could be used to fulfill these goals most effectively.” Vavrek pointed to CIM’s Mining in Society outreach efforts as a successful benchmark program on which future efforts could be modelled. “We look forward to bringing a wide spectrum of interested parties together to provide this very valuable window for the world.”

The functions of the Centre of Excellence will be:

  • To develop and disseminate CSR-related information and tools for clients in government and
  • To develop CSR information packages and to actively sponsor business briefings.
  • To develop an inventory of Canadian company CSR contacts, activities and best practices.
  • To create a web-based public platform for companies and Canadian CSR practitioners to share experiences and best practices.

It is expected that the efforts of the Centre will initially be focused on high-priority sectors and issues, such as the mining and oil and gas sectors, and developing materials for high-risk countries.

MAC gives strategy its thumbs-up

Responding to the federal government’s CSR announcement, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) said it appreciates the improved clarity the strategy gives to the government’s expectations for the resource extraction industry’s performance on human rights and the environment. MAC was one of several organizations that contributed to developing the new CSR strategy through its participation in the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries.

MAC president Gordon Peeling said: “The Government of Canada has done a good job in responding to some difficult issues, such as human rights and security, which were raised by the National Roundtables on CSR.”

Peeling said the strategy’s focus on capacity building “provides an essential building block in helping countries achieve their poverty reduction goals and development objectives through responsible development of their natural resources.”

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