Export Development Canada – 2019 SDG Leadership Awards

Export Development Canada

Website: www.edc.ca

Industry: Finance

Primary SDG Focus

Secondary SDG Focus

Please summarize your company’s SDG focus, how was that SDG was implemented and how you achieved and measured the impact.

Export Development Canada (EDC) is a for-profit Crown corporation that helps Canadian companies expand their businesses internationally. CARE Canada is a not-for-profit that fights global poverty. For 10 years, our organizations have partnered to generate economic opportunities around the world, contributing to programs supporting financial inclusion, small business development and women’s economic empowerment. EDC employees take on four-month assignments around the world, leveraging their business skills and expertise to strengthen CARE’s capacity as a leading humanitarian organization. In exchange, our employees return with new skills, fresh perspectives, a deeper understanding of cultures in developing countries and an expanded notion of what community means. EDC is proud to contribute to CARE’s important mission, in a way that also supports our mandate to leave a very Canadian – and responsible – footprint around the world.

EDC’s partnership with CARE Canada – Beyond Exports – has two components: an advisor secondment program and an enterprise development grant that provides funding for economic development opportunities. The partnership is an example of the positive impact that can be achieved when government and civil society work together to advance the global agenda. By mobilizing our resources, EDC has been able to contribute to CARE’s important mission to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice.

How was the SDG implemented?

We first entered into partnership in 2009 with the mutual understanding of the potential of trade, entrepreneurship and business to reduce poverty. While this was in advance of the SDGs, our partnership has evolved over the years, achieving many of the desired goals of SDG 17.

How did we achieve and measure the impact?

Today, we are proud to note that our partnership has contributed to reaching more than 500,000 people in areas such as financial inclusion, microfinance, small enterprise development, and women’s economic empowerment. This was achieved through capacity building and financial program support, which was monitored and measured against key performance indicators.

How was your primary SDG focus identified and prioritized in the company’s value chain?

EDC has long been an advocate of community investment, providing employees with a variety of opportunities to give back to the communities where they live and work. Our partnership with CARE Canada began as a means to extend the notion of our community to include the countries where our customers do business. It was also a way to empower employees to use their knowledge and skills to make a difference in the international community.

As a financial institution that supports Canadian exporters, it was important for us to leverage our business expertise to help address some of the most pressing global issues. We chose to partner with a leading humanitarian organization like CARE to develop a program focused on financial inclusion, women’s economic empowerment and support for small and medium-sized enterprises. While our two organizations have different mandates, we leveraged each others’ strengths to educate EDC employees and empower communities around the world.

Today, although the partnership is not core to EDC’s business, it has become a differentiator and a source of pride for our employees.

How was your primary SDG integrated and anchored throughout your business?

For EDC, business isn’t just about the numbers; it is about doing the right things for the right reasons. Our commitment to corporate sustainability and responsibility is focused on ensuring our operations protect the environment and people, conducting our business with the highest level of integrity, building a supportive and inclusive workplace, and contributing to the communities where we live and work. Our entire organization is focused on these four priority areas with clear measures to track our progress.

The partnership between EDC and CARE falls under the Community Investment priority area of our CSR strategy. Since its inception, it has become an integral part of EDC’s employee value proposition. Its popularity and success can be attributed to the fact that the partnership is championed by EDC’s Executive Team, it is supported by leadership and driven by employees who step up every year to give their time, skills and experience in support of CARE’s mandate as a humanitarian organization.

Did you employ any innovative approaches in your efforts to implement the goal?


The truly unique and innovative aspect of our partnership with CARE is the employee secondment program. EDC employees take on four-month assignments around the world, leveraging their business skills and expertise to strengthen CARE’s capacity as a leading humanitarian organization.

To date, 38 EDC advisors have taken on assignments in nine countries around the world, supporting projects and program development, providing strategic and operational advice, and conducting skills-sharing activities and capacity building to further strengthen the mission of CARE around the world. Types of placements have focused on:

  • Marketing and Communications
  • Private Sector Engagement
  • Small Enterprise and Business Development
  • Management, Systems and Strategy Development
  • Support Services (HR, Finance, Knowledge Management)
  • Microfinance, Value Chain and Climate Change

Sending EDC’s top talent for up to four months gives employees the ability to gain new perspectives and to leverage their experience to make a difference in the countries where EDC and its customers do business. The work of the employees, alongside their focus on capacity building and skills transferring, allows these short-term placements to have sustainable results with the projects and partners that CARE works with around the world.

Were any partnerships leveraged or created?

