As an exporter, the quality of your relationships with your suppliers, employees, partners and customers is an essential component of your success. Effective communication and responsiveness are key to building and maintaining these relationships, along with providing quality products at the right price and supporting your customers with outstanding service.

As global business culture evolves, however, there are other important factors that decision-makers consider when choosing who will supply their products and services. Increasingly, customers and prospects care about your commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). They want you to clearly articulate what your company stands for and they expect you to back it up by taking responsibility for the impact your actions have on the environment, your employees, stakeholders and the communities in which you operate.

If you’re just beginning to consider how corporate social responsibility fits into your business, or are actively formulating your CSR policy, here are some initiatives that will enhance your existing relationships and help you build new ones. 

Reduce your environmental footprint

As the destructive effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, many Canadian exporters are taking decisive steps to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment. The specific actions you take will depend on the nature of your business, but there are some small changes you can make now that will make a big difference and demonstrate your environmental stewardship to your customers and prospects.

  1. Switching to a green energy solution to power your operations is a great first step for reducing your company’s CO2 footprint. By purchasing electricity and natural gas from a provider, like Bullfrog Power, for example, you ensure that the energy you put on the grid is from clean, renewable sources, like wind, water and sun. 
  2. Air travel is another area where exporters have an opportunity to demonstrate their environmental leadership. When you market and sell your products and services abroad, frequent air travel is a fact of life, and that means increased carbon emissions. Fortunately, many major airlines now make it possible to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the emissions created by your business flights. Air Canada, for example, provides an online calculator that makes it simple to determine your total emissions for a given flight, and then gives you a list of offset products you can purchase to fund investment in carbon reduction products. Purchasing carbon offsets sets a great example for other businesses and serves as a strong marketing tool. When you visit clients or attend a trade show, you can highlight the fact that your travel was carbon neutral. 

Focus on your human resources

Corporate social responsibility also means acting in the best interests of your employees, customers, and the people living in the communities where your products are sold. How you treat your employees is vitally important when building relationships with customers and prospects. Do they work in a healthy and safe environment? Are they paid a minimum living wage that allows them to cover the actual costs of living in their community? Do you provide a generous benefits package that helps them pay for rising health care costs? 

But it’s not just your employees that your customers care about. They also expect your suppliers to adopt ethical human resource practices. For example, if workers in a supplier’s factory abroad are producing components for your products, are their rights being respected? Are they paid fairly and their working conditions safe? 

Adopt fair trade practices

Another important aspect of CSR involves the way you treat your suppliers. For example, if you purchase agricultural products such as coffee beans from local producers abroad, it’s essential to pay them fairly. Known as fair trade, these practices ensure that producers receive a fair price for their products. Over time, this has a positive impact on their economic well-being and living conditions.

Actions speak volumes

When you implement these and other CSR practices in your export business, you’re making it clear to your customers and prospects that you’re committed to conducting your business to the highest ethical standards. While some of these actions may end up costing more in the short term, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests companies with strong CSR policies are more successful, with reduced employee turnover, higher productivity and increased profits.

To learn more about corporate social responsibility and business ethics, see our Business Integrity page.