Message from Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs
Since assuming my new role in Corporate Affairs in January 2016, I’ve been struck by how much importance Canadian businesses place on responsible business practices, either on their own initiative or because the market demands that they do so. It has become abundantly clear that corporate social responsibility has moved into the mainstream of how forward-thinking companies conduct business. I’m also pleased to see how EDC is evolving to meet customer, and societal needs and expectations.
Evolving Role of CSR at EDC
Our organization took a giant step forward in 2015 with the build out of a new Enterprise Risk Management framework, which, in addition to helping us manage risk more effectively, gave us a better understanding of how CSR serves our organization and what we need to do to improve. As a result of this exercise, we created a central Compliance and Ethics (CE) group, headed by a Vice-President and Chief Compliance Officer, which focuses on building upon and enhancing EDC’s compliance and ethics programs. We also moved our CSR function into the Corporate Affairs group so that it is one of several functions working together to enable the overall business.
Since then, we have expanded our CSR team, adding technical expertise in areas like climate change and climate finance, and filling key leadership roles to partner with our business development teams. We want to get CSR colleagues involved earlier in transactions so they can probe issues, and educate and coach potential customers on responsible business practices. This becomes all the more important in complex transactions and as more of our customers expand into emerging markets. The sooner we can get involved, the greater the influence we can have.
2015 in Review
As we look back at 2015, we made solid progress on a number of fronts. For example, we continued to enhance our anti-corruption processes and safeguards to ensure we do business in an ethical way. This included strengthening due diligence processes and staff training.
We also helped small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) understand and mitigate the corruption risks they face as they begin to sell into foreign markets. In addition to providing direct guidance and support, we developed multimedia resources that aim to help educate companies about these risks. In partnership with TRACE International, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to combatting bribery and corruption, we published an insightful series of articles on exportwise.ca that presented the corruption history and risks in 19 countries in a practical and engaging way.
I’m very proud of our involvement in helping finalize the OECD export credit sector understanding on coal-fired electricity generation projects. This understanding will begin to phase out official ECA support for coal-fired power plants beginning in 2017. It is an important step forward in the global shift to a low-carbon economy and it is prompting us to examine the carbon impact of our portfolio.
At the same time, there’s more work to be done and we don’t always get things right. In the past year, we were once again challenged by some stakeholders for supporting certain companies. For all corporations, including EDC, there’s always a balance to be achieved between meeting CSR and business imperatives. Where possible, we try to work with companies to raise the bar rather than turning them away. Our approach to stakeholder comments and inquiries is to explain our positions and due diligence processes, and use their feedback to drive improvement.
Our CSR efforts were recognized with a number of awards, including being ranked among the Corporate Knights Future 40 Responsible Corporate Leaders in Canada and the National Capital Region’s Top Employers for 2015. As our CSR programs continue to evolve, awards like these tell us that we’re on the right track.
Upping our Game to Meet the Needs of Canadian Businesses
Export markets are shifting, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging for Canadian companies, and particularly SMEs, to anticipate and manage risks and expectations. They’re looking for a partner to help them up their game in international marketplaces. In the year ahead, we will examine how we might position CSR as a differentiator in our approach to developing international business.
We’re doing what we can to help meet the needs of our customers – strengthening our CSR capabilities and embedding CSR into our business processes, while maintaining unwavering commitments to our employees, local communities and other stakeholders.
Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs