March 11, 2021 – New research suggests that corporate Canada is slow to recognize the value of tracking and reporting on Indigenous relations and reconciliation.
The report, Business and Reconciliation: An Update Exploring the Performance of Public Companies in Canada, reviewed company disclosures using a broad set of indicators to measure progress in advancing reconciliation since the release of a benchmark report in 2017.
Research on a sample of 78 companies found a 26 percent increase in the number of companies stating that they prioritize employment of Indigenous people, up from 13 percent in 2016. In addition, there was a 28 percent increase in companies that reference Indigenous heritage or identity in board of director diversity policies, and a 22 percent increase in senior management policies.
“These explicit references to Indigenous representation in corporate leadership are significant, and we are pleased to see disclosure practices generally trending in the right direction,” said Katherine Wheatley, Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative Program Manager and lead author of the report.
“However, regular and standardized reporting on company performance is still regrettably far from commonplace,” Wheatley added.
The research suggests that companies are more inclined to provide qualitative, piecemeal information on their reconciliation efforts rather than year-over-year quantitative reporting, which would improve their transparency and accountability to investors and other stakeholders.
“Where we want to see greater transparency from companies is in areas like Indigenous contracting and procurement,” said Mark Sevestre, Senior Advisor and Founding Member of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association. “Efforts to increase business relationships with Indigenous-owned companies are critical to growing the Indigenous economy and expanding economic opportunities in our communities, yet our report finds that only 12 percent of companies are currently disclosing that information.”
The report analyzed disclosures from companies across eight sector indices: finance, healthcare, consumer discretionary, consumer staples, energy, materials, renewable energy and clean technology, and telecommunications, and found marked differences in disclosure practices between sectors.
In the materials sector, significant progress has been made in a number of indicators: 43 percent of sampled companies have begun referring to Indigenous heritage and identity in board policies, compared to none in 2016; 25 percent provide quantitative data on the employment of Indigenous people, up from five percent in 2016; and over a quarter of companies have reported partnering with Indigenous recruitment agencies for hiring, compared with 10 percent in 2016.
In the financial sector, on the other hand, there is considerable space for improving reconciliation-related disclosures, with no more than three of the 13 sampled institutions reporting on any single indicator.
This report is informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action 92 directed at corporate Canada, which provides a framework for reconciliation centered on applying the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to corporate policy and operations.
Read the full report here.
About the Reconciliation and Responsible Investment Initiative (RRII)
RRII is a partnership between the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA) and the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE). RRII envisions a financial system that empowers Indigenous perspectives, recognizes the role of community values in investment decision making, and contributes to protecting Indigenous rights and title.
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