Since Suncor began operations in the oil sands more than 50 years ago, this commitment has been embodied in our work with communities across our operations, including within the efforts of the Suncor Energy Foundation.
Our community investment strategy
Society is facing complex challenges that are impacting the overall well-being of each of us – socially, economically and environmentally. This requires innovative, sustainable solutions and contributions from all of us.
Suncor, and our private, non-profit, charitable organization, the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF), seek to provide investments that create value for society, and for our business, by addressing community issues of mutual interest to Suncor in a way that seeks solutions and benefits all. Our vision is to create a better world with the communities in which Suncor operates, and with those who are courageously seeking solutions and making a positive difference in society.
As SEF marked its 20th year in 2018, Suncor community investment and SEF completed a strategy refresh with input from community leaders, partners and Suncor leaders and employees. The updated strategy is focused on three pillars and centres on four phases that underscore continuous observation, relationship building, learning and evaluation.
- Strategic funding priorities: Making donations and investing in the work of others in three areas: Indigenous Peoples, energy future, and community resilience.
- Community presence: Being present and engaging locally in our operating areas, including supporting employee community engagement through the SunCares program.
- Social innovation capacity: Continuing to build and support social innovation capacity in others, and within Suncor, through CI and SEF-led programs and initiatives.
A portfolio approach
Our community investment and SEF approach has grown from being primarily responsive to short-term community requests to one where we are also working with and of communities, by coming together in partnership and learning for the common good through a corporate social innovation approach.
All parts, from philanthropic donations to relationships that contribute to transformational change, are important for community strength and well-being. This portfolio approach to our investments supports lasting change in communities, as well as helping Suncor and SEF continuously learn and bring knowledge and insights back to shape our own business.
“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 strategic with our investments and better ensure they support positive community change,” says Hewson.
Our strategy in action
Here are a few examples of the community investment strategy in action across partners and systems, reflecting our objectives, beliefs and operational model and what we’re learning.
Creating a shared future
Through donations and the further development of relationships with the Banff Centre, Ashoka Canada, the Tamarack Institute, Reconciliation Canada and the Turtle Island Institute, community investment and SEF are working to support reconciliation and the national social innovation eco-system.
As a few examples of the organizations funded by community investment and SEF, each of these organizations has strengths in leadership development programming, complexity and adaptability. As a result they are elevating conversations about community development and reconciliation.
“Strong leaders who can navigate complexity are essential for building resilient communities that can adapt and thrive through change,” says Eric Axford, EVP and chief sustainability officer, and Chair of the SEF Board.
Recently, Pat White, a Suncor team member and former vice-president of human resources, began a five-month secondment with Reconciliation Canada. She has focused on developing frameworks for reconciliation action plans in organizations and corporations, including Suncor. These action plans will facilitate the cultural shifts required to advance and sustain reconciliation.
“This has been an incredibly valuable opportunity to share learnings and experiences to work together on what’s possible,” says Pat. “Personally, I have a much deeper sense of the truth of our collective history and impacts, and the deep importance of reconciliation for all of us.”
Meeting society’s energy challenges today and tomorrow is all about making informed choices. That’s why Suncor and SEF are investing in an evolving set of initiatives to collaborate on the energy future we’ll all share. Our goal is to leverage our strengths as an energy company and be a catalyst for an inclusive national dialogue that will enable Canada to use our energy resources wisely and pave the way for a sustainable energy future.
Alberta Ecotrust, a SEF partner, has been working to enhance capacity and collaboration across environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs). Building off their 2014 Mapping What Matters research, in 2018 their work extended to include a growing focus on climate conversations that shift narratives and foster generative conversations toward a low-carbon energy future.
SEF also renewed support to the Energy Futures Lab (EFL) in 2018, and their next phase. EFL 2.0 will deepen their work in Alberta and explore how to extend lessons and learning to a national level.
“Ongoing climate and energy debates have left Canada polarized in a myriad of ways. Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world is racing to a new energy future that will reshape politics, economics, and cultural dynamics around the world,” says Alison Cretney, managing director of the Energy Futures Lab.
"There are enormous opportunities for those able to advance solutions. How we respond as a nation will shape Canada’s competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to invest for decades, and impact our social and cultural fabric.”
Through connections that started and were nurtured at the SEF Gathering, Student Energy, another SEF partner, recently hosted their first Indigenous youth energy summit, SevenGen. It brought together 200 Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across Canada to explore how to unite communities, build relationships and break social barriers in the energy conversation.
“The goal is to engage youth in climate and energy topics and equip them with the confidence to be part of the larger conversation in the country,” reflects Cory Beaver, a Mount Royal University student, member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and co-chair of the summit.
"We're not just doing this for the next couple of years. We want to fight for a better reality for our children, and our grandchildren and future generations," adds summit co-chair Disa Crow Chief, a member of the Siksika First Nation.
Working toward strong, sustainable communities takes the effort of many voices, with a variety of perspectives and experiences.
