Suncor strives to develop relationships with stakeholders based on transperency, mutual respect and trust. Find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

Transparency, mutual respect and trust in Stakeholder Relations – Suncor’s 2016 Report on Sustainability

Suncor strives to develop relationships with stakeholders based on transperency, mutual respect and trust. Find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

Suncor strives to develop relationships with stakeholders based on transperency, mutual respect and trust. Find out more in the 2016 Report on Sustainability

View the latest Report on Sustainability

Legacy Totem Pole Ceremony in Calgary, June 2010, commemorating Suncor's sponsorship of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

Social responsibility

The trust and support of stakeholders are foundational to successful energy development. We work hard to build and maintain relationships with local communities and stakeholders, to meaningfully consider their issues and concerns about the effect of proposed development and operations on the land and resources — including working together to mitigate potential environmental and social impacts, and ensuring that local communities benefit from development.

Suncor's corporate social responsibility infographic
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Our strategy

We believe that those affected by Suncor’s business have a right to be informed about our activities, participate in a transparent engagement process and be involved in the issues and opportunities affecting them. We actively seek stakeholders’ input and feedback on our activities and decisions, and encourage stakeholders to define how they wish to be consulted.

Often, it’s simply an informal discussion with a stakeholder, at other times it’s through more formal engagement or consultation processes. For example, we regularly participate in community advisory meetings with several Aboriginal communities and in multi-stakeholder forums with groups including CERES and the Boreal Leadership Council.

We also engage on issues of national interest with stakeholders, through multiple forums. Our president and CEO Steve Williams is a member of Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission which aims to shape policy to encourage economic activities that support mutual benefits such as job creation, investment and innovation. We also provided feedback through Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel in support of the Climate Leadership Plan. In 2015, we participated in and supported public dialogues such as the Walrus Talks Energy to collectively understand energy challenges and what it means for all of us and our future.

Read more about Suncor’s engagement on public policy issues.

Engagement on tailing management

In 2015 Suncor was invited to engage with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and other key stakeholders on the technical advisory committee (TAC) for regulatory tailings management. Other TAC members included representatives from industry, environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), First Nations, Métis, municipalities, community-based groups with direct interest in tailings management, and the AER. The TAC’s mandate was to conduct a technical review of the province’s draft tailings directive that was developed in response to the policy direction of the Lower Athabasca Region: Tailings Management Framework for the Mineable Athabasca Oil Sands. Using a consensus-based approach, the committee provided recommendations to the AER on improving the regulatory management of tailings in the province.

Alberta is moving into the next phase of public engagement for the Tailings Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca region. Phase 2 includes a multi stakeholder interest group (SIG) and four technical TAC working groups. Suncor continues to be active participant at the SIG and each of the TACs, as they become implemented.

As part of Suncor’s operational excellence management system, the Stakeholder Relations Framework ensures that we have a consistent approach to relationships with stakeholders and Aboriginal communities, whether it is local engagement or involvement in national forums. The framework outlines Suncor’s responsibilities and commitments, and provides a mechanism to consider stakeholder needs, interests and concerns and incorporate this into our business decisions on a day-to-day basis. It is implemented via standards and guidelines, and is supported by procedures, practices and tools.


Our stakeholders are the individuals and groups who could be affected by our operations or who could, through their actions, affect our business. Examples include:

  • landowners and community residents
  • Aboriginal communities
  • trappers
  • governments and regulators
  • non-government organizations and environmental groups
  • community investment partners
  • business groups
  • customers and suppliers
  • employees

Our Human Rights, Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies outline our commitments and key beliefs with respect to stakeholders and communities where we operate. Related policies include:

Suncor's Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies are reviewed every three years. Work began in 2015 to update both polices and to reflect changing societal expectations and external context, like the government’s commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The revised polices will be available in 2016.


All Suncor employees and contractors engaged in activities under our operational control are responsible for applying these policies. Managers are also responsible for promoting our beliefs and principles underlying these policies in joint ventures not operated by Suncor.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Suncor is accountable to the Board of Directors for ensuring that Suncor’s Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations Policies are implemented.


Our Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies outline our commitment to developing and maintaining positive, meaningful relationships with our stakeholders and to working closely with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples and communities to build and maintain effective, long term and mutually beneficial relationships.

