Just recently (May 27 and 28), I had the great pleasure of sitting down with a group of national business and industry associations for one of my most important meetings of the year—our annual Industry Stakeholder Panel.

Add to that our special guests, the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion—the Honourable Mary Ng, and Canada’s Chief Trade Commissioner, Ailish Campbell, and you can imagine that we had a really great conversation. Everyone around the table shared a true passion for Canadian trade and investment.

EDC has been holding stakeholder panels for 14 years, but this was my inaugural event as President and CEO, so I asked that participants focus on two key topics for the day—trade diversification, and corporate sustainability and responsibility (CSR).

The first, trade diversification, reflects the federal government’s priority to grow Canadian trade. It’s also, of course, been a longstanding objective of our own.

The second topic, sustainable and responsible business, is equally important. As I reminded the panel in my opening remarks: “CSR is not a nice-to-have for EDC. Nor is it something that happens alongside of our business. It is our business.”

On both of these topics, our stakeholders provided tremendous insight into what was top-of-mind for their associations, what they are doing to promote trade diversification, address corporate sustainability and responsibility, and, of course, they had lots to say about how EDC can help their membership.

Here is just a snapshot of what was shared around the table:

  • There is a strong desire for a better flow of information between EDC, the government and the associations’ membership. In spite of gatherings like this one, there’s not enough dialogue. We can do better—and we will.  
  • Industry associations know about EDC’s tremendous ground-level support, but not enough Canadian companies do. They want to help their member companies understand the role of EDC (and the Trade Commissioners and all other government programs and services available to Canadian exporters).
  • There was great advice about making CSR more real by using everyday language to make it more meaningful for businesses. A fabulous idea.  
  • Industry stakeholders are looking for more help in the realm of digital technology and in particular, how can we improve Canadian skills and adapt to new technologies to ensure that companies find more innovative ways to grow.
  • Finally, there was a lot of talk about “bragging and branding.” There’s a real desire for us to be bolder in foreign markets. Our stakeholders want EDC and the Government of Canada to provide more support in promoting what Canadian companies (big and small) have to offer abroad. I promise you, I heard this one loud and clear.

As you can see, there’s no shortage of ideas and great thinking among EDC’s incredible business and industry stakeholders.

Now it’s our turn. We’ll be taking this dialogue to the next level, not just continuing the conversation (as important as that is) but moving on these ideas. Stronger, clearer messaging on CSR? We can do that. More thinking on digital technology? Of course. Raising awareness of EDC among Canadian companies? You bet!

Waving the Canadian flag more than ever around the world? Just watch us!

I’ve only been on the job four months, but I can tell you that I am only getting more excited about how EDC can be a real force, delivering for our industry stakeholders, of course, but mostly for the thousands of Canadian companies we can help to go, grow and succeed internationally.

When I took on my role, I committed to champion Canadian exporters—big and small—and raise our collective visibility. These conversations highlight how important that is. Let’s get started!