With that in mind, SEF hosted its fourth Gathering in May 2018. Approximately 155 funding partners, social innovators, government and community representatives, Indigenous youth, thought leaders and Suncor team members attended the two-and-a-half-day event, which explores complex community needs that require collaboration to make progress and see lasting change. The Gathering provides a forum for participants to:
- connect existing work and initiatives
- take a system-wide view
- explore a variety of perspectives
- strengthen partnerships
The 2018 event focused on storytelling, community resilience and diverse collaboration. The theme: “There is No Us and Them: the Nature of Paradox.” It allowed for deeper reflection on some of the challenges and opportunities experienced when groups work for change.
“Coming together we recognize the value of diversity, and the creative tension that comes along with that. The role of the Gathering is to bring everyone together to spark innovation and to see what new possibilities emerge,” says Lori Hewson.
For the first time, a group of participants were also invited to act as witnesses. Mike Lickers, Suncor senior advisor Indigenous relations, says the role of the witness is traditional in Indigenous West Coast ceremonies.
“Those who agree to witness are responsible for ensuring the community knows of the event and they vouch for the integrity of the ceremony for future reference. This is not an easy task, or one taken lightly. Witnesses may be called upon to remember what happened, who said what and so on,” explains Mike.
The Gathering had nine witnesses represented by three community partners, four young Indigenous leaders, and two Suncor team members.
Reflecting on her role as witness and the impact of the 2018 Gathering, Alexia McKinnon, associate director, Indigenous leadership at the Banff Centre remarked, “What I will be taking with me and sharing is the generosity of spirit, of us as human beings to show up and do the work that we do. In essence we’ve been invited to co-create, to start our stories from the beginning and weave them together.”
In 2018, Suncor and SEF continued to support many local initiatives in communities near our operations.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the foundation, SEF worked with Suncor regional leaders to provide a one-time donation of $20,000 in each community. These funds were directed to local community organizations chosen by leaders and employees.
- Burrard: Crossroads Hospice Society and Junior Achievement BC
- Mississauga: Riverwood Conservancy
- Edmonton/Strathcona County: Youth Empowerment and Support Services and Boys and Girls Club of Strathcona County
- East Coast: Iris Kirby House, First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre, Bridges to Hope and Choices for Youth
- Wood Buffalo: Northern Lights Health Foundation in support of Willow Square and the Fort McMurray Recovery Centre
- Sarnia: Pathways Health Centre for Children and St. Clair Child and Youth Services
Suncor and SEF also continued to support a variety of other initiatives in 2018, including the ones highlighted below.
In recognition of the opening of Fort Hills, we announced a number of investments to support the community going forward:
Riverside Continuing Care facility in Fort McKay: Announced in spring 2018, and opened in the summer, the Riverside Continuing Care facility is supported by Fort Hills. The centre is a place for Elders to visit with family and friends and share their teachings while staying in their community.
Fort Hills ambulance donation: Fort Hills partners donated an ambulance to the community of Fort Chipewyan and Nunee Health. This ambulance will support the health and welfare of the Fort Chipewyan community.
Public and Indigenous Health mobile health vehicle: this gift from SEF to the Northern Lights Health Foundation will help purchase and retrofit a medical vehicle to serve rural areas of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Canadian Mental Health Association (Centre for Excellence in Recovery and Peer Support initiative): SEF and the Fort Hills partners provided a gift to the Canadian Mental Health Association, to support an exciting new project for a walk-in centre built to assist local residents in getting access to mental health resources, a recovery college and a school of peer support.
Calgary Public Library: Connected to the opening of the new central library, SEF announced support for Indigenous programming and cross-cultural learning opportunities throughout the library network. This includes funding to support:
- the Elders’ Guidance Circle space in the central library
- the hiring of program interns to ensure Indigenous populations are engaged in service design and evaluation
- the development of Indigenous language resources, including an online learning platform
- Indigenous cultural initiatives, such as a speaker and a performance series
- ongoing focus on creating spaces for Indigenous culture and art in libraries across the city
This supports the library’s goal of being an inclusive gathering place for all Calgarians.
Boys and Girls Club: As a long-time supporter, we proudly partner with the Suncor Boys and Girls Club facility in Commerce City. This space provides young people with a safe and accessible opportunity to learn, grow and develop in education and career development, character and leadership development, health and life skills, technology, the arts, and sports fitness and recreation.
Linking Generations: Created in 2004, Linking Generations, provides mentored and structured visits aimed at building relationships between seniors and youth in the community. The program brings the generations together so they can share their knowledge and life experiences, and encourages volunteering and social responsibility in youth.
The Riverwood Conservancy: The Riverwood Conservancy Leadership in Environmental Achievements through Diversity and Skills (LEADS) program, is a skills-based environmental education program for secondary students grounded in the Ontario secondary school curriculum. It provides hands-on learning to more than 1,500 students each year.
In 2018 SEF’s relationship with Riverwood expanded to support their work on responding to the key calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and looking to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into the LEADS program and their organization. Riverwood also began using Suncor’s Aboriginal awareness web-based training module to help remove barriers and biases and deepen knowledge within their organization.