Community Agreements

More broadly, we define a commitment as a formal pledge made by the organization to a regulator or other authority, including communities and stakeholders. Beyond those commitments outlined in the policies, we also have agreements with Aboriginal communities, mainly in the Wood Buffalo region. These agreements address how we work together on matters like project consultation, and ways to realize the benefits from our industry such as: commercial and business opportunities, and skills/ employment and training opportunities. Where appropriate, Suncor and the community develop joint workplans that guide mutually agreed-upon engagement and consultation activities.

In 2013 we implemented the Aboriginal Relations Governance Framework. The governance structure is made up of three interconnected groups that each play a role in ensuring that Suncor’s activities are strategic, co-ordinated and advancing strong, co-operative relationships. They include a VP Steering Committee, a Working Group and four multi-disciplinary teams:

  • Community development
  • Environment, health and safety
  • Workforce development
  • Business development

Aboriginal Relations Governance Framework

While one of the key objectives of the governance structure is to proactively steward our commitments with Aboriginal communities, it also had the mandate in 2015 to develop a comprehensive, long-term Aboriginal relations strategy for the company. In 2016, this governance structure will be working closely with all areas of the business to develop plans to implement Suncor’s new social goal.

Our commitments also extend beyond Aboriginal communities. For example, we are a founding member of the United Nations Global Compact Local Canada Network.

Goals, targets and actions

Relationships are best maintained through regular effort and engagement. This means being involved and part of the community, so that we can listen and actively engage with local stakeholders and Aboriginal communities. Some examples of how we do this include:

Cedar Point Community Liaison Committee (CLC)

In 2015, we established the Cedar Point CLC to share information and gather community input during the construction and operation of our Cedar Point wind power project in Ontario. We heard from the CLC and community that there was the need for Suncor to be more accessible through the construction phase as there were a number of community concerns related to the project. In response, we held a number of working sessions with the CLC to establish a strong working relationship and hosted an additional public meeting in 2015.

The joint structure of the committee enabled more meaningful engagement. The community was able to guide the scope and content of the meetings, the project team and community members were able to communicate directly, and it created a forum for those with concerns to be heard.

We didn’t meet the expectations of each and every stakeholder in the community; however we did consider all feedback and where possible, addressed the concern. For example, we heard from the community that road and traffic safety on private access roads and on secondary highways was a concern. In response, we worked with the prime contractor to conduct regular speed checks in construction zones and improve overall awareness and road safety.

Culturally Significant Wetland Plants Study

Through ongoing engagement and consultation with Aboriginal communities in the Wood Buffalo region, we heard that Suncor’s site reclamation and closure plans should result in an environment that can support traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, gathering and trapping.

To respond to this feedback, Suncor’s reclamation and stakeholder and aboriginal relations teams jointly developed an engagement approach that sought input from the five First Nations in the region in order to better understand what wetland plant species are important to these communities. Suncor invited five Elders from each of the First Nations to jointly develop the wetland plant species project.

A first of its kind initiative, the study is a collaborative approach from start to finish between Suncor and First Nation communities to build a list of wetland plant species that reflects and respects the traditional knowledge of communities and enhances Suncor’s reclamation activities, After the three-year workplan is accomplished, Suncor will work to incorporate the inclusion of the plant species into our reclamation and closure activities.

Planning engagement for smooth turnaround at the Commerce City refinery

We recognize the importance of timely engagement and the need to provide stakeholders with important information about our business as early as possible, so they have an opportunity to review and respond. With that in mind, early planning and stakeholder engagement for the 2016 turnaround at our Commerce City refinery began in 2015.

Thoughtful planning was important, but what truly made the engagement a success was the trust and long-standing relationships that we have with the community, our neighbors and key stakeholders. For example, early consultation with the City of Commerce City enabled us to utilize many of their communication channels and tools, allowing us to share details about the turnaround more broadly with the community well in advance.

The turnaround engagement was one more opportunity for us to stay connected with our stakeholders on a day-to-day basis about our business activities. Engaging early and often with our stakeholders is really Suncor’s values in action; it’s a true commitment to sharing, listening and working collaboratively. In this case, along with many others, the City is a true business partner.

Engagement with our neighbors in Sarnia

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is the closest neighbour to our Sarnia refinery and our relationship with the community is an important priority for us. We recognize our activities have an impact on Aamjiwnaang and we’ve worked to minimize these impacts, while demonstrating our commitment to being a safe and environmentally responsible operator.

