Benefits Agreements

Canadian women-owned businesses comprise less than 5% of all domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments

With the large number of mega projects underway and many more on the horizon in Newfoundland and Labrador, you may have heard the terms gender equity, diversity, or benefits plan. Have you ever wondered what they are and what they mean for women business owners in this province? Here’s your answer.

Historically, women have been underrepresented in both employment and supply chain opportunities in resource development. Women are an integral part of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador and should not be shut out of the opportunities that natural resource projects bring, such as high paying positions and lucrative procurement opportunities.

How does this happen? The provincial government negotiates benefits agreements with all large-scale development projects including the development of gender equity and diversity plans. These plans require project operators to make commitments and set goals and targets for employment of women and other underrepresented groups. Starting with Hebron and subsequent projects, project operators are also required to have business access strategies to increase the number of diverse suppliers in their supply chain.

All offshore oil and gas projects are governed by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), and are subject to the Atlantic Accord and Atlantic Accord Implementation Acts. A benefits plan must be submitted by the project proponent which describes their plan for providing manufacturers, consultants, contractors, and service companies in the province and other parts of Canada with a full and fair opportunity to participate on a competitive basis in the supply of goods and services. First consideration must be given to goods and services from within the province, but they must still be competitive on price, quality and delivery.

WhiteRoseFPSO

White Rose (Photo Courtesy of Suncor Energy)

Any project other than offshore oil and gas that could have a significant effect on the natural, social or economic environment has a different regulatory process. These projects must go through the provincial government’s Environmental Assessment (EA) process. Within this process, the government can require conditions on which they will release the project from the EA process. The development of a gender business access strategy may be one of those requirements.

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Bull Arm Site (Photo Courtesy of Hebron Project)

It is important to note that many projects must undergo an EA such as ATV trails, gravel quarries, and cabin developments. Not all of these are required to have a benefits plan or a gender equity and diversity plan. However, all projects required to undergo an EA must be registered on the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation website (www.env.gov.nl.ca/env) and this registration must include a description of the project. This site is a great source of information for women business owners as it describes what the upcoming projects will be. The site also lists when projects are released from the EA and if there are any conditions attached.

Operators required to have a business access strategy must work towards increasing the number of women owned businesses in their supply chain. They may be required to set targets, or have supplier development activities to help increase initiatives that support women owned businesses. They are not required to award contracts to companies that do not provide fair market value, good quality, and the ability to deliver on time.

As a woman business owner, your business is subject to the same requirements as all other bidders. Mega projects usually operate on tight time lines and lowest cost. You will have to be competitive to win the business, and have the ability to supply on time and on budget. The door is opened for you; now here is what you can do to make it work for your business.

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