Canada risks falling behind on ethical standards

Canada must act now to keep pace with the US and Europe in the race to set new standards for corporate social responsibility, says a group of high-level experts from business, government and civil society in a report released last week.

“Canada has built an enviable record in many quarters internationally for honest dealing and ethical business values,” said Professor Wesley Cragg, (right) of York University’s Schulich School of Business, “but government and business have failed to see that reputation as a valuable asset. And it may now be in jeopardy.”

The consensus report, titled Corporate Responsibility and Accountability in the Global Marketplace, is the result of a six-month dialogue led by Cragg and involving leaders from the corporate, government, non-governmental and academic sectors.

“There is so much public interest and support in this area that government needs to look at adopting new policies and work with business to set and implement new standards,” said Cragg. “The Enron scandal has impacted Canadian institutions in serious ways,” he added, while citing investigations by the US Securities & Exchange Commission and the introduction of new standards for corporate conduct by the Ontario Securities Commission as other reasons for timely action. “Businesses in Canada need to understand that ethical standards are a bottom line issue,” said Cragg.

The group’s participants agreed that, by building on a reputation already highly regarded in many quarters, Canada and Canadian corporations have an opportunity to strengthen competitiveness, build confidence in capital markets and enhance human security internationally.

The report contains 12 recommendations for addressing current global concerns about corporate social responsibility directed at government, the private sector and civil society organizations as well as Canada’s universities, business schools and colleges.

Business and Securities recommendations

  • Improve disclosure and reporting in stock exchange listings and corporate reports
  • Integrate ethical values into accounting and auditing procedures
  • Promote positive competitive value of existing Canadian ethical standards

Government recommendations

  • Embed environmental, social and economic ethics criteria into government procurement policies
  • Use incentive programs creatively to ensure firms who receive government assistance such as tax concessions and loans meet ethical standards

Academic recommendations

  • Integrate emerging national and international standards into all aspects of university, college and business school activities including procurement, curriculum development and educational programs

Click here for a copy of the report (PDF format).