Over the past few years we’ve worked to address issues of concern at Aamjiwnaang, while further strengthening our relationship with the community. We are doing this is by focusing on operational improvements, better communication and meaningful engagement. We have made progress in stakeholder communication, incident notification and alerts. We also participate in regular meetings with the Aamjiwnaang Environment Committee as well as host meetings that give community members an opportunity to learn about the work our Sarnia refinery does, ask questions and talk to us about what is on their mind.

Through respectful, two-way dialogue we’re growing our relationship. While we’ll continue to look for ways to improve, constructive conversations are helping us to better understand the priorities and concerns identified by the Aamjiwnaang and how we can work together to address them.

First Nations Advisory Committees

As part of our ongoing engagement with several Aboriginal communities near our oil sands operations, we participate in regular advisory committee meetings. Advisory Committee members represent a broader cross-section of community members, often including Elders and youth that we may not regularly engage with through formal consultation activities. The meetings are a forum for Suncor and the community to discuss Suncor’s operations and many other areas of interest or concern to the community.

Supporting processes

Beyond direct consultation and engagement activities, several internal processes ensure that we are aware of and understand stakeholders’ interest and concerns, and are considering those views in operations and business planning.

  • Our Strategic Issues Management Process (SIMP) works to proactively identify, monitor and manage key environmental, economic and social issues considered most critical to Suncor, stakeholders and First Nations and Aboriginal communities
  • Through ADEM (Asset Development and Execution Model) consideration for stakeholders, First Nation and Aboriginal communities’ concerns, and potential impacts are integrated into early project planning stages, before engagement occurs and/or final business decisions are made
  • Our annual materiality review identifies key issues of concern for stakeholders and Aboriginal communities, and includes information learned from ongoing engagement and feedback from Suncor’s annual multi-stakeholder forum with CERES.


As part of our Operational Excellence Management System, the Stakeholder Relations Framework includes:

  • Guidelines and processes to ensure that engagement planning and practice is annually reviewed and measured against performance metrics, and that those learnings are applied to future engagement
  • A grievance mechanism that enables us to receive, investigate and respond to complaints from stakeholders that may arise from direct and/or indirect impacts associated with Suncor’s operations or activities in a timely and consistent manner

Beyond our policies and management system, the ongoing effectiveness of our stakeholder relations activities are monitored through several processes including the Aboriginal Relations Governance Framework and the Strategic Issues Management Process.


The way the world views energy development has fundamentally changed. Stakeholder expectations are increasing, the legal and regulatory context continues to evolve and become more complex. We believe our social performance has become as important as our environmental performance. This year, we’re building on the learnings from the strategic environmental performance goals established in 2009 and releasing our first social goal. The new goal is aspirational, bold and designed to challenge and stretch our organization.

What we are doing differently

Social Goal - We’ve learned that setting goals can incent us to look at how we do business and work with others. In 2016 we’ll work to implement our social goal. It will not be the work of a small group at Suncor, it will be the work of all of us. You can learn more about how we’re working across the entire business, and giving every employee the opportunity to take part, in our Goals and Progress page.

Integrated-Governance - To meet increasing stakeholder expectations we recognize the need to embed our approach to stakeholder and Aboriginal relations across the organization. One of the ways we’re doing this is through the Aboriginal Relations Governance Framework. This framework includes a VP steering committee, working group and multidisciplinary teams that work across the organization to ensure that Suncor’s activities are strategic, co-ordinated and advancing strong, mutually beneficial relationships. We’re also leveraging other internal processes such as the SIMP and the ADEM to ensure we’re considering the social context of our activities as early as possible.

Beyond Wood Buffalo - Suncor has been operating in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta since 1967. We’ve been part of the community and building relationships for a long time. While we’ll continue to do so, we know that we need to broaden our focus to our other operating areas. In 2016, we’ll apply what we’ve learned in Wood Buffalo and look for opportunities to expand our approach to other communities. As we implement our social goal, we’ll look to increase opportunities with communities and our key partners though the Suncor Energy Foundation.

Big conversations, together - Throughout 2015, we engaged in several public conversations around issues that are important to us and to stakeholders — climate policy, market access and reconciliation, to name a few. We feel we have a role to play in these conversations and we’ll continue to be involved, but leading change is not something one company, industry, government or stakeholder group can do alone. We believe that we can achieve so much more when we collaborate, and we’ll continue looking for opportunities to better understand the challenges and shape the future, by engaging with others.