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ASG opinion on “Canada’s Enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy to Strengthen Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” (December 1, 2014)

The Africa Study Group (ASG), affiliated to the Canadian International Council-National Capital Branch, welcomes Canada’s Enhanced Corporate Social Strategy to Strengthen Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad”. A year ago, as many other organizations and individuals did, ASG submitted its recommendations for a new Strategy. ASG believes that better governance of natural resources in Africa and everywhere in the World can play a major role in fostering economic growth, lasting socio-economic development and peace for all. And that Canada and Canadians are part of the solution.

ASG welcomes the fact that the “enhanced Strategy” appears to have more teeth, and requires that companies comply to a range of principles and guidelines, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the UN developed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the use of the recently updated International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards as well as other standards including those developed or being developed by the Canadian industry on the basis of multi-stakeholder consultations.

In that vein, ASG welcomes the strengthened mandate of the CSR Counsellor to “promote strong CSR guidelines to the Canadian extractive sector” and to “build on the work conducted at Missions abroad (by Trade Commissioner Service officers and other diplomatic staff who should be trained accordingly) to help identify, prevent and resolve disputes in their early stages”. The same applies to the important role the Canadian National Contact Point (NCP) will play as a non-judicial dispute resolution role and in helping to foster constructive relationships between stakeholders.  Coordination between these three entities  (CSR Counsellor, NCP and the Interdepartmental CSR Community) is essential to the effectiveness of the “enhanced Strategy”.

The scope of the “enhanced Strategy” is still narrow, as it focuses almost exclusively on the extractive sector abroad. The ASG recommendation has advocated that a revised strategy cover other sectors of the economy in which Canadian companies are investing abroad, such as other natural resources sectors, e.g., fisheries and forestry, as well as financial services, textiles and other sectors. Furthermore, the new strategy should even more explicitly aim at the roles and contributions of all categories of stakeholders, i.e., investors, governments and civil society/communities. We promote that all Canadians behave as responsible global citizens.

Another important CSR pillar, which we strongly support, is the continued work of the Centre for Excellence (CfE) in CSR and the Government’s hoped continued and active participation in CfE activities, and Canada’s continued support for the global fight against corruption through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

In conclusion, the “enhanced” Strategy is a step in the right direction for CSR in the extractive sector and should be supported, and hopefully extended to all sectors and stakeholders in the near future.

However, its successful implementation will be predicated on an appropriate and corresponding level of human and financial resources. We regret that there is no mention of such in the “enhanced Strategy”.