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What we heard report – Canada’s strategy for responsible business conduct abroad

Since 2009, the federal government has prioritized strengthening the responsible business conduct of Canadian companies active around the world through the release of two strategies: Building the Canadian Advantage: Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector(2009) and Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector (2014).   Following an evaluation of the 2014 strategy, Global Affairs Canada began the process to renew Canada’s approach to responsible business conduct abroad for the five-year period of 2021-2026.

Responsible business conduct is at the nexus of many priorities for Canada such as the respect for human rights, taking action on climate change, inclusive trade, upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples and amplifying our feminist international assistance policy. Through multiple government departments, more than 50 policies and initiatives address and promote one form or another of responsible businesses conduct and corporate sustainability.  The COVID-19 pandemic has also reinforced the importance of integrating sound responsible business conduct practices throughout a company’s operations. A robust approach to responsible business conduct helps ensure companies can be resilient, adapt to change, and weather the challenges presented by the changing economic environment.

How we reached out and how participants responded

Global Affairs Canada undertook two rounds of stakeholder engagement with the objective of sparking a dialogue and exploring ideas and measures to position Canada, and Canadian companies active abroad, as leaders in responsible business conduct.  The first round of engagements consisted of a roundtable session in Gatineau, Quebec, and a series of group and individual interviews, involving a diverse range of stakeholders from across Canada (additional group sessions were moved to an online format given the COVID-19 pandemic).  Input received in March led to the development of an issue paper , which helped guide a second round of wider public engagement, that took place from 16 September to 26 October via the Consulting with Canadians website.

While the first round of engagement aimed to set an aspirational vision for Canada, the second round sought ideas about how Canada could:

Global Affairs Canada is pleased to have heard from a range of stakeholders representing industry and industry associations, civil society, academia and experts from across the country.  Officials reached out to specific groups for their views, including Indigenous Peoples, women and youth. There were over 40 written submissions, many on behalf of associations and industry groups, that reflected significant effort and represented the breadth and depth of public interest in responsible business conduct-related issues. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share views and ideas.

It is important to note that input was wide-ranging, broad-based, and some views divergent. This report aims to reflect the essence of the ideas and perspectives raised, but does not attempt to include every comment received and it does not intend to imply consensus on the part of all participants.  Please note that the views expressed are those of participants in the engagement process and should not be construed as representative of the Government of Canada's positions or views.

Here are the main highlights that emerged in our discussions with participants:

A variety of other ideas and themes emerged in the responses we received that were not listed above, but will help us to inform our strategy moving forward.

Moving forward

The input we received will help to inform the development of Canada’s new strategy for responsible business conduct abroad. Global Affairs Canada looks forward to continuing conversations with Canadians throughout the development and implementation of the new strategy.

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