It strikes some observers as curious that a company like Suncor would seek out relationships with groups and individuals who are openly critical of many aspects of the oil sands industry. But the fact is that environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), like the companies they monitor, are not all the same.
As well, ENGOs are often involved in a variety of activities on a wide range of issues. On some of those activities and issues, we may have profound disagreements. But on others, we may find common ground and mutual benefit in working together.
ENGOs have the potential to influence investors, regulators, governments and other stakeholders through research, presentations and direct appeals to the general public. The reports and positions taken by ENGOs often receive extensive media coverage. Suncor works hard to understand and benefit from their research and viewpoints.
Many ENGOs employ knowledgeable and credible individuals with an expertise in particular areas of environmental science and policy. There are times when it makes sense for a company like Suncor to draw on their expertise and associated networks. We have demonstrated the benefits of this on several occasions.
As a starting principle, Suncor seeks to engage with ENGOs in an atmosphere of mutual respect. But this does not mean either side is co-opted by the other. With the exception of specific initiatives on which we have agreed to cooperate, our ENGO partners are free to publicly criticize our company or industry as they see fit. Suncor, in turn, is free to counter statements and research by ENGO partners if we know it to be contrary to established facts. Simply put, both sides can agree to disagree, while continuing to work together for the greater good.
Suncor has entered into several successful partnerships with ENGOs in recent years. Those organizations include:
The Pembina Institute is an Alberta-based ENGO dedicated to seeking sustainable energy solutions through innovation, research, education, consulting and advocacy. Pembina has worked with Suncor on a number of initiatives including carbon capture and storage, life cycle value assessments for Suncor's renewable energy sector and consulted on the issue of low carbon fuel standards. Pembina also runs “Sustainability 101” courses to help give Suncor employees a better grounding in sustainable development principles and practices.
The Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) delivers a wide range of projects, programs and services aimed at protecting Alberta's wildlife, fish and habitat. In 2005, the Suncor Energy Foundation entered into a unique partnership with the ACA to conserve habitat in the boreal region of northern Alberta. The initiative is designed to find sustainable ways to offset the land disturbed by Suncor's operations. Under the agreement, which was extended in 2008 for a further three years, some of the conserved land will be transferred to the Alberta park system.
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is a national, private, non-profit organization committed to wetland conservation. In 2008, the Suncor Energy Foundation invested in a five-year partnership to protect and maintain wetland and watershed health in the Western Canadian boreal forest. The work includes gathering and sharing examples of best practices in the oil and gas industry, coordinating research and raising public awareness. Suncor and DUC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2008 that set out terms of reference in connection with an ongoing working relationship between the two organizations. The objectives in developing an ongoing working relationship are as follows:
- for Suncor to develop strategies and undertake actions to further its development as a sustainable energy enterprise and to continuously improve its environmental performance and conservation and development of wetlands.
- for DUC to influence and assist progressive energy companies to continuously improve their environmental performance, reduce their impacts on watershed health and wetland protection; and to contribute towards the development of environmentally sustainable and economically sound energy services and energy supply systems.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is an American non-profit organization that evaluates environmental problems and works to create innovative, equitable and cost-effective solutions. Suncor partnered with the EDF to draw up model principles for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. These principles helped inform a climate change action plan being developed by the State of Colorado.