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Major environmental opportunities and risks


  • Develop more environmentally responsible energy
  • Meet corporate environmental excellence goals around resource consumption (energy, water), environmental footprint (land reclamation) and emissions (air)
  • Reduce environmental incidents and regulatory non-compliances


  • Costs associated with environmental improvements
  • Land and wildlife disturbance
  • Major environmental incidents
  • Environmental regulatory non-compliances
  • Permit approvals risk
  • Maintaining our social licence to operate


Suncor's new vision and mission provide clear commitment to the triple bottom line.

  • Mission: To be trusted stewards of valuable natural resources. Guided by our values, we will lead the way to deliver economic prosperity, improved social well-being and a healthy environment for today and tomorrow.
  • Vision: We create energy for a better world.
Supporting this vision and mission is Suncor's Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) policy statement, which is built on Suncor values and is the foundation of Suncor's commitment to environment, health and safety. The policy statement has three parts:
  1. Key beliefs
  2. The policy statement
  3. Guiding principles

The vision of EHS is: We are the foundation that enables Suncor to achieve world-class performance through courageous leadership and promoting an unwavering culture of safety, wellness and environmental excellence.

Operational responsibility

  • The vice president of Environment, Health & Safety is responsible for integrating EHS components of our Operational Excellence Management Systems (OEMS) and EHS performance measures across our operation. The business and functional unit senior vice presidents and vice presidents are directly responsible for implementation of policies and practices. Environment, health and safety professionals directly support all parts of the business to implement EHS policies and practices and ensure learnings and best practices are shared across the business and functional units.

Key strategies and procedures for implementation

  • OEMS is our new Suncor-wide management system. It consists of 18 elements that organize and link all standards, systems and processes required to manage operational risks, mitigate environmental impacts, ensure environmental and regulatory compliance and deliver safe, reliable operations.

    OEMS achieves this by:

    • aligning these under one single management system
    • providing a common structure and framework with the ultimate goal of delivering operational excellence

    Baseline assessments were completed in our business and functional units in 2011 and 2012 to identify gaps that exist between the requirements of each of the 18 OEMS Elements and current processes, procedures and tools. With this information highlighted, business units and functions can develop plans for closing those gaps and prioritizing the work based on the highest areas of risk to the organization. This will align each business or function with the rest of the organization on OEMS implementation.

  • Project life cycle value assessments (LCVA) are used to help evaluate the impacts of each project stage and make balanced decisions.

Major changes to systems or structures to improve performance

  • Eric Axford is the executive vice president of Business Services and reports directly to the chief executive officer. Reporting to Mr. Axford are the vice presidents of environment health & safety, sustainability & communications, operational excellence & technical services, government relations, the senior vice president of supply chain management & field logistics and the executive advisor, sustainability & innovation:
    • Environment, Health & Safety provides standards, processes and systems to help ensure compliance and stewardship across Suncor.
    • Sustainability focuses on strategy and looking ‘up and out' to identify risks to Suncor's social licence to operate and growth strategy, as well as potential opportunities. Sustainability provides a centre of deep expertise in sustainability strategy and global outreach, energy and climate change policy strategy, the implementation of Suncor's community investment strategy, and the management of the Suncor Energy Foundation.
    • Communications develops and executes strategies that help Suncor connect in meaningful ways with our stakeholders, to ensure that Suncor's business strategies are achieved while managing and enhancing the company's reputation.
    • Operational Excellence and Technical Services drives operational business performance improvement across the enterprise.
    • Government Relations promotes and enhances strategic relations with all levels of government and also informs government of the broad industry and Suncor-specific challenges and opportunities related to energy development.
    • Supply Chain Management obtains goods and services for Suncor at the best value possible. 
    • Field Logistics orchestrates travel, accommodations and office needs of employees and contractors across Suncor.
  • Structural organizational change was made in EHS in late 2012 to facilitate more efficient delivery of services to the businesses to better align with Suncor's strategic direction and to more effectively satisfy the requirements of OEMS. This change included a new leadership level in three areas:
    • Oil Sands Ventures (OSV) & Major Projects
    • Oil Sands and In Situ
    • Central EHS services
  • Suncor became a member of Ceres in 2007. Ceres is a coalition of investors, companies, environmental groups and other public interest organizations with a mission to mobilize investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy. Through participation with Ceres Suncor continues to drive improvements with stakeholder engagement, reporting practices and sustainability performance.

Training and awareness

  • Suncor believes the foundation to deliver on our business strategy and operational excellence is people with the capabilities to perform their jobs. Suncor is committed to providing employees and leaders with the learning opportunities to build capability aligned with our values and culture.
  • Environmental excellence is included in the orientation process for new Suncor employees.
  • An updated employee performance development program was created in 2011 and rolled out in 2012.

Monitoring and follow-up

  • Suncor conducts internal Operational Excellence Management System, and compliance self-assessments annually, and process safety management program assessments over a three-year cycle. Corrective actions are identified and implemented. A body that is independent of operations (operations integrity audit) audits our key management systems every three years as part of the plan-do-check-act cycle. Additional audits and assessments of operational risk and control effectiveness and business process effectiveness are conducted based on risk.
  • Some of Suncor operations are certified to ISO 14001 and ISO 9001.
  • Monitoring for environmental aspects such as air quality and water discharge is conducted at all facilities based on regulatory requirements and permits, and sustainability goals.

Goals and performance

Key successes and shortcomings

  • Suncor became the first oil sands company to complete surface reclamation of a tailings pond. As a result, Suncor's original Pond 1, now known as Wapisiw Lookout, is on track to be returned to natural forest and wetlands habitat.
  • As of 2012, Suncor had completed more than 1.3 billion to implement a new tailings and reclamation technology at our existing operations called TRO™.
  • Suncor's Refining & Marketing business unit lowered its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity by 10% and its absolute GHG emissions by 5% since 2009.
  • At Suncor's mining operations, water consumption intensity decreased by 10.4% since 2007.
  • Suncor was below its 1998 fresh water withdrawal volumes from the Athabasca River.
  • Fines paid in 2012 totalled $2,366,000.
  • Functional networks stood up in 2011 and 2012 for air, water, and waste, to enable collaboration and knowledge sharing, and build expertise within Suncor in order to mitigate operational and environmental impacts and drive continuous improvement.

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