Canadian Business Values
The role of business in society is evolving. Increasingly, companies are punished or rewarded based on their purpose – their fundamental reason for being.
Leading Canadian companies that demonstrate a strong sense of purpose create value for their stakeholders – not only shareholders, but also employees, customers and communities. They take into account the needs of future generations and the natural systems they rely on.
Companies that truly live their purpose strategically align their products and service offerings, staff and supply chains, governance and communications, culture and behaviours with that singular focus. Doing this drives and sustains long-term profitability.
For example, Maple Leaf Foods has established as its purpose the goal to become “the most sustainable protein company on Earth.” The company has seen tremendous innovation, morale and returns all attributed directly to their purpose.
CBSR’s Transformational Company Qualities offers a blueprint for companies to set and demonstrate an ambitious purpose.
Companies and economies thrive when they are able to harness the full potential of all available talent. Yet despite comprising half the talent pool, women are underrepresented in senior leadership roles. Recent years have seen many more women on Canadian executive teams, however corporate boards in Canada have seen little to no change and still represent a major gender imbalance, even despite compelling evidence that diverse boards lead to better business outcomes.
Women also tend to make less money than men for equal work. Canada’s gender pay disparity is larger than the OECD average and therefore a matter requiring increased attention in Canadian businesses.
“Decreased gender inequality in the workplace may benefit Canada’s economy by as much as $150 billion by 2026. If the gender gap was eliminated entirely, that number could rise as high as $420 billion.
- Why Diversity Matters, 2015. McKinsey & Company
Furthermore, surveys and high profile cases indicate that sexual harassment in the workplace may be more widespread that previously realized. Leading Canadian companies that talk openly about these challenges create safe spaces to effect the change needed in Canada and beyond.
The Global Compact Network Canada is currently leading a corporate engagement project to develop, test, and implement a set of tools leading to a blueprint for gender equality in the private sector, and a certification methodology.
When significant numbers of Syrian refugees needed to be resettled quickly, Canada welcomed many of them and ordinary Canadians pitched in by sponsoring families and others in need. At a time when many other Western nations are adopting more restrictive immigration policies, Canada’s goal of admitting more than a million new permanent residents by the end of 2021 sets us apart.
Canada has 14 trade agreements in place, which give Canadian businesses preferential market access to 51 countries with 1.5 billion consumers with a combined GDP of $65 trillion. The North American Free Trade Agreement - now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) - has benefited the Canadian economy since 1994. However, this agreement has created a dependency as 95% of our exports go to a US market that has become increasingly unpredictable and antagonistic.
Canadians have a rich history of active involvement in international initiatives and multilateral institutions that guide diplomacy, regulate international business interactions and aim to have a positive impact on the world. Canada is a signatory to and a champion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are a set of 17 objectives to achieve by the year 2030. The Global Goals describe a near future where economic growth is decoupled from environmental harm and no one is left behind. However, a recent Auditor General’s report concluded that Canada is not adequately prepared to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
An inclusive business environment creates opportunities for people of all backgrounds and experiences. It promotes safe, welcoming spaces through language, behaviour and community partnerships.
Canada’s fastest growing population is its Indigenous peoples. Companies that make meaningful efforts to research and engage nearby Indigenous communities are able to overcome cultural differences, form mutually beneficial partnerships, attract an Indigenous workforce, and contribute toward an important reconciliation process after generations of inequality.
Leading Canadian companies are incorporating inclusivity requirements throughout their supply chains. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business is a wonderful resource that connects companies with local Indigenous businesses.
Canada weathered the 2008 economic downturn because of the stability of our banking and governance systems. Canadians and foreign investors alike feel safe to invest in one of the world’s most trusted economies backed by a regulatory framework that enforces ethical behaviour.
Canadian businesses are known for a high degree of transparent disclosure and active engagement with community stakeholders. Ethical business practises should and often do extend deep into company supply chains to expose human rights issues and environmental harm because a growing number of Canadian consumers specifically seek out ethically sourced goods that consider fair workers’ pay and exposure to forced labour.
