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Community and stakeholder relations

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Major community opportunities and risks


  • By understanding stakeholder issues, Suncor can make better business decisions and mitigate risk. Identifying stakeholder concerns and responding appropriately helps to develop timely, cost-effective and mutually beneficial solutions. These constructive approaches help us to create stronger, safer and healthier communities for our employees, their families and local residents.
  • Community investments can assist in achieving business/stakeholder strategies (i.e., Aboriginal or local employment), supporting community development strategies, enhancing stakeholder relationships, supporting talent recruitment and retention, building employee engagement and culture and enhancing the company's reputation as a socially responsible corporation.


  • Lack of collaboration with stakeholders can lead to interruption of operations and delays to regulatory approvals due to stakeholder concerns.
  • Lack of proactive planning can create issues during crisis situations and impact proper notification, support and communications to stakeholders.
  • Lack of proactive stakeholder relations could result in the failure to identify risks and therefore create mitigation plans.
  • Communities that lack adequate infrastructure and social capacity can have direct impacts on operations costs — increased taxation, increased costs of recruitment and retention.


  • Suncor's stakeholder and Aboriginal relations policies and frameworks will continue to reflect our strong and ongoing commitment to collaboration, transparency and respect for all views. These policies recognize Suncor's responsibility to:
    • engage stakeholders in a timely and appropriate manner
    • report objectively on our activities
    • provide regular updates about our operations and expansion plans
  • Suncor's Aboriginal policy has been verbally translated into Cree and Dene on to ensure stakeholders have an understanding of the policy in their own language.
  • Suncor is also committed to contributing to the economic and social development of the communities in which we have a presence and to conducting our activities in those communities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
  • The Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) has been established as a registered Canadian charitable organization to manage contributions made to qualified donors in Canada.

Operational responsibility

  • The vice president sustainability & communications oversees both the stakeholder relations and community investment functions and reports to the executive vice president business services.
  • Each business unit has stakeholder relations staff that work directly with our local stakeholders while supporting the business. These stakeholder relations practitioners report to a function director who is responsible with a corporate team for developing stakeholder and Aboriginal relations governance, policy, processes and training to ensure consistent application across the company.
  • The Suncor Energy Foundation is a registered charitable organization established to manage charitable investments in Canada on behalf of Suncor Energy.
  • The Suncor Energy Foundation:
    • is a separate entity guided by all requirements set for charities by the Canada Revenue Agency
    • board is chaired by the executive vice president, business services
    • membership is comprised of business and functional vice presidents
  • The SEF Board of Directors provides governance for the overall community investment strategy, as well as having a direct responsibility for investments made from the foundation.
  • The management team reports to the general manager sustainability.
  • The majority of community investment is managed through the Suncor Energy Foundation. Any funding requests that are more than $50,000 are reviewed by the SEF Board of Directors. Each business unit manages a small community investment budget to support local initiatives such as local sponsorships, golf tournaments and other events.
  • Positive and productive community relations are the responsibility of every Suncor employee.

Key strategies and procedures for implementation

  • Suncor's stakeholder relations management system supports stakeholder relations practitioners and provides a consistent approach for each business unit. These are continuing to be developed and include:
    • social risk analysis
    • stakeholder mapping
    • stakeholder planning templates
    • Aboriginal and stakeholder relations training including outrage management and diversity
    • stakeholder information management system
    • communications templates
    • input into the issues management process
  • Suncor's community investment processes include a consistent online application procedure for all funding applications.
    • All applications are reviewed and assigned to the appropriate business partner for review and approval.
    • All requests over $50,000 and all proactive requests are reviewed by the SEF board quarterly.
    • All grant requests receive an email confirmation and an email approval or decline. Those that are approved will also receive a letter with the grant cheque.
    • All multi-year grants are approved annually prior to the next instalment being processed.
    • The SEF financial statemens are audited by an external organization annually and it files a separate charitable tax return annually.

