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Export Development Canada releases first stand-alone human rights policy; some NGOs & workers say it falls short

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7 May 2019

Export Development Canada issues new human rights policy

Author: Export Development Canada

"EDC leading the way in the field of business and human rights," 1 May 2019

Export Development Canada (EDC) became the country’s first commercial banking institution to release a dedicated human rights policy built on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)... As Canada’s Export Credit Agency, EDC exists to help Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. Human rights-related risks—as well as environmental, political and economic risks—can compromise their reputations, increase liability and affect their social license to operate. EDC, like other financial institutions providing support to companies, can be connected to these risks and, therefore, has a meaningful and critical role to play in identifying, preventing and addressing them... Mairead Lavery, President and CEO of EDC [said]... “Put simply, this new policy will help us do better which is incredibly important, not just for EDC, but for the sectors and companies we work with. It will provide clarity to our customers and partners around the world on where we stand as we work to help Canadian companies do business in some of the most challenging markets in the world.”

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1 May 2019

New EDC human-rights policy lacks power, say workers and watchdogs

Author: Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Export Development Canada is declaring itself a leading defender of human rights, but workers groups and advocates say the... new policy falls well short of what’s needed. The agency, a lender and insurer for Canadian firms operating abroad, issued its first stand-alone human rights policy Wednesday, declaring itself to be “leading the way in the field of business and human rights” by setting standards for how companies it helps should behave.

... United Steel Workers of Canada declared it a missed chance to show leadership in global finance, business and human rights. “Instead, we have a policy that uses the right words in many places, but includes enough ambiguity and ample room for discretion that it raises concerns and questions about the ability of EDC to place human rights front and centre."... The new EDC policy says that when its customers come to the attention of the new ombudsperson, it will take “reasonable steps to co-operate in these processes and will also encourage our customers to do so.” One corporate-rights watchdog says that while the EDC deserves credit for trying to move the ball forward on accountability, nothing in the new policy is compulsory or binding on itself or any of its corporate clients... Karen Hamilton, the spokeswoman for Above Ground... said the group hopes Carr’s legal review leads to a change in EDC’s legislation to make stronger human rights obligations mandatory... The policy makes clear that the agency doesn’t have any actual power over the behaviour of its clients, said Hamilton.

... Robert Fosco, the EDC’s vice president of environment and social risk management... acknowledged the criticism of shortcomings in the policy, but said the EDC is committed to following the best practices on human rights and business set out by the United Nations and the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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