Within Suncor’s vison to be trusted stewards of valuable natural resources, we have the opportunity, and responsibility, to help build a better future.
Since Suncor began operations in the oil sands over 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), are guided by a strategy focused on targeted investments, intended to help communities near our operations grow, thrive and become sustainable and resilient. Our strategy seeks value for society, and for our business, by addressing complex issues of material interest to Suncor.
“Collaboration and co-creation are at the heart of our community investment strategy. By leveraging our strengths as an integrated energy company and coming together with others, we can find and realize opportunities for long-term solutions that benefit communities, future generations, and our company. It also ensures we continue to understand each other’s interests, issues, needs and concerns,” says Lori Hewson director, community investment and social innovation.
SEF’s approach has evolved over time from being primarily responsive to short-term community requests, where we were often doing things to and for communities with a philanthropic and corporate responsibility approach, to one where we are also working with and of communities, by coming together in partnership and learning for the common good through corporate social innovation. It is an approach that is helping to support lasting change, both in communities and within Suncor.
Evolution and continuum of our work
In 2017, SEF management and the SEF Board continued to evolve the current SEF strategy introduced in 2010.
“Going forward, we’re being more deliberate about focusing on the systems connected to three areas: Indigenous Peoples, energy future and community resilience,” says Hewson. “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.”
Our strategy in action
Here are some examples of the community investment strategy and operational model in action in 2017, and what we’ve learned:
Our reserve fund: beginning to rebuild
SEF’s operational model includes a reserve fund which allows us to continue to support communities and be resilient during times of economic uncertainty. In 2015 and 2016, when the price of oil was low and SEF could not consider a significant degree of new funding, this reserve fund helped maintain support for strategic initiatives and partners.
With the stabilization of oil prices, SEF, through contributions from Suncor, began to rebuild the reserve fund. We will continue to contribute to the reserve fund on a regular basis, so investments will be available to sustain funding to communities during future economic downturns.
The Gathering: power in togetherness
In April 2017, SEF hosted its third Gathering, a two-and-a-half-day event that brings together diverse community partners and thought leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. The event explores complex community needs that require collaboration to make progress and see lasting change, and provides a forum to:
- connect existing work and initiatives
- take a system-wide view
- explore a variety of perspectives
- and strengthen partnerships
Three areas – Indigenous youth leadership, community resilience and the energy future we’ll all share – were the focus of the 2017 event. The participation and perspectives of young Indigenous leaders were an important part of the conversation.
“I just hope the Gathering initiative really does benefit all parties. I just hope the youth voice is not being taken for granted to one's own benefit, and actually give credit and acknowledgement where needed,” reflects Cory Beaver, a Gathering participant.
Through the Gatherings, participants have learned about and explored the connectedness of their work, and considered community needs from a systems perspective.
“Since we began hosting the Gatherings with our partners, we’ve learned there are no easy solutions when we’re working to address complex community needs that impact us all,” says Lori Hewson. “We have to take the time to understand what we’re working on, open ourselves up to all perspectives, and stay in it long enough to see the opportunities.”
As work is further brought together, distinct roles – whether as funder, community partner, or thought leader – begin to fall away.
“When you start weaving together you create a basket of knowledge. That’s what the people deserve – what you put into that basket. It feeds the multitude with knowledge, it feeds them with hope. And I think that’s what we all come together for, to create that community out there that’s going to benefit all peoples,” reflects Casey Eagle Speaker, a Gathering participant, member of the Blood Tribe of southern Alberta and a recognized Elder in the community.
One outcome of the Gathering for Suncor and participants has been a powerful new way to look at the spectrum and evolution of our shared community work, the to-for-with-of model. Funders and community partners are often in the ‘to’ or ‘for’ space, wanting to provide support ‘to’ communities or clients, or ‘for’ them to address specific needs. But to truly tackle complex community needs and bring about lasting change all players in a system – including funders and communities – need to work in the ‘with’ and ‘of’ space, the space of co-creation and going beyond themselves to something much larger.
