What can we do to better support the success of Canadian companies abroad?
Finding new markets and furthering free trade agreements or foreign investment promotion between Canada and existing and new trading partners can aid in developing new opportunities for mineral development companies abroad. Government sponsored research and toolkits, such as, Canada’s enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy, “Doing Business the Canadian Way: A Strategy to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility in Canada’s Extractive Sector Abroad” showcases the results of CSR work and experience while building on best practices. Small companies operating abroad may not have the resources or the capacity to develop industry best practices. The government needs to support the industry internationally as its such a critical portion of Canada's GDP, global trade and FDI.
Canadian companies operating oversees bring with them the label of their country. The stronger Canada's brand is, the better received they'll be. A head-start -- that is, being viewed as leader in CSR helps gain trust early and establish more meaningful relationships. Garnering support early and have positive associations is a huge advantage. Canada needs to allocate resources to build awareness of the strong brand that exists, they need to monitor Canadian companies overseas and supply them with the tools and knowledge needed to mine ethically and socially.
The ability for Canadian mining companies to be welcomed into host countries abroad is a key prerequisite for success of the national industry. This means that being able to demonstrate positive impacts from our companies abroad is a strategic, competitive advantage that the Canadian government should support.
In this regard one topic that many Canadian companies have shown leadership on, and can act as a key plank of "brand Canada" for the sector is local content. If Canadian companies are known for doing their best at hiring and procuring locally in host countries abroad, it will help these companies to have smoother operations, and a stronger social licence to operate.
The Canadian government through Natural Resources Canada as well as the trade and aid parts of Global Affairs Canada should provide support for Canadian companies to improve their local procurement and hiring practices. Relatively small internal process changes at companies can lead to millions more dollars staying in host economies, and the linked goodwill that will come with it. There are other small cost interventions that the Canadian government can make abroad, such as convening mining companies, host country suppliers, government agencies and other actors to align on local procurement and hiring priorities, and to inspire potential new partnerships and programs.
Thus, helping our companies increase local content abroad is a key way the Canadian government can support the success of the industry.
We should be leveraging our Canadian Embassies to become fluent in local business cultures. Then offer courses, any sort will do, to Canadians doing business in or with foreign markets. Canadians tend to be ignorant of others cultures and sit back and wait for them to bridge the gap. It’s not very Canadian of us. Let’s get over prepared and dig ourselves an advantage.