Canada’s new CSR strategy represents first steps in ensuring corporate respect for human rights

MONTREAL – April 3, 2009 – Canada’s new corporate social responsibility strategy, announced last week by the Government of Canada, creates a series of initiatives designed to encourage responsible business practice abroad. The strategy constitutes the first steps in the implementation of recommendations made in a joint industry-civil society report submitted to the government in 2007.

“Canada’s new strategy acknowledges that there is room for improvement in corporate behaviour abroad,” said Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy (the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development). “Yet the measures announced allow the companies themselves to decide when and how they will comply with human rights standards and place the primary burden on the affected communities and host countries to monitor that compliance.”

Rights & Democracy will encourage the government to strengthen the corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy to better reflect international human rights law. For example, the new Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor should be given the authority to investigate allegations of human rights violations, whether or not the companies involved agree. The CSR Counsellor should also be able to apply penalties when the investigation uncovers wrong-doing.

Rights & Democracy’s Human Rights Impact Assessment project provides private sector and community organizations with the tools for evaluating and documenting the impact of foreign investment projects on human rights. 

“Canada’s CSR strategy could be further strengthened by requiring all new investment projects in the extractive sector to conduct thorough human rights impact assessments before government services are provided,” said Mr. Beauregard. 

Rights & Democracy actively participated in the government-led National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility in the Extractive Sector held in 2006 and supported the Advisory Group’s recommendations at that time. We remain committed to working with governments in Canada and abroad, the private sector and affected communities in an effort to ensure that Canadian foreign investment works to everyone’s advantage.