Dec '10/Jan '11

A sustainable structure

Setting the foundation for the Centre for Excellence in CSR

By Dan Zlotnikov

The four pillars of the federal government’s corporate social responsibility strategy: support host country capacity building, promote key international CSR performance guidelines, support the creation of a Centre for Excellence in CSR, set up the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor | Image: iStock


The Centre for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility, officially launched in 2010, was created to be one of the four pillars of the Government of Canada’s overall CSR strategy. To ensure the Centre can bear the weight of its responsibility, experts from industry, the public sector, academia, Aboriginal communities and civil society organizations have been hard at work developing the framework, strategy and governance structure to make the Centre a comprehensive and credible source for CSR resources, research and consultation.

Currently, the Centre’s public face is an informational website that offers guidance to companies looking to create or expand upon their CSR programs, along with a directory of CSR-related companies, organizations and government agencies. The site also hosts a growing list of country profiles that provides a primer on socio-economic issues and CSR resources for various mining jurisdictions.

The addition of information to the website has slowed in recent months, however, while behind the scenes, the Centre has been the focus of extensive multi-party efforts and discussions as the future focus of this initiative continues to be defined.

To establish the Centre, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) provided $150,000 in funding, spread across three years, and tasked CIM, as Secretariat, with helping to lay the groundwork.

Getting the groundwork done right is especially vital because the expectations for the projects are high. According to Judith St. George, director general at DFAIT, the federal government wants “to see the Centre for Excellence become the most up-to-date and authoritative ‘go-to’ source of information and expertise on socially and environmentally sustainable projects.”

Jean Vavrek, executive director of CIM, reiterates the Centre’s importance. “The Centre for Excellence is about a lot more than just a website,” he says. “It needs to get rounded into a wide range of face-to-face activities and become a focal point where people come together for ongoing exploration, discovery and dialogue. I think the Centre will also become a source of ongoing educational activities.”

“It’s not just an industry/civil society dialogue that happens in various fora,” adds Ian Thomson, program coordinator for ecological justice and corporate accountability at the ecumenical organization KAIROS Canada, and a representative of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability — an alliance of over 20 NGOs and CSOs. “We don’t need yet another space to engage in those sorts of dialogues because they exist already. What makes this special is the fact that we can actually talk about government policy, NGO approaches, industry practices, all in the same space and how they are all intersecting.”

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