On November 14, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada announced enhanced guidelines intended to improve corporate social responsibility (CSR) by Canadian companies in their extractive sector activities outside of Canada.

Launched in 2009, Building a Canadian Advantage outlined a strategy to promote CSR for the Canadian extractive sector operating in foreign jurisdictions. Among other things, the document promoted certain international CSR performance guidelines and set up the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor to assist in the resolution of CSR issues abroad.

Ultimately, the updated CSR Strategy is intended to enhance extractive companies’ adherence with CSR guidelines. Among other things, the mandate of the Office of the CSR Counsellor has been expanded. Notably, the Office may now review the CSR practices of Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada to determine whether companies are eligible for enhanced government economic diplomacy. As well the Office provides a non-judicial dispute resolution process, designed to bring companies and project-affected stakeholders together to resolve differences.

A company that is found not to have adopted CSR Strategy or who declines to participate in the outlined dispute resolution processes outlined may no longer enjoy government advocacy efforts in foreign markets or participation in government trade missions, and their ability to rely on Export Development Canada financing could be jeopardized.

According to the government, the enhanced CSR Strategy will be reviewed again in 2019 to determine whether it has enhanced the ability of Canadian extractive companies to improve CSR performance.