Exploring ethics and sustainability at third annual Roundtable on Responsible Business and Law

Exploring Ethics

Attending the third annual Roundtable on Responsible Business and the Law were (left to right) business leaders Dara Edmonds, Isobel O'Connell and law professor and panelist Sara Ghebremusse

Posted 2019-07-30

On July 23, the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the UBC Sauder School of Business hosted its third annual Academic-Practitioner Roundtable on Responsible Business and the Law, and UBC Sauder MBA graduate and Mexico City based - lawyer Patricio Cumming was featured on the panel.

Cumming is currently working as a senior associate at the Mexican law firm Gonzalez Calvillo where sustainability is being placed at the centre of the firm’s practice.

Patricio Cumming

Cumming's presentation focused on the opportunities for Canadian companies in Mexico, especially those in the mining, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors. Canadian companies have invested heavily in Mexico and these industries have great potential for achieving economic development while placing sustainability at the core of operations. According to Cumming, the political landscape in Mexico is changing significantly and the new government is placing a greater emphasis on sustainable business practices. With many Canadian mining and oil and gas companies present in Mexico, there is a strong opportunity for both countries to collaborate on best practices.

“In the past, the Mexican government had not entirely clarified the application of ILO Convention No 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in the context of resource exploration and extraction however, there is increased focus on this issue by the new Mexican administration. New protocols are being put in place to ensure the mining industry engages in good faith consultations with communities. Canada’s influence is huge in this space and Canadian organizations are influencing the manner in which Mexican policy makers are approaching these issues,” says Cumming.

The Mexican government is drafting new guidelines to ensure projects effectively assess community impacts, consult with Indigenous groups and follow more stringent environmental rules, human rights, and safe labour standards. Cumming says he  is uniquely situated to play a role in Mexico’s changing legal and business landscape. “I’m lucky to have lived in Vancouver and studied at UBC Sauder where I gained insight on Canadian values and business standards. I’m fortunate to be in a position to use my knowledge and broad perspective to facilitate these changes in Mexico. Canada and Mexico share a significant trading and investing partnership and the time is now to push sustainability to the top of the agenda.”

In addition to Cumming's presentation, academics and legal practitioners from various disciplines participated in the thought-provoking roundtable discussion. Other topics included trans-national corporate accountability in mining, understanding Indigenous rights and crown duty within pipeline development and citizen participation and deliberation in environmental decision making.

resp biz and law students

Fourth year UBC Sauder BCOM undergraduate student Audrey Popa said the panel event was highly informative. “Although I don't have plans to pursue a law career, I see that the business and regulatory sectors are intrinsically linked. I appreciated the insights I gleaned from this event and it reinforced my belief that my passion for social impact does not have to be separate from my desire to succeed in business."

“Each year, the roundtable has been a fantastic opportunity to bring together faculty, staff and students from UBC Sauder, and UBC more broadly, as well as members of Vancouver’s business and legal community” said Christie Stephenson, Executive Director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics.

The roundtable was moderated by Lynne Charbonneau, who serves on the Futures Task Force of the Law Society of British Columbia and the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the Centre for Business Law at the Allard School of Law. The roundtable was co-hosted by the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at UBC Sauder and the Centre for Business Law at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC.