Operating internationally - Suncor's 2013 Report on Sustainability
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Suncor's international operations include assets in:
While operating outside of Canada has solid business rationale, we need to give particular thought as to how we operate in other regions.
In particular, it is our work in Libya and Syria that has understandably raised questions from some stakeholders. Those questions typically include:
In 2011, political unrest in Libya created broad upheaval in the country. In February 2011, Suncor suspended its oil operations in Libya and evacuated all expatriate staff. Near year's end, the company began a gradual return following a change in the political regime and the lifting of international sanctions. In 2012, production was restarted, and work began to resume our drilling exploration program.
In December 2011, Suncor suspended its operations in Syria to comply with international sanctions announced that month. Operations there remain suspended.
How does Suncor deal with operating in politically volatile regions?
As a business, we put plans and processes in place to deal with a variety of potential events. Our planning is done by developing and nurturing relationships with industry, various governments and other stakeholders to help us understand and mitigate the risks associated with doing business in these countries.
We continually review and practice emergency plans, as well as constantly monitor security situations through interaction with various embassies and a network of security-oriented personnel.
In both Libya and Syria, we continue to monitor the situation closely. Our top priority is always to ensure the safety of our employees. We have been consistent in our position that we will not operate in any country unless we can do so safely, responsibly and in compliance with international law.
How do you handle human rights concerns?
Even before the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, Suncor had been developing a formalized Human Rights policy, which we adopted and began to implement in 2011. We also engaged Canadian Business for Social Responsibility in our analyses to further evaluate potential risk areas, and had begun work on a pilot project with the United Nations Global Compact.
This pilot is assisting us in implementing the Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas: A Resource for Companies and Investors (PDF, 48 pp., 1.2 MB). We continue to use the Global Compact project to help strengthen relevant company policies and management procedures, and to help us define where we need to improve in all the areas defined by the guidance.
Read more about Suncor’s commitment to respecting human rights
Download our Human Rights policy (PDF, 2 pp., 19 KB)
How do you go about community investment in these areas?
The United Nations Global Compact helped us better understand what stakeholder expectations are of an international company operating in these kinds of environments. We've reassessed our community investment and community development practices in these countries over the last couple of years.
Suncor's new community investment strategy is focused on helping communities near our operations grow, thrive and become sustainable. As an example, in Libya, we've focused on where we feel we can deliver the greatest impact, and that is in the area of education and training in the energy sector. We've partnered with the new Libyan government to enhance oil and gas training in Tripoli, and we are helping to design and build a brand new technical training institute in Benghazi. We have to continue to find effective ways to partner with the community in international areas where we have much smaller operations and, yet, where the sustainability challenges are sometimes much bigger.
What’s the rationale for operating in these potentially higher risk foreign operations?
Suncor's Libyan and Syrian assets came to Suncor as a result of the 2009 merger with Petro-Canada. In the case of Syria, Petro-Canada had been working on this opportunity since 2006 and, by the spring of 2010, just over $1 billion had been invested completing construction and commissioning of the Ebla gas plant. Between then and the suspension of operations in December 2011, Suncor made the relatively small investments required for safe, commonly accepted operational practices, which was an obligation of ours.
The purpose of our operation in Syria was to produce gas to supply about 10% of Syrian homes with electricity and, at the same time, recoup revenues to repay our shareholders the money they'd invested over the preceding three or four years. Our intent was to honour both our human rights and ethical guidelines as well as the obligations and agreements that had been signed long before the political unrest began. At the point it became impossible to do both, we suspended our operations. We continue to follow the events there with great concern.
In Libya, we abide by the exploration agreements signed with the country's leadership. Now that stability is returning to the area, we have been able to resume both our production and our exploration program.
Working for Suncor presents people there with the opportunity for good jobs and, hopefully, a better standard of living over time.
We constantly review and reassess on-the-ground conditions to ensure we can operate in a safe, responsible and principled manner.
Are your priorities in operating overseas the same as in Canada?
As with the rest of our operations, workplace safety, security and the environment are key priorities for us, and we strive to achieve the same standards wherever we operate. For safety, it’s paramount that we provide the appropriate supervision and training, and the right equipment to ensure acceptable safety standards are maintained.
Outside the workplace, expatriate safety is also considered. We ensure our people live in safe locations and in an environment of mutual support. In addition, we ensure they have minimal need to drive themselves as driving can represent a significant risk. Before expatriates assume a foreign posting, they also undergo a thorough medical examination and are given cultural briefings to better understand local customs and simple precautions they can take to protect themselves.
How do you ensure appropriate business conduct and handle issues such as foreign corruption?
Our position on bribery and corruption is clear. No employee, agent or contractor of ours should ever offer or accept a bribe or kickback. In addition to Suncor’s Business Code of Conduct, we’ve put training programs in place so all our employees understand the boundaries for ethical behaviour and the need to flag anything that looks like a grey area.
Does Suncor believe it’s possible to be a responsible energy developer and operate in higher risk areas?
There is undeniably more risk in some areas overseas than in Canada, Europe or the United States. But with the right efforts and due diligence, those risks can be manageable. For the foreseeable future, we will regularly review the risks of doing business in places like Syria and Libya. Our investors, employees and other stakeholders should expect nothing less.
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