A critical part of the Beyond Exports partnership between EDC and CARE Canada is the Enterprise Development Grant, which has allowed CARE to better engage with private sector actors and government to multiply impact in the NGO sector. The Devonshire Initiative (DI) is one such example. Thanks to the investment, CARE has been able to deepen its engagement with the DI, a forum between Canadian mining companies and international NGOs, where a collaborative, solutions-based environment has been created to build the frameworks and tools needed to assist mining companies to work more inclusively in the communities they operate in. The forum has been successful since its inception and now includes non-mining and non-NGO partners like EDC, with other actors such as the Government of Canada attending, all of who see the value of this collaborative space between private, civil society and public sectors being created.

“Partnership is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We cannot end poverty alone. It’s vital we – governments, NGOs, businesses – come together if we want to make a real difference. For more than a decade, CARE Canada’s Beyond Exports partnership with EDC has been a strong example of how we can harness skills and knowledge to expand our global impact. EDC advisors have provided CARE with a unique external perspective, while CARE has been able to demonstrate the importance of gender equality as a vital link to help communities thrive. Inevitably, this mutually beneficial relationship will enhance our shared ability to respond to the global challenges we face.” – Gillian Barth, President and CEO, CARE Canada

What communications strategy did you employ to share the initiative with your stakeholders?

EDC’s primary stakeholders in this partnership are employees. We leverage the experiences of advisors who have participated in the Beyond Exports program to communicate the value and impact of this partnership internally and externally. We do this through intranet articles, blogs, videos and presentations to ensure we engage our employees to contribute to CARE’s mission to alleviate poverty and achieve social justice.

One example is a video that was created to promote the partnership: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oqLYLALk-k

Externally, both EDC and CARE continuously look for opportunities to promote the partnership as an example of a meaningful and effective collaboration between government and civil society. This year, following the renewal of our partnership for another five years, we will be actively promoting our work and impact through various forums and events.

How were KPIs and the levels of success outlined and defined?

EDC and CARE define KPIs together, recognizing our different perspectives. For example, for EDC it is important that our employees gain new skills, fresh perspectives, a deeper understanding of cultures in developing countries and an expanded notion of what community means. For CARE, it is important to use the funds and expertise to support programs, engage in new business development and to further develop cross-sector partnerships.

Some examples of KPIs include:

  • Enhanced economic opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises, particularly those that are operated by, or that are improving the lives of women and girls.
  • CARE’s country offices, regional units, and headquarters have increased skills and capacity.
  • New programs and business models created that integrate gender and social inclusion considerations.
  • Cross-sector partnerships, networks and alliances that support micro, small and medium enterprises working in women’s empowerment.
  • EDC advisors gaining cross-cultural personal and professional skills during their secondment to CARE.

How were reporting and monitoring conceptualized and undertaken?

EDC and CARE monitor the direct and indirect impact of our partnership through an evaluation framework that measures outcome and output indicators with the support of a knowledge management team.

Additionally, for the employee secondment program, final evaluations and debriefs are conducted annually to measure the impact of the advisors’ work contribution and experience over the four-month secondment period.

Regular planning sessions and partnership progress reports are also part of the reporting and monitoring undertaken as part of this partnership. These include a narrative and financial report that provides details on the employee secondment program, associated costs and measurable and estimated impact.


What were some key lessons learned?


The success of the EDC – CARE partnership is due to the continuous improvement mindset adopted by the relationship managers, who work together to implement lessons learned from prior years. This has ensured that both the advisor secondment program and the enterprise development grant are used strategically to reach broader goals and to maximize impact.

While the program has not experienced any major setbacks, there have been key lessons learned over the years. For instance, we have worked to improve the program to ensure employees are given assignments that challenge them to develop their skillsets, or themselves, in different ways. Given that the four-month secondment period is relatively short, we have devoted more resources to pre-departure training and preparation to ensure that advisors are well prepared to make the most of their time in their support for CARE.

With the enterprise development grant, CARE has learned how to leverage small investments to reach broader goals and has realized that there is a need to design a stronger monitoring and evaluation framework and knowledge management function to highlight all the areas of impact. Over the years, both organizations have realized the potential of this partnership to affect change and are continuing to leverage the relationship to open doors to new opportunities.

What were the key impacts and results?

While the CARE and EDC partnership was formed 10 years ago, and well in advance of the SDGs, the partnership between CARE as a civil society actor and the quasi public/private sector role that EDC plays, combined with CARE’s presence in the Global South, has resulted in this partnership achieving many of the desired goals of SDG 17. The EDC advisors have transferred skills and built the capacity of CARE and its partners in multiple thematic areas, bridging the gap between North and South, and in some assignments, facilitating the information exchange from South to South partners. Many of the strategies, frameworks and policies developed, as well as the new business development opportunities supported, have allowed CARE to better engage with private sector actors and multiply impact in the NGO sector.

It is estimated that over the last 10 years the EDC-CARE partnership has contributed to reaching more than 500,000 people in the areas of financial inclusion, microfinance, small enterprise development and women’s economic empowerment.

To view our impact from an employee perspective, please watch this  video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oqLYLALk-k