Canadian companies in Chile apply high CSR standards

The Chile-Canada Chamber of Commerce launched its second report on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices of Canadian companies operating in Chile, entitled "Partners in Development.”  The study concluded that the CSR policies and practices of Canadian companies in Chile are consistent with CSR best practices in Canada, which are among the most advanced in the world.

Left to right: Then-President of the Chile-Canada Chamber of Commerce, Paul Schiodtz; Then-Minister of Housing, Magdalena Matte

Overview of the launching's participants

Richard Smith, CSR expert who prepared the study; Margot Edwards, Trade Officer; Louis Guay, Canada's CSR Coordinator for the Americas

Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue, Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway; Canada's Ambassador to Chile, Sarah Fountain Smith; Roger Cuzner, MP, Cape Breton-Canso; Yvon Godin, MP, Acadie–Bathurst

The launch was attended by a number of special guests, including Chile’s then-Minister of Housing, Magdalena Matte; Canada’s Ambassador to Chile, Sarah Fountain Smith; Canada’s CSR Coordinator for the Americas, Louis Guay; the Director of the Chilean NGO Casa de la Paz, Ximena Abogabir; and a delegation of parliamentarians and officials led by the Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Atlantic Gateway.

In his introductory remarks, the then-President of the Chamber, Paul Schiodtz, said that this report makes a positive contribution to the discussion and study of CSR in Chile. Then-Minister Matte later echoed these sentiments and applauded the Canadian CSR brand signalling that Canadian companies in Chile "are doing things the right way, and in a very discreet manner.”

The study was prepared by Canadian CSR expert Richard Smith and is divided into three main sections. The first explores some of the most prominent and influential CSR policies, guidelines and conventions that Canadian companies are striving to incorporate and adhere to. The second more closely examines the CSR practices of Canadian companies working in Chile and describes the key factors that drive their commitment to social responsibility. The final section reviews important lessons learned over the past ten years and identifies some of the future challenges Canadian companies operating in Chile may face.

One of the key challenges mentioned in the report was the need to continue improving relations between companies and communities, especially to ensure effective communication throughout the implementation phase of a project. “Social factors are far more likely to threaten a project’s viability than technical issues”, said  José Tomás Letelier VP External Affairs for Kinross.

All of the companies that were interviewed for this study — such as Barrick, EDC, Finning, Methanex, Scotiabank and SNC Lavalin, among others — explained that their Canadian roots influence their organizational culture and corporate practices. In particular, they highlighted their strong emphasis on ethics, transparency and communication; the importance of putting people first and promoting equity and inclusion in the workplace; and commitment to dialogue and consensus building with stakeholders.

As examples of successful CSR projects, Methanex is championing an educational process designed to raise awareness about energy conservation, which is consistent with the values and mission of the company: they have sponsored a social awareness program with 1500 students from the Juan Bautista Contardi Secondary School, with the aim of integrating energy efficiency practices under a national educational project know as the Energy Saving and Efficiency Environmental Plan (PAAEE). Transelec/Brookfield organized a competition which aimed to promote greater energy efficiency, optimizing the consumption of water and improving household waste management. The idea was not only to generate an interest amongst the community and to promote energy efficiency as a viable option, but also to bring concrete solutions to thousands of Chileans that could adopt best practices that would allow them to live a more sustainable life on a daily basis.

The study concludes that this approach reinforces sound management practices in these companies and strengthens their relationships with communities, employees, customers and local authorities.

The Chamber of Commerce published its first CSR study in Chile in 2002. The second version of the report was published in 2010 and provides a valuable tool for highlighting the good corporate citizenship of Canadian companies active in Chile, and their commitment to corporate social responsibility.