“That’s what the Gathering is all about. We don’t know exactly what we’ll learn each time we get together, or what the impacts may be,” says Hewson. “But the space – and the trust we create there – gives us the time to imagine the possible, step into the future, and together bring forth the world we want to see.”
Collaborating on our energy future
Meeting society’s energy challenges today and tomorrow is all about making informed choices. That’s why Suncor and the 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.
Launched in 2015 with 40 Fellows, the Energy Futures Lab (EFL) is an Alberta-based, multi-sector collaboration designed to help shape Alberta’s energy future and strengthen its position and reputation as a global energy leader. Led by The Natural Step (TNS) Canada, it’s supported by four other convening organizations: the SEF, the Banff Centre, the Pembina Institute, and the Government of Alberta. The Fellows are exploring the question: How can Alberta’s leadership position in today’s energy system serve as a platform for transitioning to the energy system the future needs?
The Fellows have identified nine innovation pathways, including radical carbon efficiency in energy production, deployment of distributed renewables and smart energy communities, to focus their work in the coming years. Check out the Energy Futures Lab website to learn more about each of the pathways and the progress that’s being made.
Another SEF-supported initiative is Engineers Without Borders Canada’s Engineering Change Lab. Launched in 2015, the lab is a platform for individuals from across the engineering profession to come together and address some of the systemic challenges that have been holding back the profession’s full potential. This includes being a platform for ongoing innovation in the profession.
In the fall of 2017, the Energy Futures Lab and Engineering Change Lab, along with Innovate Calgary, came together to host Engineering Innovation for a New Energy Future; 250 leaders in engineering, innovation and energy explored the emerging opportunities for engineering and innovation to drive energy transition.
“We know we are in a period of energy transition. At the same time, by 2040 the world’s population is projected to increase from seven to nine billion and energy demands are expected to increase by nearly 30% as a result. This is the challenge of our time. How do we increase energy supply for the world while reducing carbon intensity?” asks Mike Krayacich, vice president enterprise technical, Suncor and a member of the Engineering Change Lab. “This will take all forms of energy, as well as collaborative technological and social innovation. Here in Canada – with our large resource base, history of innovation and highly skilled workforce – we are uniquely positioned to address these challenges. Working together there is great potential to do this.”
Success of Indigenous Peoples
Another example of our community investment strategy in action is our efforts to support the success of Indigenous Peoples. We have focused on four areas – reconciliation, culture, learning and leading – and have partnered with organizations that are building networks across these four streams. Find out more below, and within our social goal focus area around partnering with Aboriginal youth.
Through our partnership with Reconciliation Canada, Suncor is learning what reconciliation means in Canada and for our organization. As outlined in our social goal, Suncor has committed to changing the way we think and act in regard to our relationship with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. Reconciliation is the process of understanding and coming to terms with our shared history in order to have a vibrant community where all peoples achieve their full potential and have an opportunity to share in prosperity.
Our longtime work with Indspire includes support of the yearly Indspired Youth Experience, which brings Indigenous youth from communities near our operations to the Indspire Awards gala. This event enables youth to see role models, celebrate culture and learn from recipients. In 2017, 22 youth from communities near our operations joined Suncor team members in Ottawa for the gala and Indspired Youth Experience.
SEF also supports Indspire’s yearly National Gathering for Indigenous Education, which brings together 700-800 educators to focus on ways to support Indigenous education success, and services and supports for educators.
SEF has also been a longtime supporter of Actua and its national Indigenous outreach efforts. Actua is a Canadian charitable organization focused on preparing youth to be innovators and leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors. Through Actua’s community-focused, multi-sector approach, they are changing Aboriginal community engagement in innovative ways across Canada.
In 2017, SEF provided additional support to expand Actua’s National Indigenous Youth in STEM (InSTEM) programming. InSTEM is a customized, community-based approach to engaging First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth in locally and culturally relevant STEM education programs. These programs engage 30,000 Indigenous youth annually in over 200 communities across Canada.
