Statement from Carl Burlock, EDC’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Business Officer

On November 20, 2019, I welcomed the opportunity to meet a representative of Movimiento Ríos Vivos, Ms. Isabel Zuleta. Rios Vivos is a coalition of 15 Colombian organizations representing women, young people, artisanal miners, fishermen, farmers, cooks, housewives, merchants who are affected by the Hidroituango project. In addition to Ms. Zuleta, we were joined by representatives of Above Ground, Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). 

My colleagues and I listened attentively to Ms. Zuleta as she explained some of the complexities of the environment in the communities she represents, as well as her concerns about the Hidroituango project which is currently underway in Colombia.  

In 2016, EDC provided a CAD$466 million loan to Empresas Pulblicas de Medellin (EPM), a portion of which was directed by the company to its Hidroituango dam project.  Tragically, in May of 2018, a tunnel dug to shunt water around the dam during construction burst open and sent a wave downstream that forced 25,000 people to flee to higher ground. Subsequent to this, EDC engaged with EPM to learn about what happened and request details on the actions taken by the company to manage and remediate the impacts on the environment and the people.  

This example demonstrates the important work human rights defenders and community activists undertake. EDC greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear the perspectives from organizations like Ms. Zuleta’s and recognize that this type of dialogue is an important part of continuing to inform, evolve and improve our sustainable and responsible business practices and policies.  Their perspectives help to deepen our understanding of the markets where Canadian companies do business.

Experiences like this have helped inform the evolution of EDC’s approach to human rights issues. This past spring, we became Canada’s first commercial banking institution to release a dedicated human rights policy aligned to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). The policy recognizes EDC’s responsibility to respect internationally-recognized human rights. Further, it articulates EDC’s commitment to use any available leverage to influence our customers actions to prevent and mitigate their human rights impacts through our business relationships.

These steps, alongside continued conversations like the one we had with Ms. Zuleta, will help us do better, which is important for EDC and for the companies we work with. It helps to provide clarity to our customers and partners around the world on where we stand as we work to help Canadian companies do business in many challenging markets.

We welcome ongoing constructive dialogue with our stakeholders, customers and partners – it is imperative to the kind of organization EDC wants to be today and going forward. And we’re still learning. As articulated in our Human Rights Policy Implementation Plan, improving our understanding of how we can best exercise our leverage when adverse circumstances occur is something we plan to further develop in the coming year, in consultation with our stakeholders.

Carl Burlock is EDC’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Business Officer. He is responsible for the day-to-day business operations and execution of EDC’s business strategy. He also has direct oversight for the company’s corporate social responsibility and enterprise risk management.    

About EDC

Export Development Canada (EDC) is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian businesses make an impact at home and abroad. EDC has the financial products and knowledge Canadian companies need to confidently enter new markets, reduce financial risk and grow their business as they go from local to global. Together, EDC and Canadian companies are building a more prosperous, stronger and sustainable economy for all Canadians.

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