As stewards of valuable natural resources, we have the opportunity – and responsibility – to help build a better future. By supporting resilience, skill development and social well-being in the communities around us, we strive to create shared value and benefit for all involved.
We are here to connect and support, as well as learn with our community partners. By working with others, we increase our body of knowledge and make progress on addressing complex social needs that impact us all.
Collaboration is at the heart of our community investment strategy. By working collaboratively, we can find and realize opportunities for long-term solutions that can positively impact communities, future generations and our company. It also ensures we continue to understand each other’s interests, issues, needs and concerns.
Our community investment strategy
Suncor and our private, non-profit, charitable organization, the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF), are guided by a strategy focused on targeted investments intended to help communities near our operations grow, thrive and become sustainable and resilient.
By leveraging our strengths as an integrated energy company, we believe we can be an effective partner in supporting sustainable, resilient communities. That’s why we focus our investments in five key areas to support integrated initiatives that:
- strengthen communities by cultivating community leaders
- support building skills and knowledge for the current and future workforce
- foster the ability to think creatively through inspiring innovation
- build employee and volunteer capability by engaging citizens in community activities
- engage employees and communities in collaborating on our energy future
“Our collaborative approach allows us to work in partnership with communities to understand the needs that impact both society and Suncor,” says Lori Hewson, director, community investment and social innovation. “Going forward, we’re being more deliberate about focusing on the systems connected to three areas: Aboriginal youth engagement and leadership, energy transition, and community resilience. When we have a clear understanding of all the elements of a system - including who’s involved, the roles they play, and how impacts are felt - we can be more strategic with our investments and better ensure they support transformative and lasting change.”
For most energy companies, 2016 continued to be a difficult year to navigate in terms of how best to support community organizations through the ongoing economic downturn and budget constraints. In addition, SEF inherited community commitments with Suncor’s acquisition of Canadian Oil Sands Limited. SEF was also able to draw on knowledge and experience from the southern Alberta floods of 2013 to support the relief and rebuilding efforts following the fire in the Wood Buffalo region that displaced nearly 90,000 residents in May.
Through the corporate foundation model, SEF continued to draw on the reserve fund to honour commitments and maintain support to community partners. Our Foundation is an example of sustainability in action by allowing us to be resilient in times of economic uncertainty. While SEF could not consider a lot of new funding, we were able to maintain support to our strategic initiatives and partners through dollars, in-kind contributions and volunteerism.
Read more about our Community Investment strategy and the Suncor Energy Foundation
Community investment: Our support in the community
Suncor is part of our communities so we need to play a role in working alongside partners and communities, strengthening our collective resilience and sustainability. By taking this approach, we can help support lasting change and, ultimately, contribute to communities that have the ability to rebound more quickly during downturns or times of crisis.
“For many years, we were doing what we thought was right, being reactive and doing things ‘to’ community. Now we’ve started to move into a ‘with’ and ‘of’ space: how do we work together in partnership for the common good?” reflects Hewson. “One key learning we’ve had is that we have to be comfortable with uncertain outcomes, and to be prepared to allow ourselves and our organization to be changed by what we’re seeing and hearing.”
This approach was strengthened from the SEF Gathering events and can be seen in some emerging collaborations such as the Alberta Social Innovation fellows, Alberta Ecotrust’s Climate Gathering and the creation of the social goal.
The Wood Buffalo wild fires and our support
SEF’s community investment philosophy was put to the test in 2016, as we worked alongside partners to support citizens and organizations in the aftermath of the fires in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta, the costliest disaster in Canadian history.
Within days of the community evacuation, the SunCares Humanitarian Grant was launched, with Suncor employees from as close as Fort McMurray to as far away as Scotland and Norway opening their hearts and wallets to support those affected by the disaster.
The result was an astounding 1,700 donations totalling more than $547,000 contributed by employees, leaders, contractors, retirees and Suncor’s Board of Directors to the Canadian Red Cross and the United Way of Fort McMurray. This support reached an all-time high by employees. In addition, the SEF matched the donations for a total contribution of $1.094 million.
Through Petro-Canada and its loyalty program Petro-Points, members donated over two million points, and gas cards were provided to various non-profits assisting with relief efforts. Petro-Canada retail stations in Alberta accepted Red Cross fuel vouchers from evacuees.
In addition, the Suncor Energy Foundation and Suncor provided approximately $1 million in grants to charities and non-profit organizations in Wood Buffalo to support their recovery efforts.
Overall, including Suncor employee donations, Suncor and the Suncor Energy Foundation provided over $3 million in cash and in-kind support to the community through the fires.
“There’s no playbook for this scale of disaster,” says Russell Thomas, director of communications and community impact for the United Way of Fort McMurray. “The support we received from Suncor helped charities and non-profit organizations deliver much needed programs and services in the days and months after the fires, including mental health, children and youth programs, and seniors care to name a few.”
Learning from the Calgary floods in 2013, the SEF team also immediately established a Funders Circle. The Funders Circle brings together a variety of government, private and industry funders on a regular basis to share information and discuss funding and collaboration opportunities around short, medium and long-term needs.
This agility and resilience was due in part to the long-time work of community partners, including SEF, prior to the fires to strengthen the social profit sector in the Wood Buffalo region through the Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo initiative. Among other outcomes, it resulted in the creation of a backbone organization, FuseSocial, which helps connect and support social profit organizations to innovate to meet the needs of a rapidly changing community.
“When disasters occur, it’s important to consider not only the immediate needs of a community, but how we can come together with others to support re-entry, recovery and long-term community rebuilding efforts,” reflects Kim Nordbye, manager, community investment at Suncor.
And this is how our support continues today - working together with community leaders, government, other funders and industry as the Wood Buffalo community looks to the future.
Examples of our strategy in action
Here are some examples of the community investment strategy in action in 2016, and what we’ve learned:
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