Canada's mining and exploration industry has prevailed. Bill C-300 has been defeated in the House of Commons. The vote taken late on Oct. 27 was 140 to 134 against the measure that would have given the federal government authority to investigate human rights or environmental complaints against Canadian companies working on projects in foreign lands.
Bill C-300 was tabled by Liberal MP John McKay in February 2009. Most private member's bills fail to pass, but this one almost made it. That it got to third reading is a measure of how important corporate social responsibility is to Canadians.
Canadian mining companies take their CSR duties very seriously, but CSR is a moving target. The definitions and measurements are changing as the discipline evolves. There is no standard rating by which to say a company "is" or "is not" meeting the goals of CSR.
PDAC executive director Tony Andrews told CMJ that Bill C-300 was misguided from the beginning. Happy to note its defeat, he then spoke of the next steps the PDAC is taking to help its members reach their CSR goals.
"We are going to continue as we have all along with our e3 Plus initiative," he said. "The next step is to create the accountability section with guidelines on how to report and how to verify CSR actions."
That is the first of a three-part approach.
The second part is the creation of a special forum of eminent and highly qualified people to examine the subject, identifying gaps in CSR knowledge and the means of improving companies' performance. Such a forum might be housed in the CSR Centre of Excellence, mused Andrews.
The final step in going forward with the mining industry's CSR commitment is establishment of a communications initiative with lawmakers, NGOs and the public. Many avenues of communication were opened as the industry fought C-300, but the interaction must continue.
Do Canadian companies commit human rights violations? Last week ago we asked our readers who had worked for Canadian companies overseas whether or not they had witnessed abuses committed by their employers. Sadly, four (15%) of the respondents said yes. The other 24 said no.
Still that is four incidents too many. Let's aim to make it zero.
Yes, a good CSR record takes money. Sometimes only the large companies can budget for extensive programs and consultation. Smaller companies can communicate with local communities for very little cost, and frequent, honest communication is the foundation of CSR success.