Oh‚ behave! Canada tells its companies
The Canadian government has announced a programme to ensure that Canadian businesses across the globe adhere to responsible business conduct.
Over a week ago‚ Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne unveiled two initiatives to strengthen the country's approach to responsible business abroad.
Sandra McCardell‚ Canada's High Commissioner to South Africa‚ told TimesLIVE that the first move is the creation of an independent Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)‚ the first of its kind in the world.
"The CORE will be mandated to investigate allegations of human rights abuses linked to Canadian corporate activity abroad. The CORE will seek to assist wherever possible in collaboratively resolving disputes or conflicts between impacted communities and Canadian companies‚" McCardell said.
"It will be empowered to independently investigate‚ report‚ recommend remedy and monitor its implementation. The CORE's scope will be multi-sectoral‚ initially focusing on the mining‚ oil and gas‚ and garment sectors‚ with the expectation to expand within a year of the Ombudsperson taking office to other business sectors."
McCardell said the creation of CORE set a new global benchmark to ensure responsible business conduct globally.
The second move is the creation of a multi-stakeholder advisory body to advise government and CORE on responsible business conduct.
McCardell said the new initiatives were prompted by a commitment by the Canadian government to advance human rights and fulfill its international obligations in that regard. "Building on Canada's existing expertise and leadership in corporate social responsibility‚ these measures will be 'best in class‚' reinforcing Canada's approach to inclusive economic growth‚ and helping keep Canadian companies at the forefront of responsible business conduct abroad‚ a competitive advantage in today's marketplace‚" she said.
McCardell said all Canadian companies operating abroad‚ including South Africa‚ regardless of size‚ were expected to respect human rights‚ all applicable laws and international standards. South Africa is a key trading partner on the African continent for Canada. There are over 100 Canadian companies doing business (both exporting and with an in-country presence) in South Africa. These companies are in various sectors‚ including ICT‚ clean technologies‚ mining‚ equipment‚ rail‚ aerospace‚ and agriculture.
Canadian direct investment into South Africa stood at $2.057-billion in 2016.
To further support and expand trade‚ Canada's export credit agency‚ Export Development Canada‚ opened its first office in Africa in 2016 and is located at the High Commission of Canada's Trade Office in Johannesburg. Two-way trade between South Africa and Canada in 2016 was $1.321-billion. Canadian exports to South Africa were valued at $469-million‚ while Canadian imports from South Africa were valued at $852-million.
The main products being traded between the two countries include machinery‚ equipment‚ mineral products‚ inorganic chemicals and food products.