Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility Across-Borders: Canada

As part of our ongoing effort to understand the most important characteristics of any society Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) matters, we are contacting the CSR key-entities in each country that the Sur la Route du Patrimoine Project will pass by.

We have been welcomed by the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR), a non-profit member organization with a mission to accelerate and scale corporate social and environmental sustainability in Canada and challenge the « business as usual » model.

Here below you’ll find the report of our interview made at CBSR,Vancouver, that will be part of our general study about CSR Across-Borders :

What is Corporate Social Responsibility about in Canada?

Definitions of CSR range from business ethics, to sustainability, to corporate citizenship. Some companies simply see CSR as « the right thing to do », while others see it as a strategic differentiator for their company and a means to achieving greater business value.

CBSR defines CSR as a company’s commitment to operating in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner, while recognizing the interests of its stakeholders, including investors, customers, employees, business partners, local communities, the environment and society at large.

Many of today’s successful companies are operating with their stakeholders in mind. Their progressive corporate social performance contributes to their long-term financial viability, which further promotes healthy communities and stable economies. Here are a few examples of how socially responsible companies experience positive effects on their financial bottom line:

  • Reduced operating costs

  • Enhanced brand and image reputation

  • Increased sales and customer loyalty

  • Increased ability to attract and retain employees

  • Publicity and increased public image from good works

Which problems have the highest priority in Canada?

CBSR is a partner of the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS). NBS’s Leadership Council meets annually to identify the greatest challenges facing Canadian business. The following were the 10 challenges identified for Canadian business:

10 Questions Define the Sustainability Challenges in 2013

  1. How can businesses contribute to effective, integrated public policy on the right issues?

  2. How can companies best engage value chain, industry and NGO partners to achieve sustainability goals?

  3. How can businesses help Canadians become informed, inspired and engaged in a national dialogue about responsible consumption?

  4. What corporate structures enable companies to deliver on sustainability goals?

  5. How can companies keep their long-term sustainability agenda on track despite leadership changes?

  6. How should companies navigate issues regarding Aboriginal rights and entitlements?

  7. How can Canadian organizations become more innovative?

  8. How can companies embed social license to operate into their strategy?

  9. How can business and society prepare effectively for the impacts of climate change?

  10. How can companies respond to the proliferation of voluntary and mandatory reporting requirements?

Looking ahead, key challenges remain, but we are optimistic as we see leading companies continuing to integrate sustainability into their core business models and identifying new opportunities for collaboration. In addition, with continued growth in demand for energy and minerals to meet global needs, 2013 promises to be a year of both opportunity and challenge to companies in the mining and energy sector.

Does the country’s government place higher demands on foreign companies than on local companies? To what extend does the local government invest in responsible environmental and social policies and how well is observance of these policies monitored?

Foreign companies have the same kind of obligations as local companies regarding sustainable development. There are several national programs to promote and to engage companies and the public to adopt attitudes that are more respectful towards the environment and the well-being of Canadian communities. The Canadian Government promotes CSR principles and practices to Canadian businesses because it makes companies more innovative, productive, and competitive.

Canada’s network of diplomatic missions abroad actively promotes CSR guidelines through seminars, conferences, workshops and other activities involving companies, representatives of host governments and civil society; and provides advice to companies and stakeholders related to CSR. Canada’s efforts are further advanced by including voluntary provisions for CSR in its most recent free trade agreements (FTAs) and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPAs).

Given the importance of the extractive sector to the Canadian economy, in March 2009, the Government of Canada announced Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector.

The four pillars of the Strategy are:

1. Support for host country capacity-building initiatives related to resource governance and for host countries to benefit from these resources to reduce poverty;

2. Promote the following widely-recognized voluntary international CSR performance guidelines:

3. The Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor;

4. The development of the Centre for Excellence in CSR.

For more information visit: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/ds/csr-strategy-rse-stategie.aspx?view=d

Is there a well-developed infrastructure of all kinds of social organisation (NGOs and trade unions) attempting to exercise their influence and receiving the opportunity to do so politically? Which organisations are the most influential? What are the usual ways for an international company to communicate with these organisations?

Canada has a diversity of voices of numerous civil society organizations that have an important place in the work of Canadian civil society. Some organizations are currently working to promote CSR in Canada.

Which socio-cultural aspects must be taken into consideration when interpreting CSR in your country?

It is important for companies to define a common set of organizational norms, while being sensitive to local institutional contexts. Given Canada’s vastness and diversity among its regions, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cultural sensitivities that should be taken into account.

It is important for companies to engage with its local stakeholders to define the appropriate ways of conducting its businesses in that local area.


Founded in 1995, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (operating as CBSR) is a non-profit member organization with a mission to accelerate and scale corporate social and environmental sustainability in Canada and challenge the « business as usual » model. We believe companies are ready for this challenge and many are actively rethinking their business models to create long-term shareholder and societal value.

Globally-recognized as one of the foremost organizations dedicated to influencing and advancing corporate citizenship in Canada, CBSR has amassed a rich history of experience, knowledge and credibility. In our 18 years of existence, we’ve helped hundreds of Canadian businesses advance their CSR efforts; convened numerous events across Canada including CBSR’s signature event Annual Summit; and developed leading research and reports on a wide variety of topics including climate change mitigation, CSR governance, aboriginal engagement, water management, and many more. Over the past decade this service to the Canadian business community was offered on a ‘one-to-one’ basis, with an emphasis on tailored advisory services programs for CBSR members.

In January 2013, CBSR has changed its mandate and business model to focus on being the premier network and key resource in Canada for companies large and small, researchers, opinion leaders and the media to advance corporate social responsibility and sustainability.

CBSR will no longer provide advisory services but will put its efforts into knowledge provision and networking to enable our Members and the wider corporate sustainability community to tackle the material environmental, social and broader economic challenges they face and to scale up efforts to integrate sustainability into their businesses.

As part of the new mandate, CBSR has also modified its membership structure by including membership opportunities for individuals and small and medium-sized businesses. SMEs are critical supply chain actors, sources of innovation, and are essential to achieving and scaling sustainability.


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