Message From the President and CEO
Over the last number of years, we have seen an evolution in the international community as to what constitutes meaningful corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.
This change has been driven largely by consumers placing greater importance on ethical business and companies that take into account social and environmental responsibility. This movement has also been acknowledged by governments and international organizations, reinforced by the recent negotiation of two significant international agreements: the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a result, companies must be more transparent, have clear governance structures, and give more attention to environmental, social and human rights impacts of their business if they are to remain competitive and relevant to their customers.
Ethical business practices have always been important to EDC, but over the last two decades we have placed an increased focus on all aspects of CSR as it relates to the companies we support. This focus on the impact of our business is something I take seriously as the President and CEO of this organization.
EDC strives to be a leader in helping Canadian companies grow their international trade by focusing on what they really need, both today and tomorrow. In this new era of economic uncertainty, political volatility, and changing corporate expectations, we see best practices in CSR as critical to meeting the needs of Canadian businesses. As a result, responsible business has become embedded in EDC’s culture, and central to how we operate.
Working with stakeholders
Increasingly at EDC, business issues discussed at the executive table are examined through a CSR lens, in addition to a financial and operational one. We recognize that to be a leader in the CSR space, there are core requirements: a culture that reinforces CSR principles; a core business and brand that are built around those principles; business development practices that align to CSR objectives; and, measurement of progress toward ambitious CSR performance goals and targets.
Raising the CSR bar isn’t about turning away transactions or customers. It’s about being clear with customers about our CSR commitments at the early stages of the transaction process, aligning expectations in riskier markets and sectors, and having the expertise to methodically work through challenging situations.
As we consider the effect our business has on stakeholders both within Canada and abroad, we need to keep listening to all the stakeholders affected by the transactions and investments we support, and continually translate that insight into action. The long-term success of our customers depends on it.
A year in review: 2015
As we work towards our goal of being a leader in CSR practices and to bring our customers and other stakeholders along with us, we‘ve achieved some key milestones in 2015:
We issued our second green bond in 2015. The issue was well received by international capital markets indicating a strong appetite for investment products focused on sustainable business and infrastructure developments.
On the international stage, EDC takes an active role in moving the yardsticks with the OECD working groups. In 2015, we worked to advance progressive ideas with environmental and social practitioners from other export credit agencies (ECA) in our role as chair of the OECD Export Credit Agencies Environmental Practitioners Group, and our involvement in the OECD Export Credits Human Rights Practitioner Group. Our team regularly shares EDC’s experiences implementing the OECD Common Approaches and the IFC Performance Standards, which are then used to inform ECA best practice and updates to the Common Approaches on Environmental and Social Due Diligence.
We’re broadening and deepening our relationships with customers beyond the transactions we undertake with them. We’re investing the time to explain the links and interdependencies between EDC’s support for a transaction and the review of downstream environmental, social and human rights impacts. By educating and coaching companies on responsible business practices, our goal is to foster a mutual understanding of CSR values and principles.
We added new members to our CSR Advisory Council, a group of nine leaders from business, civil society, and academia who provide advice and guidance to advance EDC’s CSR practices. The Council has been instrumental in connecting EDC to evolving best practices and important stakeholder views, and in the process, inspiring us to do better. A key topic of discussion in 2015 was human rights and EDC’s role vis-à-vis the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP). As a result of the Council’s input, we are exploring how financial institutions like EDC can best promote – not just protect – human rights.
A Look to the Future
While we’re still on the journey, we’re making great progress towards shifting away from thinking of CSR as part of a transactional process to a more enterprise-wide philosophy, further integrating it into our business in an enduring way.
Our efforts to always better connect responsible business practices to the broader EDC business strategy will continue in 2016, with the guidance of our CSR Advisory Council and Board members. We believe that our rigorous, values-based approach to finance is good for business and for the globe.
I would like to thank our CSR Advisory Council and Board of Directors members for their guidance, insights, and ongoing support this past year. Their contributions have been extremely valuable and will continue to help us evolve our CSR practices. I would also like to thank all EDC employees for their lasting commitment to the work we do. They have embraced a sustainability mindset and shown a willingness to make a meaningful difference for our customers, our stakeholders, and the communities in which we live and work.
President and CEO