In my first full year as Chair of Export Development Canada’s Board of Directors, I saw the corporation’s mandate—to grow and develop Canada’s export trade—come alive in so many ways. I also came to understand more deeply the pivotal role that EDC plays in the Canadian economy.

Against the challenging and tumultuous backdrop of 2018, with its trade wars between economic giants, emerging protectionism and the renegotiation of NAFTA, EDC stepped up time and again for Canadian companies. A number of EDC’s higher profile interventions have been part of larger, coordinated efforts in collaboration with the Government of Canada and other trade partners.

The most recent example was in late December. As part of a national response to the struggles of Alberta’s oil and gas sector, EDC contributed an additional $1 billion in financial capacity for affected companies. Earlier in the year, EDC also stepped up for companies hit by U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, making $900 million available as part of a broader package of government support. In both instances, EDC’s contributions were made alongside other partners in the Canadian trade ecosystem—agencies like Global Affairs Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). In this way, EDC demonstrated not only its responsiveness to the needs of Canadian companies, but also its agility and flexibility in working with trade partners as a stabilizing force within the Canadian economy.

While EDC’s value may be most obvious in times of difficulty, the role it plays in furthering Canada’s trade agenda is much broader than that. In 2018, EDC was once again the biggest financial supporter of Canada’s clean technology (cleantech) sector, providing $2.1 billion in support to the companies that are innovating for a more sustainable future. Recognizing how underrepresented women are in trade, EDC created a new position within the organization dedicated to finding new and creative ways to address this issue. It created a $250-million financing envelope, announced as part of Budget 2018, for women-owned/led businesses that export or have plans to export. EDC also partnered with a number of like-minded organizations, like the Trade Commissioner Service’s Business Women in International Trade program and the Organization of Women in International Trade, to help equip more women with the tools and knowledge needed to succeed internationally.

And we must not overlook the fact that,

Over the last year, EDC has accumulated its largest ever customer count, the vast majority of which were small and micro-sized enterprises that are so important to the engine of Canadian economic growth.

While EDC was busy helping more businesses in 2018 than it ever has in its 75-year history, the organization also took the time to step back and assess how it does business, specifically with regard to environmental and social issues. 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) figured prominently in EDC’s 2018 story, so it is fitting that it has a place of prominence in this report—EDC’s first-ever integrated annual report. Adopting this new reporting style is more than symbolic. It is a recognition that CSR results are not separate from financial results, but rather intricately tied to them. Where once CSR might have been considered a nice-to-have, unrelated to the bottom line, today it is a corporate imperative that helps drive and sustain our business results.

In 2018, EDC continued to evolve its CSR practices. Central to this evolution was a public review of its Environmental and Social Risk Management policies. The feedback received through the review will inform EDC’s future policies. EDC also became the first export credit agency in the world to announce its support for the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). You will find EDC’s first TCFD disclosure within the pages of this report.

EDC’s guiding legislation, the Export Development Act, also came under review in 2018. This legislative review occurs every 10 years and is initiated by the Government of Canada. It provides the Government with an opportunity to hear from EDC’s stakeholders and customers, to assess how EDC has evolved over the last 10 years, and to consider how it should evolve over the next 10 years. The timing for this review couldn’t have been better. Trade is undergoing such rapid, fundamental change, and this examination will serve Canada well by ensuring it has a resilient, adaptable EDC over the next 10 years that is well positioned to leverage its mandate and maximize the international success of Canadian companies.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity in this message to applaud the work that EDC did in 2018 to launch its wholly owned subsidiary, FinDev Canada—Canada’s first Development Finance Institution to provide financing solutions to entrepreneurs in developing countries. This required a considerable amount of work and coordination on the part of EDC. FinDev Canada’s early success is a testament to this tremendous effort.

Similarly, I cannot overlook—or overstate—the impact of EDC’s Board of Directors. I am fortunate to be working with such a fine group of Directors who believe so passionately in EDC’s mandate and in maximizing its impact for Canadian businesses. This year, we welcomed the ideas and enthusiasm of six new Directors: Pierre Boivin, Karna Gupta, Andrea Stairs Krishnappa, Karen MacWilliam, Pierre Matuszewski and Kari Yuers. Each has already delivered impressive value.

I would also like to thank our outgoing members for all their hard work and dedication over the years: Jacques Boivin, Jeff Burghardt, Herbert M. Clarke, Vikram Khurana, Jason Stefanson and Jeffrey Steiner.

Among those outgoing Board members is EDC’s President and CEO, Benoit Daignault, whose tenure ended in February of 2019. Benoit served five transformative years as EDC’s President and CEO. His vision for and influence on this organization will be felt for years to come. Thank you, Benoit, for everything you have done for EDC and for Canadian exporters.

Benoit would be the first to deflect this credit, assigning it instead to EDC’s employees. In that spirit, I would like to take this opportunity to do just that – to thank them for their hard work and dedication. Exporters were faced with considerable challenges in 2018, and EDC responded in kind.

The years ahead will, no doubt, produce many more new and unforeseeable challenges. But after what I have learned this year about this organization and the people who work here, I can say with more certainty than ever that those challenges can be overcome.

The Canadian companies that I have met are industrious, tenacious and creative. The EDC that I know is the perfect partner to help those companies build the future they deserve.