Investing in social innovation
To further support the new skills and thinking needed to make progress on complex community challenges, SEF, in partnership with The Banff Centre, continued to support the four-week Getting to Maybe social innovation residency program in 2017. It brings together approximately 30 leaders from diverse corporate, government and community roles to explore ways to make communities better places to live by looking at issues through:
- systems thinking
- the environment
- Indigenous knowledge
- the creative process and arts, as a foundation for social innovation theory
The program is collaboratively designed by academic experts from the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience at the University of Waterloo and expert faculty and thought leaders from The Banff Centre and SEF.
“The Getting to Maybe program helped me explore how I can further understand and apply Indigenous environmental knowledge to current oil sands reclamation practices,” says Christine Daly, a senior advisor in sustainability and reclamation at Suncor who participated in 2017. “I’m now a PhD student learning from Indigenous knowledge holders and land users in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and working on a co-creation reclamation pilot project to connect the two knowledge systems.”
During 2017, Suncor and SEF continued to support many local initiatives in communities near our operations.
This included investing as a founding partner in the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation (WBCF) as part of Suncor marking 50 years of operations in the oil sands. The investment will help the WBCF continue its collaborative work with donors, grant committees and local charities to strengthen the community and enhance quality of life in the Wood Buffalo region.
“We’re thrilled the Suncor Energy Foundation is one of our first founding partners. This generous gift puts us well on the path to achieving our $10 million dollar fundraising target,” says Maureen Cormier Jackson WBCF founding Chair. “We will invest the donations we receive and provide grants to eligible community organizations using the interest earned from those investments. Everyone in this region will benefit from this donation for generations to come.”
Suncor is a founding supporter of this arts and engineering collaboration established in 2013 to advance understanding of science and engineering through art and culture. Besides a variety of year-round programming, Beakerhead hosts a five-day community event that “erupts” on the streets of Calgary every September.
As a long-time supporter, we proudly partner with the Suncor Boys & 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.
Takes unemployed and underemployed women and puts them through an intense pre-trades program to empower women to succeed in non-traditional careers, inspiring positive economic change for women and forever transforming the face of industry in Canada.
The Riverwood Conservancy Leaders in Environmental Achievement through Diversity and Skills (LEADS) program is a skills-based environmental education program for secondary students grounded in the Ontario secondary school curriculum.
If we want our youth to understand that 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 STEM but also provides the necessary tools to experiment and learn directly through a variety of mentors.
Sarnia’s waterfront plays an important role in bringing the community together and supporting local organizations working hard to make the community a great place to work and live. Supporting the Agora gathering space in Centennial Park was our way to help bring people together.
Seed funding to help this community-based non-profit and registered charity serve the urban Aboriginal population of St. John's.
Funding to support 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 for every hour volunteered, up to $1,000 per year. These rewards can then be donated to any charity of choice.
- SunCares rewards and grants – SEF and Suncor 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, and bereavement, humanitarian and post-secondary matching grants.
- SunCares Together we Care community giving campaign with United Way – During the 2017 campaign, more than $5 million was raised for community organizations and United Way chapters through employee donations, special events and the corporate donation provided by Suncor and SEF. Employees also volunteered nearly 55,000 hours.
In 2017, SEF launched a refreshed SunCares program to further support employee efforts in engaging with their communities and supporting causes that are important to them. This included a new online platform to make volunteering and contributing to communities easier than ever.
To encourage community engagement and use of the SunCares program, Suncor and SEF also ran a Three Things for Canada initiative in 2017. Three Things for Canada challenged Canadians to commit to doing three things for their community in 2017 in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Suncor employees in all regions were invited to share their three things for community. For sharing, employees were given $150 SunCares reward dollars they could donate to any charities of their choice. Over 1,300 employees participated and helped distribute an additional $200,000 to communities in 2017.
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 live at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.