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Monday, September 9, 2013

UN Global Compact: Canadian launch of the Guiding Principles

Janne Duncan writes about the the UN Global Compact (UNGC) Canadian launch this year and how it fits into related sustainability initiatives of the Government of Canada.
The UN Global Compact is one of the world's largest sustainability initiatives, designed to encourage international businesses to align their operations with the Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to report on their implementation. The Canadian government does not formally endorse the Ten Principles of the UNGC as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy (which is detailed below), although UNGC Canada is striving to change this.

A Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) press release following the UNGC Canada launch by The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, and Lois Brown, Parliamentary Secretary, is the closest indication of the government’s willingness to work with the private sector to uphold the Principles. Other related government initiatives as detailed by the government are set out below.

Recent government initiatives

Economic Action Plan (EAP).

In 2013, the federal government announced the EAP, which reaffirms Canada's commitment to sustainable international development, assistance and economic growth. The EAP incorporates the Responsible Resources Development plan, which includes:

  • simplifying the review process for large-scale natural resource projects while still ensuring the environment is protected, 
  • authorizing the use of administrative monetary penalties for violations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the National Energy Board Act, and 
  • requiring follow-up programs after all environmental assessments.
Statement by Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski.

Mr. Rishchynski, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Security Council Debate, made the following statement, “Maintenance of international peace and security: conflict prevention and natural resources,” on June 19, 2013:

“Canada’s commitment to promoting responsible natural resource governance features prominently in our efforts abroad. To cite several examples, we are continuing to implement Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and support many international initiatives, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has said it will further help achieve greater efficiency, accountability, and focus to continue to improve the lives of people in need around the world. Examples of recent initiatives are detailed below.

Ongoing government initiatives

In 2009, the federal government established a comprehensive strategy on corporate social responsibility for the Canadian extractive sector operating abroad called “Building the Canadian Advantage: A CSR Strategy for the International Extractive Sector.” The CSR policy consists of 4 pillars:

1. Supporting initiatives to enhance the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals and oil and gas, and to benefit from these resources to reduce poverty.

2. Promoting, primarily through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Natural Resources Canada, the following widely recognized international CSR performance guidelines with Canadian extractive companies operating abroad:

  • International Finance Corporation Performance Standards on Social & Environmental Sustainability for extractive projects with potential adverse social or environmental impacts; 
  • Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights for projects involving private or public security forces; and
  • Global Reporting Initiative for CSR reporting by the extractive sector to enhance transparency and encourage market-based rewards for good CSR performance.  
3. Setting up the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor to assist stakeholders in the resolution of CSR issues pertaining to the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies abroad.

4. Supporting the development of a CSR Centre of Excellence within an existing institution outside of government to encourage the Canadian international extractive sector to implement these voluntary performance guidelines by developing and disseminating high-quality CSR information, training and tools. The CSR Centre of Excellence has selected the UNGP as its first priority with respect to developing standards in the extractive sector.

Examples of other government-sponsored Initiatives

Canada’s market-oriented incentives for businesses to invest in order to positively impact development include the following initiatives:

  • Canada supports a project in Ethiopia with the Mennonite Economic Development Associates that provides working capital and skills training for women entrepreneurs in the textile industry.
  • Canada supports the Zinc Alliance for Child Health with Teck and the Micronutrient Initiative to develop and scale up zinc treatment programs to improve nutrition and help save children's lives.
  • Canada has a strategic partnership with Grand Challenges Canada to scale up promising innovations in the area of global health, many of which are generated by social entrepreneurs.

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