This guest blog post is provided by the Strategic Policy Sector (SPS), which provides policy leadership for Innovation, Science and Economic Development and works to achieve an integrated approach to policy formulation by developing and advising on policies aimed at the growth of economic prosperity in Canada, including sustainable development.

As an entrepreneur, you may have heard of corporate social responsibility (CSR) but aren't sure what it means. In Canada's CSR Strategy for the international extractive sector, it is defined as the “activities undertaken by a business to operate in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and responsible manner.” According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), CSR also includes transparent and ethical behaviour by a business that exceeds legal requirements in order to address stakeholder expectations and earn a social license to operate in Canada and globally.

In 2015, Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) published an updated edition of Corporate Social Responsibility: An Implementation Guide for Canadian Business. The guide offers companies guidance on how to better integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles and practices into your daily operations and longer-term business strategies. CSR principles include anti-bribery and corruption and consumer safety policies. CSR practices include environmental stewardship and supply chain due diligence with respect to sourcing supply from companies with good employee health and safety practices. By integrating CSR principles and practices into your daily business operations, your company can develop environmentally sustainable and innovative processes, technologies, products and services that are responsive to opportunities in new markets.

Since the first CSR guide was published by ISED in 2006, much has changed in how companies and countries approach the issue internationally. In 2010, ISO published a new guidance standard on social responsibility - ISO 26000 - which helps clarify the scope of social responsibility, assists businesses and organizations in translating CSR principles into effective actions, and shares best practices globally relating to social responsibility. This standard and the adoption of CSR-related laws such as the Dodd Frank Act in the United States are changing the global investment and corporate culture, with many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large multinational corporations taking steps to integrate CSR practices and principles into their business models.

In light of the changing CSR environment, the new ISED guide features short case studies describing how leading Canadian firms have successfully integrated CSR practices into their business strategies and operations. Additionally, it provides information on new international CSR standards and a dedicated section with advice for SMEs on how to carry out low-cost CSR assessments and implementation plans. In preparing the guide, ISED worked with Canadian companies and business associations, universities and not-for-profit organizations, including those related to indigenous business and consumers, with experience in CSR, gathering their perspectives and hearing their advice.

Every business is different, but adopting effective CSR practices can be beneficial to a company's bottom line and reputation no matter what its size or sector. There is a growing consumer demand for goods and services that are socially and environmentally responsible and a company that designs and develops in line with CSR principles could enhance its competitiveness. For tips on how to implement CSR principles and practices in your organization, take a look at the new 2015 CSR Guide on the ISED website and follow the steps to adopting CSR in a way that makes sense for your organization.