If our main job in 2020 was to engage with Canadian companies and get support where it was needed, as fast and as effectively as possible, then I think we can be proud of the job we have done at EDC – not only making decisions quickly and with agility, but remaining disciplined in our efforts, and focused on what matters most – the needs of our customers.

One year ago, I used this message to share some reflections on my first 12 months as the President and CEO of Export Development Canada. 

I was excited about the success we had generated in 2019, and even more excited about the progress we were ready to make. EDC had generated unprecedented growth in our customer numbers, opened new offices in the United States, expanded our collaboration with major Canadian financial institutions, and strengthened our approach to sustainable business practices and critical issues relating to human rights, climate change and corporate transparency. 

Looking back on 2019, I wrote, “…we showed not only the ability to do more business, but a willingness to do business differently.”

One year later, these words have fresh resonance: 2020 was another year in which EDC did much more business and did it very differently. 

As it was for every company across Canada and around the world, the emergence of COVID-19 was a moment of extraordinary doubt, challenge and risk for EDC. A meeting of industry stakeholders we convened early in the crisis gave us a sampling of the spectrum of pain that would be felt across Canada. Some industries would cope, even thrive. Others would struggle but survive. Others faced ruin.

Early in the crisis, the federal government created a Team Canada economic response to the crisis and expanded EDC’s mandate, allowing us to provide our solutions to non-exporting Canadian companies and to provide relief and support to thousands of struggling Canadian businesses. In the pages of this annual report, you’ll find a full accounting of the many initiatives, and of the remarkable impact that EDC had in a year like no other. Not only did we facilitate the launch of important measures – like the Business Credit Availability Program and the Canada Emergency Business Account – we also found ways of stretching our operations and traditional business lines to help more Canadian companies, and help them faster. We took on more risk in our insurance programs, extended more liquidity through direct loans and loan guarantees, and we offered deferrals on premium payments while also accelerating deliveries on claims. You can find a snapshot of our business achievements, and more about our role in the Team Canada response to the COVID-19 crisis, in the message from our Chair, Martine Irman.

For my part, I would like to share a few thoughts about how we made our impact felt, and about the decisions we all made – leaders and employees alike – that enabled EDC to find new, innovative ways to help more Canadian companies in a time of unprecedented crisis. 

Working together, our executive team and Board of Directors determined early on that our first management priority would be the health and well-being of our employees; supporting Canadian exporters would be impossible if we did not first support the fundamental needs of our people and their families. This principle underpinned so many choices made in those early days of the pandemic, and still does today: work-from-home protocols; expansion of home office support; more generous benefits for the protection of physical and mental health; help for managers leading teams in remote circumstances. 

We also understood that, in this global economic crisis, working at “the speed of business” had taken on a fresh and real meaning; the speed of business had found a new gear. To match this, we would have to accelerate our own pace of decision making, bringing creativity to our solutions, agility to our efforts, and greater efficiency to our processes.  

If our main job in 2020 was to engage with Canadian companies and get support where it was needed, as fast and as effectively as possible, then I think we can be proud of the job we have done at EDC – not only making decisions quickly and with agility, but remaining disciplined in our efforts, and focused on what matters most – the needs of our customers. 

The proof of that impact is in the pages of this report. 

Ultimately, none of this could have happened without EDC’s employees stepping up. As their work and personal lives were upended, they responded to the demands of the moment with extraordinary professionalism and humanity. 

Speaking of humanity, I also feel the need to address one other very important event that confronted the global community in 2020: the passionate debate inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Here again, our employees met the moment. Moved by tragic events, EDC undertook a closer examination of our own community’s attitudes and approaches to equality in the workplace, as well as the power and value of diversity. As part of that effort, we have implemented a new inclusion, diversity and equity strategy that is leading us through a rigorous process of analysis, reflection and action, helping us continue our journey toward creating the safer and welcoming workplace to which we aspire.

In many ways, our reaction to this global issue was testament to another important theme that ran through 2020: it was a year in which EDC spent a lot of time listening. We listened to our employees as they addressed issues that ranged from workplace health to home-schooling their children. We listened to civil society stakeholders working hard to keep a distracted world’s attention on climate change and human rights. And, of course, we listened to our public- and private-sector partners, and our customers, as we all worked together to navigate an unprecedented global challenge and be ready for the recovery to come.

As I write this, the world remains in the depths of a very real crisis. EDC has helped thousands of Canadian companies of all sizes and in all sectors, and for as long as this crisis continues, we will remain proudly committed to that mission. We also remain committed to our values and mandate – helping Canadian companies go, grow and succeed internationally while promoting trade and investment that are ethical, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.  

Of course, as challenging as these times are, there is also hope. In Canada and around the world, the first vaccines are being delivered. And there are thousands of companies across the country that are readying themselves for that time after the pandemic, the day when life and business return to the new normal.   

EDC will continue doing everything it can to help Canadian companies be ready for that day. 

 

Mairead Lavery
President and CEO