By: Adine Mees and Rob Moore
When the CBSR team sets out to prepare the theme for our annual summit, we find ourselves having to assess the emerging corporate responsibility issues and predict what the hot topic will be months in advance. Every year we seem to strive to capture the prevailing mood and focus of those of us that seek to answer the evolving fundamental question: What is the role of Canadian corporations beyond returning profit to their shareholders? This year, for our 9th Annual Summit, we seem to once again be gathering CSR business and thought leaders to discuss and consider a very timely topic – Canada’s responsibility and reputation in the rapidly developing global debate about the environmental and social role of corporations and governments.
Once again, Canada finds itself in a juxtaposed position. On one hand, in many ways, we are the envy of the world. Our economy grew 3.1% last year, and is expected to expand 2.4% by the end of 2011. Forbes annual ranking of Best Countries for Business this year, ranks Canada No. 1. Canada’s banking and financial system has avoided the devastating defaults and failures experienced in other parts of the world, due in no small part to a regulatory environment that many would have claimed was too cautious and risk adverse. This balance between unchecked growth and potential negative impact resulted in a national economy that is held up as a model around the world.
However, on the other hand when it comes to Canada’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance, a recent study by Jantzi-Sustainalytics on CSR performance of G7 countries put Canadian publicly-traded companies near the bottom of the list. Germany, Italy, France and the U.K. all scored well ahead of Canada when measured on environmental, social and governance criteria. Canada did score ahead of the U.S. when it comes to issues surrounding employee relations and the environment.
As we gather to consider: Canadian Business as a Global Citizen – Social and Environmental Performance on the World Stage, no one should expect a clear answer to the question: “Is Canada a leader or a laggard?”. As with most things in this field of corporate environmental and social obligation, the value is in the discussion, the ensuing collaboration and the commitment to on-going improvement.
Just as the media and others struggle to understand the importance or distil the goals of the burgeoning “Occupy” street protests around the world into sound bites - the pursuit of simple answers and quick solutions to the social and environmental expectations of corporations is elusive. We know social media and hyper connectivity is driving businesses to a new level of accountability and transparency. There is a much keener awareness today of how and where companies can have an impact, or are not doing enough - through their supply chain, their community involvement programs and their environmental stewardship – both at home and abroad. This global interconnectedness is driving a new growing solidarity around the world amongst grass roots organizations and citizens who are self-organizing and building a global movement using social media and new communication tools.
Canada has a real opportunity to play a leadership role on the world stage – from both an environmental and social perspective. Cautious and pragmatic progress through consensus and dialogue is the Canadian way. The basic ingredients are there but it will take a collaborative, determined and focused effort to move forward.
At the summit we will hear from Canadian companies that are global leaders in CSR. We will hear from one of Canada’s greatest internationalists, Stephen Lewis, as he provides a global perspective on Canada’s place in the world and the role of the private sector. It is likely we will walk away with a view that some Canadian companies are doing great things; corporate Canada as a community can do more; and Canada as a nation - individual citizens, companies and governments - are uniquely positioned to not shy away from the rapidly changing and often unclear expectations of how profit generation can be a force for positive environmental and social action, but to be leaders in this critical time.
About the Authors:
Adine Mees - Co-Founder and Advisor to the Interim CEO, CBSR
As CBSR’s co-founder and as its outgoing President and CEO, Adine brings 20 years of experience in corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy design and execution, CSR reporting and stakeholder engagement to corporate Canada. Prior to joining Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) as its Executive Director in 2001, Adine held various management and executive positions within the Vancity group of companies - a Canadian CSR leader. Adine was appointed Vice President, Marketing and Corporate Responsibility, for Citizens Bank in May of 1998. Adine has 20 years of experience in CSR marketing and branding, communications, strategic planning, and facilitation. She is a sought after speaker and writer and has extensive connections within the CSR community on both national and international levels.
Rob Moore - Interim President and CEO, CBSR
Most recently Rob was the Senior Vice President, Marketing, Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). Rob has extensive communications and public affairs experience. He has held the positions of Senior Vice President of Communications at Loblaw Companies Ltd.; Vice President, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Hudson's Bay Company; Director of Public Affairs, Canada, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide; Director of Communications and Press Secretary for the Mayor of the City of Toronto; and was the Principal at the communications firm, Perkins Moore Associates. Rob received an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at McGill University.