Mr. Moore believes most Canadian corporations come to the practice as a result of a specific new requirement that they have to come to grips with. “At HBC, we found ourselves in a discussion about labour practices in our supply chain in other parts of the world. That quickly evolved into an expectation of formalized transparency and disclosure.”
Ms. Schneider says it’s important for companies to scale their CSR policies and programs to their company’s size. For example, a small exporter from Alberta interested in selling his goods in Mexico may be worried about being asked for bribes.
“One small bribe may not seem like a big deal to your employee at the time, but you open the door to a form of corporate extortion for the lifecycle of your relationship with that buyer,” she says. “Conversely, companies tell us that after a short period of time after adopting a zero tolerance approach to bribery, the requests for bribes stop altogether.”
Mr. Moore agrees. “Cutting corners will come back to haunt you, especially as you seek to expand or go into other markets or attract investments. And if you think CSR is about being seen as not doing bad things, or just doing the bare minimum, you’re off track too. It’s about understanding and engaging with the community in which you are operating, as well as creating a lasting positive impact, in order to gain a social licence to operate.”
When working internationally he adds, you can’t lose sight of the fact that your actions have an impact beyond your business. “It is essential to operate in adherence with international standards, as your company reflects on all Canadian business. For Canadian business to be successful in the 21st century, we need a strong Canadian brand.”
A Framework for Shaping Business and Human Rights Policies
Global efforts are underway to examine how human rights and business intersect, and to build a consensus on how best to assess and manage the human rights impacts of business.
In “A Framework for Shaping Business and Human Rights Policies” – a free publication available from EDC – author Kathryn Young examines considerations for exporting or investing in another country and essential due diligence Canadian companies are advised to pursue on a variety of financial, legal and host country issues.
To download the PDF, visit edc.ca/framework.
Make CSR part of your strategy
EDC chief CSR advisor Signi Schneider offers the following guidance for companies considering putting corporate social responsibility practices to work:
1. How your company is perceived can be a deciding factor for new hires and will influence those young leaders who you are trying to cultivate. Start a conversation with this group and other future thought-leaders. Without over-promising, start the dialogue. This important demographic is already talking about it; you should be in on the conversation.
2. Read up on companies where the corporate social responsibility group creates business opportunities. Sometimes just challenging staff to move from a compliance mindset to an opportunity mindset can make you see how doing the right thing can also be a competitive advantage.
3. Use consultants. While so much of CSR is common sense put into practice, financial institutions are looking for external validation that your policy or initiative is sound. As you continue to grow, being able to point to an external body that can confirm your policies or programs are robust will keep you from being seen as an organization that – when faced with criticism – can only say ‘Just trust us.’
4. If nothing else, exporters should consider writing an anti-corruption corporate policy that lays out expectations of employee conduct and puts in place a system where employees, if asked for a bribe, can call someone in the organization to receive advice on how to respond. Under Canadian law, the consequences of offering a bribe are very serious. Leaving your employees with no place to go for advice when a potential buyer asks them for a bribe in order to secure the contract puts your staff in a difficult position. Look to Trace International for guidance on how to start.