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Guidelines and standards for responsible business conduct

Internationally recognized guidelines and standards

Canada has been engaged in the development, advancement and promotion of key international standards for responsible business conduct. These reflect:

The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies operating abroad to adopt best practices and internationally respected guidelines on responsible business conduct. These include the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (.pdf) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and several other frameworks and guidelines, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises

The OECD Guidelines address concerns about the social, economic and environmental impacts of business activities worldwide. They provide recommendations on voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct, consistent with domestic and international laws. The guidelines represent the only multilaterally endorsed and comprehensive code of conduct; forty-eight countries, including Canada, have committed to promoting these guidelines.

UN Guiding Principles

The UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) implement the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework of the United Nations. They are a set of 31 principles directed at member states and companies that clarify their duties and responsibilities to protect and respect human rights in the context of business activities. The UNGPs work to ensure access to an effective remedy for individuals and groups affected by such activities.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a UN framework, adopted by all UN member states, that serves as a global roadmap and call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Within the 2030 Agenda are 17 concrete goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, that aim to help societies grow and develop sustainably and inclusively, to the shared benefit of all.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples describes both the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. It addresses the rights of Indigenous peoples on a wide range of issues, including:

Under the declaration, states must “consult and cooperate in good faith with Indigenous peoples” in an effort to “obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing” measures that may affect them. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act was passed into Canadian law in June 2021.

Topic and sector-specific guidelines and standards

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement in the Extractive Sector

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector

OECD-Food and Agriculture Organization Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains

OECD Responsible Business Conduct in the Financial Sector - Includes links to responsible business conduct documents for institutional investors and for financial institutions

Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights - Designed to help companies in the oil, gas, mining and industrial agriculture sectors conduct their security operations while respecting human rights

International Finance Corporation’s Environmental and Social Performance Standards - Sets expectations for conduct that companies receiving IFC support are to meet throughout the life of a project. Includes standards on stakeholder engagement and human rights

Global Reporting Initiative’s Global Standards for Sustainability Reporting - Includes reporting principles, guidance and indicators for organizations of all sizes and sectors around the world

Towards Sustainable Mining - A globally recognized sustainability program by the Mining Association of Canada. Supports mining companies in managing key environmental and social risks

Responsible Care - The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada’s sustainability initiative. It has been adopted by over 70 countries around the world and is recognized by the United Nations

e3 Plus: Framework for Responsible Exploration - Online information resource launched by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada to help mineral exploration companies improve their social, environmental and health and safety performance

Other international guidelines, standards and related tools

There are many other guidelines, standards and tools for responsible business conduct that companies and sectors use, including:

Country-specific advisories

In addition to sanctions, the Government of Canada may issue advisories on doing businesses with specific entities or in specific regions. These advisories include recommendations on conducting due diligence and information to seek further assistance. For example:

Global Affairs Canada advisory on doing business with Myanmar-related entities, April 13, 2021

Global Affairs Canada advisory on doing business with Xinjiang-related entities, January 12, 2021

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