The fifth and final session of the “Paving the Way for Responsible Conduct in the Decade of Action” webinar series, entitled Canada and Beyond: A Principles-Based Approach to Building Back Better, was held on August 12th 2021, by Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC).
Daria Naglic, GCNC’s Senior Manager, Programs and Business Relations, introduced the session by highlighting why it is integral for businesses to strengthen their commitments to the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, especially in a post-pandemic context. She also outlined how these Principles encourage businesses to establish a culture of integrity and inclusivity by embedding the four pillars – human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption – into corporate strategies and policies.
The panel discussion focused on how the Government of Canada is addressing its commitments to further advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to meet the 2030 Agenda in the Decade of Action. The speakers included: Olivier Bullion, Director, Sustainable Development Goals Unit, Employment and Social Development Canada; Craig Ryan, Director, Sustainability and ESG at BDC; and Chris Moran, Director General, Trade Portfolio Strategy Coordination Bureau at Global Affairs Canada.
Olivier Bullion started the discussion by indicating that the 2030 Agenda is a shared responsibility that requires the government’s active participation as well as fundamental collaborative partnerships to achieve the SDGs. Along with developing Canada’s National Strategy, the government launched the Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) which identifies avenues of cooperation to achieve all 17 SDGs, and includes the production of an annual report to transparently communicate progress. The Federal Government also launched the Sustainable Development Goals Funding Program aiming to support and leverage the work of different stakeholders in implementing initiatives to advance the SDGs. Moreover, Bullion pointed out that, in the spirit of leaving no one behind, one of the most significant government commitments is to improve the economic wellbeing of all Canadians by advancing gender equality and poverty reduction.
Craig Ryan described how BDC is building a socio-cultural movement of entrepreneurs whose driving force is their own motivation to make their communities and their country a better place. For example, BDC actively promotes the use of the B Impact Assessment and B Corp Certification, which have a direct impact on the SDGs. Additionally, BDC employs two key angles in its support of entrepreneurs: enhancing inclusive prosperity; and mitigating the global climate crisis. Ryan pointed out that when large organizations become more sustainable, the supply chain inherently becomes more sustainable which helps to catalyze an inclusive recovery.
Chris Moran explained how responsible business conduct is one of the top priorities for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) alongside helping companies become more economically resilient. She mentioned how risk mitigation is vital for all companies and, in the context of the pandemic, that those organizations that had processes in place to anticipate potential risks were able to resolve issues more smoothly. Moran also acknowledged the importance of personal conviction in protecting the environment and addressing inequality, and she mentioned that GAC is working to drive systemic change and address inequality by enhancing inclusive trade practices.
The session wrapped up with all panelists agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that collaborative efforts can truly make a difference and that recent examples of the government and business communities working together illustrates how different stakeholders can come together to overcome current obstacles. Bearing witness to how governments across the globe are showing a genuine commitment to advance the SDGs can be a source of hope on this journey of building a better future.