Youth Fusion: If we want youth to feel they can be the future innovators in energy fields, we must start supporting them at an early age. Youth Fusion exposes youth to different careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) but also provides the necessary tools to experiment and learn directly through a variety of mentors.
Canadian Indigenous School Engagement: This is an initiative that works with the Inuit, Cree, Mohawk, Innu and Mi'gmaq Indigenous communities. In Quebec, Youth Fusion is working with more than 4,400 Indigenous youth, aged 7-to-18, in remote Cree and Inuit communities, as well as in Mashteuiash, Kahnawake, Gesgapegiag and at the Indigenous Student Centres of John Abbott and Dawson Colleges in Montreal.
Lambton College: Lambton College’s mission is to provide career-focused education that serves the needs of students, industry and the community of Sarnia-Lambton. In the fall of 2018 Lambton College officially opened its new Centre of Excellence in Bio-Industrial Technologies. SEF support helped purchase new equipment that will provide students with valuable hands-on learning experiences.
The Lambton’s College Indigenous Outdoor Learning and Gathering Space is also supported by SEF. It will honour Indigenous traditions and promote First Nations, Inuit, and Métis culture. It will welcome people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and ages into an inclusive space to celebrate Lambton College’s diverse population.
Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador: Funding supports the implementation of an earning-by-doing model to help increase capacity for innovation and change in the community sector.
Memorial University – Centre for Social Enterprise: Funding supports the first MBA in Social Enterprise and amplification of other social innovation initiatives.
SunCares: Inspiring employee community engagement
Volunteerism and community engagement have long been part of how our employees contribute to the community. Through our SunCares employee program, we support the causes that are important to employees in the following ways:
- Volunteering: providing tools and resources to help our employees find volunteer opportunities, either as an individual, or as part of a Suncor team. Employees can also track their volunteer hours and receive SunCares rewards from Suncor or SEF for every hour volunteered, up to $1,000 per year. These rewards can then be donated to any community organization of choice.
- SunCares rewards and grants: Suncor and SEF provide a number of grants to support our employees’ engagement in their communities, including leadership rewards for those who serve in a leadership role with a non-profit organization, bereavement grants, and humanitarian and post-secondary matching grants.
In 2018, the SunCares program saw a number of changes. These enhancements are part of an ongoing evolution of SunCares designed to support employee choice in giving and encourage regular community engagement. They include:
- Expanded humanitarian grant matching program: employees can now receive a match for any donation made to a humanitarian organization at any time of the year, up to a total of $1,000 yearly.
- SunCares Community Giving Networks (SCGNs): we introduced a year-round regional giving model in mid-2018, to provide more choice and flexibility and expand on the previous giving campaign model. SCGNs are employee-driven networks that empower employees to connect, lead and engage in their communities, and provide tools and processes to enable this. Network volunteers plan and execute a variety of flexible, inclusive giving activities that meet the needs of their unique business area, employees and local community.
- Changemakers program: conceptualized in 2018 and launched in early 2019, the Changemakers program recognizes and celebrates Suncor’s community changemakers – those employees who positively impact community throughout the year in significant ways. Annually, five changemakers are selected through a nomination process to choose a community organization to receive a one-time gift of $20,000 from Suncor or the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF).
As a result of these changes, the rate of decline in employee giving observed over the last five years has begun to slow. We also saw an increase in the number of community organizations supported by Suncor employees in 2018, to 1,377.
Additionally, the total number of employee volunteer hours recorded increased by over 30%, to 73,259 hours.
In 2018, more than $5.4 million was contributed to community organizations across Canada and the United States. This included $2.7 million in donations from employees, and another $2.7 million from SunCares rewards and the corporate donations provided by Suncor and SEF.
Community investment and SEF also began user experience research in late 2018, to better understand how Suncor can continue to increase community giving and engagement, and improve the employee experience with the SunCares program.
“It’s about what’s meaningful to local employees and communities, and what makes sense for their particular area”, says Joanne Manser, senior advisor, community investment at Suncor. “SunCares is changing the face of our community support and, more than ever before, giving every employee an opportunity to help make their community even better.”
Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Games support
Through our Petro-Canada brand, we are a long-time supporter of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic movement. Our current sponsorship agreement extends our support for Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes, coaches and their families through to 2024.
Our involvement in the Canadian Olympic movement is a journey that began in 1987, when Petro-Canada organized and sponsored the torch relay for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. We are proud to continue our support of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams and the Coaching Association of Canada.
Petro-Canada’s Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence (FACE™) Program has supported more than 3,000 athletes on their way to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Every year, 55 promising athletes from across Canada are awarded a $10,000 FACE grant, shared with their coaches, to help them along their journey.
We believe one of the best ways to support Canadian athletes is to help their biggest fans – their families. We continue to support a Canadian ticketing program that will help ensure family members have the opportunity to see their athletes compete in person at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
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