Canadian companies face their greatest ethical challenges when operating outside North America, where they may be faced with challenging situations in jurisdictions with far lower ethical, environmental and human rights standards. This can have a damaging effect on the reputation of Canadian businesses. Recently, Canada established an independent Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – the first of its kind in the world – to guide ethical behaviour and provide a mechanism for recourse when there is a violation or accusation.
A sense of fairness, empathy and trust are at the heart of genuine collaboration. Canada was the first country to have negotiated, rather than fought its way to independence and out of an Empire. However, treaty negotiations with Indigenous peoples were followed by a dark period of broken promises and a poor example of collaboration.
Through Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Canada can return to its end goal of fairness. Collaboration is difficult, especially when it requires working across systems, sectors and cultures.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
- African Proverb
While our capitalist system promotes marketplace competition, addressing complex challenges requires more of a ‘co-ompetition’ type of model that the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is demonstrating as the largest companies in that sector work to lower emissions and water use, preserve biodiversity and remediate tailings.
CBSR also facilitates a diverse cross-section of companies from many of Canada’s main industries to collaborate on supply chain, climate and community risks and opportunities.
From insulin to pacemakers and curb-side recycling to carbon utilization, Canada has long been at the forefront of game-changing innovation. Canada is home to the most educated workforce in the OECD and several of the world’s top artificial intelligence pioneers.
Canada has over 120 start-up incubators and accelerators supporting dynamic innovation ecosystems all across the country. A growing ecosystem of Canadian innovators is pioneering new social innovation strategies and business models to collaborate with competitors and other stakeholders to solve complex challenges that one organization could not solve alone.
However, Canada must do more to drive investment toward small and medium sized enterprises with potential to scale and commercialize otherwise risk seeing innovators relocate to centres closer to investor networks.
Exciting examples are emerging through Canada’s $950 million investment into the Innovation Superclusters Initiative, which aims to spur collaborations between business, not-for-profits, government, researchers, and academic institutions to innovate in the areas of ocean sciences, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, the protein industry, and digital technology. It’s anticipated this initiative will infuse $2 billion into the economy and drive GDP by $50 billion over the next decade.
An ancient Iroquois philosophy says that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. Many of the perspectives pertaining to the environment in Canada are shaped by the Indigenous concept of land stewardship, which encompasses air, water, soil and biodiversity. When it comes to these life-sustaining natural treasures, Canada is well endowed and respected around the world for protecting sensitive ecosystems.
Applying these eco-conscious values as a business, though, has often involved the delicate balance of managing environmental risks against economic opportunities. However more and more, the business case for managing climate-related risks and opportunities is clear and unavoidable. Investors are demanding that companies disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and climate risk exposure, while building more climate-resilient infrastructure to secure assets and ensure uninterrupted operations. Companies with a high degree of climate-related risk exposure may consider investments in emerging carbon capture, utilization and storage innovation to limit their exposure. Whether it is mitigation or innovation, businesses willing to move toward such sustainable practices have the opportunity to unlock $20 trillion for the Canadian economy between now and 2030.
As part of Canada’s environmental commitment, the government has taken a number of actions to lead by example to support our eco-conscious values. The country recently became the only oil and gas-producing nation in the world to put in place an economy-wide price on carbon emissions. We have championed the Ocean Plastics Charter to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans, committed to banning the use of single-use plastic in government operations, and launched a $12 million fund to find innovative solutions to better manage plastic. We have also displayed our commitment internationally by playing a prominent role in the negotiations that led to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Despite the progress being made, environmental policies and issues continue to be a challenging topic. Carbon pricing has become a divisive and politicized issue being challenged by a number of provincial governments. There are also ongoing debates about the impacts of infrastructure, and pipelines in particular. These are very complex issues with many nuances to consider, one of the most important being the need for meaningful Nation-to-Nation consultation required with the Indigenous peoples impacted by any projects.
Yet businesses are wise to keep in mind that where there are challenges, there are also opportunities.