Taking sustainability to the next level
Arlene Strom, vice president, sustainability & communications, discusses the path forward.
Suncor's sustainability journey began two decades ago, shortly after we became a widely held public company. Understanding the need to respond to stakeholders' expectations about our economic, social and environmental performance, we began to measure success according to a 'triple bottom line' that took account of all three factors when it comes to resource development.
Guided by our triple bottom line, Suncor strived to be an industry leader on the sustainability front. We made early and proactive moves on climate change and renewable energy, invested in new technologies, embraced the need for strong stakeholder engagement and community investment, and challenged ourselves to achieve beyond-compliance environmental performance goals.
While we take pride in past accomplishments, our focus remains firmly on the road ahead. We recognize our actions and performance are key concerns for our stakeholders and that meeting their expectations is how we earn and retain our social licence to operate and grow. We also know we can — and we must — do better in every aspect of our sustainability performance.
I believe the best way to raise the bar on performance is to further embed the sustainability mindset across our business.
What do I mean by that?
It's about creating a workplace culture where sustainability is built into all of Suncor's planning tools and decision-making processes, including our Operational Excellence Management System (OEMS). So when business decisions are made, they must take into account environmental and social considerations as well as economic ones.
This, in turn, will drive direct sustainability benefits for the company and our stakeholders alike — minimizing our impact on the environment, creating shared value for the communities where we operate and making our operations more reliable and cost effective.
We are beginning to implement this strategy on several fronts. One example is the decision to embed a respected expert from our sustainability team directly in the business. Stephen Kaufman, formerly Suncor's director of climate change and management solutions, is now the general manager of sustainable development within Oil Sands & In Situ. In this way, Stephen's extensive experience on the climate change file is being channelled to the part of our business where greenhouse gas emission management is most critical.
Another example is the work our Supply Chain Management team is undertaking to identify and connect with suppliers who share Suncor's sustainability values.
A company like Suncor has tremendous buying power, and our purchasing decisions can help influence the behaviour of others. So we are actively looking for opportunities to partner with like-minded companies to minimize our collective environmental footprint, maximize the social benefits generated by our businesses and reduce costs.
We are also looking at ways to more fully engage all of our employees in Suncor's sustainability journey. This can be as simple as encouraging individuals to turn off their computers or lights at the end of the day or to get more involved in their communities. But at a deeper level, it's about building sustainability concepts into employee orientation and leadership development programs and making sure this approach is also reflected in our goal-setting processes — at the corporate, team and individual level.
For example, we have already begun discussions toward developing a set of post-2015 performance goals for Suncor. This time, our focus will be on creating sustainability goals that encompass both environmental and social challenges. Work to identify, define and test new goals will continue throughout 2013 and 2014.
Taking sustainability to the next level is also about solutions-driven collaboration — with industry peers, governments, non-government organizations, communities and other stakeholders. Together, we need to look at the cumulative impacts of how we produce and use energy and try to find common ground in shaping a more sustainable energy future.
At Suncor, we are involved in collaborations on everything from new technologies to regional water management solutions, to Aboriginal economic development. We are also increasingly active in sponsoring and participating in public dialogues on shared energy challenges. As we strive to embed a sustainability mindset across our own business, we will continue to look for new ways to constructively connect with the larger society.
I'm excited about the path forward and the opportunity all of us at Suncor have to make a positive difference. But I'm also keenly aware we don't have all the answers and that we must respect diverse opinions and perspectives.
While we won't always agree, I believe our differences can be overcome. In the most fundamental way, we are on this sustainability journey together. Let's keep our eye on the road and reach our destination safely and responsibly.