Canadian High Commissioner David Devine yesterday highlighted the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an essential ingredient for the success of mining companies.
The Canadian High Commissioner at the time was delivering an address at the launch of what is being referred to as the Guyana Mining Toolkit at the International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, according to a copy of his speech at the event.
The toolkit is a practical guide that will help companies, communities and all stakeholders to appreciate how to guide their interactions with mining activities, since it sets out to simplify the mining process from start to finish and to ensure that all who would have to be involved understand their role.
Devine said that as part of the commitment of the Government of Canada to good corporate practices, the Canadian High Commission was working with all Canadian companies active in Guyana to enhance their potential for success.
“An important element for the companies is the matter of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Canadian companies realize that a mining company is no longer comprised of individuals with good finance and geology expertise, good social conscience is now a necessary ingredient.”
Among those attending the launch of the Guyana Mining Toolkit were Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud, Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
The High Commissioner noted that Canadian companies that understand CSR principles realize that they are partners with communities which surround them. “Problems that are not immediately addressed between the community, government and the companies will have to be dealt with for the entire life of the mine.”
CSR is a long-term commitment which must be developed on a solid foundation, and it just makes good corporate sense to be socially responsible, Devine acknowledged.
He said that on the Corporate Social Responsibility front, the High Commission will be continuing its thrust on piloting a robust CSR programme with the government, companies and the communities.
“In the 2nd half of this year the High Commission in collaboration with its partners will undertake a review and reprint of the toolkit which we are launching to ensure that it remains a current and useful document,” Devine announced.
And as part of the CSR programme along with their partners, the High Commission will conduct an outreach mission to ensure that the toolkit reaches the communities in Guyana where it is most needed.
Devine said that Canada is also collaborating with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and working with funding partners to identify the feasibility requirements for a mineral mapping study of Guyana as this tool is a key pillar that will impact and increase Guyana’s mineral investment potential.
Meanwhile, he disclosed also that the High Commission is working with the Canadian International Development Agency and the Guyana government to assist in the development of a regionally accredited, geo-technology education programme as well as other vocation-skills programmes for Guyanese.
“This is an essential element in providing a highly-skilled workforce for a future and prosperous Guyana,” Devine assured.
Through training programmes and skill development, Devine said, Guyanese interested in the extractive sectors will be better positioned to benefit from opportunities that will be created as the extractive sectors in Guyana realize their potential.
This will permit the development of skills for the industry and provide much needed higher paying jobs. He observed too that there is a serious skills shortage in Guyana in the geo-technology field and the High Commission is hopeful that the programme can be implemented in the latter half of this year.
In the areas of sector regulation, the Canadians have been working with a Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Guyana to assist in a review of the existing regulatory framework and organizational structure of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to ensure an effective and transparent approach to the mineral sector. This type of review process will ensure that Guyana benefits from employing the most modernized and effective regulatory system for companies to engage.
The High Commissioner declared that “all of these components are critical if we are to engage in a responsible, fruitful, long-term and sustainable relationship. If even one of these elements is missing it will reduce the ability of all of us to see Guyana realize the immense potential that we all know it has.”
The High Commissioner pointed out that the Government of Canada had appointed an Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor to mitigate the social impacts that can result from communication breakdowns between communities and companies.
“The CSR Counsellor office was appointed by the Governor in Council and today reports directly to the Minister of International Trade. The mandate of the Counsellor’s office relates exclusively to the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad.”
Devine explained that the counselor plays a key role in advancing Canada’s messages for companies to be good corporate citizens operating abroad.
“The office reviews the corporate social responsibility practices of Canadian extractive sector companies operating outside Canada; and advises stakeholders on the implementation of endorsed CSR performance guidelines. The counsellor’s office undertakes reviews with the consent of the involved parties and provides sound guidance in keeping with the OECD guidelines.”
He said further that requests for review of any corporate practices may originate from an individual, group or community that reasonably believes that it is being or may be adversely affected by the activities of a Canadian extractive sector company in its operations outside Canada.
The CSR Counsellor’s office is fair and open to receiving requests from all stakeholders who interface with Canadian companies operating abroad.
And importantly, requests can also originate from Canadian extractive sector companies if the company believes it is the subject of unfounded allegations concerning its corporate conduct outside Canada in relation to the endorsed CSR performance guidelines. This is an important aspect to ensure fair play from all stakeholders in a CSR dispute, Devine emphasized.
He said too that Canadian companies raising capital on the stock market are also subject to a number of existing requirements that affect environmental disclosure and are obligated to disclose specific information about environmental matters in their annual company reports. Companies are held accountable for any financial and operational effects of environmental protection requirements, as well as any implemented social and environmental policies that are fundamental to its operations.
Companies are also expected to disclose policies regarding their relationship with the environment as well as their relationship with communities in which it does business.
“With all of these measures in place, the picture is clear, corporate responsibility is not just a side activity for companies; it’s an integral part of their daily operations,” the Canadian High Commissioner stated.