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Bill C-300 was defeated in Parliament on October 27th. The bill would have given parliament the right to investigate human rights complaints registered against a company doing business in a foreign country. The bill had passed second reading, which is further than many private members bill proceed so the extraction sector should not assume that there is no appetite on parliament's part to enforce some form of code of conduct on the industry. The closeness of the vote on third reading also reflects the willingness of parliament to enforce some sort of code (the vote was 143 against to 140 for). This fact is not lost on the mining industry. In their response to the defeat of the bill, the Canadian Mining Journal's Marilyn Scales stated "That it got to third reading is a measure of how important corporate social responsibility is to Canadians."
The folks at the Canadian Mining Journal undoubtedly understand the importance of CSR and there are probably other organizations representing the industries that comprise the extraction sector (exploration, gas, mining, and oil) that have a similar appreciation. The PDAC would be one of those. The question for the industry is: does the PDAC speak for the entire mining and exploration industry and each mining company in the industry? Like most associations, the power the association has over members is limited and would not be able to enforce a standard CSR policy on its members. What they have done is to create a body they call the Office of the Independent Canadian CSR Counsellor. This office was created to replace the government as the oversight body responsible for reviewing complaints against companies in the industry.
The approach taken by the PDAC seems to assume that every company has the desire to create a CSR policy and the means to create and implement it. The recent study performed for the PDAC, Corporate Social Responsibility & the Canadian
International Extractive Sector: A Survey identified companies that had no desire to implement a CSR policy, they viewed CSR as a waste of money. These companies will only implement CSR policies if they are shown that failure to do so will cost them money, that's where the Office of the Independent Canadian CSR Counsellor can help. There are also companies who realize that CSR policies are the right thing to do but don't have the means or expertise to craft and implement one. That is also an area where that office could help. Providing smaller companies with the tools and expertise to analyze their business and craft a policy suited to their operations and the area they operate in would be a tremendous help to these companies. The ability to provide mentoring to the company resources that are tasked with the CSR project would also help.
The Office of the Independent Canadian CSR Counsellor could also benefit their constituents by defining goals and objectives that are feasible. They can do this by closing the gap between the accepted standards in this country and those where their constituents do business. There are larger, more mature, companies in the sector who are recognized as having quality CSR policies. I'm sure that these companies have lessons they can teach smaller companies who struggle with CSR.
The extraction sector received a reprieve with the defeat of Bill C-300. They opposed the bill because they claim they can police themselves. I hope they seize the opportunity and show they have the will to move towards CSR and the willingness to help companies struggling to implement a CSR policy. They will also have to bring the companies who resist CSR into line.