Major changes to systems or structures to improve performance

  • An organizational restructuring in April 2013 has separated the community investment and stakeholder functions. This recognizes the critical role that Stakeholder and Aboriginal Relations has in its own right within the organization and allows for more senior management and leadership to focus on this area. The new team reports through a general manager stakeholder & Aboriginal relations to the vice president sustainability & communications. The Community Investment team reports through new general manager sustainability role to the vice president sustainability & communications.
  • This organizational change is designed to strengthen both functions. The stakeholder relations function has matured to a place where it is able to have dedicated professionals and senior leadership oversight. The community investment role is now more strongly connected to the sustainability group which will assist in formally embedding sustainability from a triple bottom line approach into the culture of the organization.
  • By having the two groups work together under the same leader since the merger in 2009, they will build upon what they have learned as they continue to develop social goals and community development plans together.
  • The Suncor Energy Foundation strategy continues to focus on building sustainable communities by focusing integrated investments on:
    • building skills and knowledge by investing in the current and future workforce
    • collaborating on our energy future — by collaborating with others we will seek solutions to energy issues in communities
    • cultivating community leaders — strengthen communities by supporting and developing social sector leaders
    • inspiring innovation — support unique cultural initiatives that foster the ability to think creatively and define a community
    • engaging citizens — support and encourage citizen engagement in their communities, especially Suncor employees
  • The OEMS baseline evaluation included a review of Element 13 — communications and stakeholder relations —and has resulted in a gap closure plan with a focus on stakeholder training and the stakeholder information management system (SIMS).
  • Suncor is taking a leadership role in the development of a new industry collaborative organization in Wood Buffalo to address socio-economic issues including Aboriginal success, workplace hiring, infrastructure and healthy communities.

Training and awareness

  • The Aboriginal awareness training has been well received in the organization and is being offered to employees through the Suncor Learning Solution, as well as to specific groups that have been identified as high priority (refinery leaders, human resources, retail leaders). Work is also being done to offer basic Aboriginal awareness training online so that all employees have access to the program.
  • Stakeholder relations training has been identified as a gap in the OEMS baseline and will be a focus area for 2013.
  • All SEF board members attend an orientation session as part of their onboarding activities and all new leaders making decisions on grants and sponsorships have been trained in the development of the new tools.
  • All business units are developing five-year community investment plans that align to the SEF strategy and that will provide the basis for training for business unit leaders.

Monitoring and followup

  • Suncor conducts regular surveys of stakeholders across operating areas every two years, providing outcome-based measures of performance and stakeholder perceptions. Inward-looking measures (periodic audits and assessments) of the stakeholder management system are under development. 
  • Plans are developed to address stakeholder issues raised in the survey.
  • The Suncor Energy Foundation is a registered Canadian charity and is audited and prepares financial statements on an annual basis.
  • As a member of LBG Canada, Suncor participates annually in the benchmarking process.
  • A new measurement and evaluation tool is being developed to measure the outcomes of the new community investment program.

Goals and performance

  • As well as stakeholder support for ongoing operations and growth initiatives, 2013 goals include implementation of the stakeholder policies and framework, as well implementation of the new community investment strategy.
  • In 2013, we will also implement the Aboriginal economic collaboration strategy and develop a recommendation for Aboriginal employment.
  • There is an enterprise goal to increase benefits to Aboriginal communities impacted by our business. This goal has been translated to specific actions in business and functional goal plans.
  • The community investment goals include the roll out of new employee volunteer programs and increased participation in these programs across the enterprise as well as the rollout of new communications processes including a blog.
  • Review Suncor’s performance data 

Key successes and shortcomings

  • Research with external stakeholders that was conducted early 2013 has provided a comparison to the baseline research of 2010 of our performance and stakeholder perceptions. While the research indicates several areas of ongoing improvement, we have demonstrated a significant improvement in community relations and stakeholder relations scores.
  • Ongoing work to close the gaps identified through the OEMS baseline assessment.
  • Integration of the mission, vision and values into the organization through both Stakeholder Relations and Community Investment that will help to provide the tools for leaders to consider the social dimension when making decisions and assessing risk.