Report on Sustainability 2018

Stakeholder and Aboriginal relations

The trust and support of stakeholders and Aboriginal communities are very important to Suncor and foundational to successful energy development.

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

We work hard to build and maintain relationships with local communities, Aboriginal Peoples and stakeholders, and meaningfully consider their issues and concerns about our operations and the effects of proposed development. This includes working together to mitigate potential environmental, economic and social impacts, and ensuring that local communities benefit from development.



have completed Aboriginal awareness web-based training since it launched in 2015



spent with Aboriginal suppliers in 2017


Petro-Canada branded retail sites

owned or leased by First Nations across Canada

Our approach

We believe 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 seek input and feedback on our activities and decisions, and encourage stakeholders and Aboriginal communities to define how they wish to be consulted.

Often, it’s simply an informal discussion. 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.

We’re also a part of multi-stakeholder forums including Ceres, a sustainability non-profit organization that works with investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions.

We also engage on issues of national interest with stakeholders, through multiple forums. Our president and CEO Steve Williams is a member of the advisory committee to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission which aims to shape policy to encourage economic activities that support mutual benefits such as job creation, investment and innovation.

As part of Suncor’s operational excellence management system, the Stakeholder Relations Framework ensures we have a consistent approach to relationships with stakeholders and Aboriginal communities, whether it is local engagement or involvement in national forums.

This framework outlines Suncor’s responsibilities and commitments, and provides a mechanism to consider the needs, interests and concerns of stakeholders and Aboriginal communities, 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 Human Rights, Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies outline our commitments and key beliefs with respect to stakeholders and the Aboriginal communities near our operations. Related policies include:

Suncor's Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies are reviewed every three years. We continue work to ensure that the policies reflect evolving societal expectations and external context, like the government’s commitment to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Suncor supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action for the corporate sector to adopt UNDRIP as a reconciliation framework for its relationship with the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. To implement this framework, Suncor is committed to meaningfully engage with communities, listen, have open dialogue about our historical relationships, and to continue to enhance relationships and achieve broad support for our projects. Suncor also continues to engage with Aboriginal thought leaders, to continue to build our knowledge and understanding on UNDRIP.

Responsibilities and commitments

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.

Suncor’s chief executive officer 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 stakeholders and to working closely with Aboriginal Peoples and communities in Canada to build and maintain effective, long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

Beyond those commitments outlined in the policies, we also have agreements with Aboriginal communities. These agreements address how we work together on a range of matters from project consultation to realizing the benefits from our industry through commercial and business opportunities, and skills/employment and training opportunities.

Integrated Aboriginal relations governance

To meet increasing 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 an integrated Aboriginal relations governance structure. The structure helps connect work across the organization.

Suncor’s Aboriginal relations governance structure is made up of three interconnected groups which each play a role in ensuring our activities are coordinated and advancing strong, co-operative relationships with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. They include:

  • a VP forum: focused on strategy – and linked to a subcommittee of Suncor’s most senior executive team
  • a network: focused on planning and implementation – links to Suncor’s work with communities and the implementation of the social goal
  • multidisciplinary teams – environment and regulatory, workforce development and business development

These groups meet regularly to ensure priorities are established and advancing. The governance structure also aids in ensuring information, approaches and best practices are shared across levels and locations.

Our approach in action

We believe relationships are best maintained through regular effort and engagement. This means being involved and part of the community, so that we can listen and engage with local stakeholders and Aboriginal community members. Examples of how we do this include:

Wetland Plant Study

In 2014, Suncor and Alberta Innovates developed a wetland plant study. The study’s goal is to find linkages between Traditional Knowledge and western science, while enhancing and strengthening Suncor's relationships with Aboriginal communities in the Athabasca oil sands region.

During the second year of the study, 12 culturally significant wetland plants were selected at a gathering held with Elders, Suncor and an environmental consultant. These learnings of traditional and culturally significant plants will assist us to develop future reclamation plans.

In July 2017, the study researchers invited Elders from various communities to join them in locating and sharing their traditional knowledge about the plants originally identified. The five-day trip involved Elders from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation.

A total of 45 Elders went out on the land to help Suncor identify and pick seeds over the duration of the trip.

“We had many successful days of collecting seeds and sharing knowledge of the traditional values of each of the plants studied for our reclamation sites,” says Kim Rizzi, community relations and economic development specialist with Suncor. “The most successful day of harvesting was at Bohn Lake where the rare cloudberry was found.”

In September, a second excursion took place with the Elders visiting the Smoky Lake Forest Nursery, where seeds were collected in the Wood Buffalo region to be grown and in turn, used by Suncor for reclamation purposes.

“I grew up in a bush life and had never been to a greenhouse before. My parents had a trapline, so when Suncor started talking about this greenhouse, I had a hard time believing it,” reflects Rita Roland, one of five Fort McKay First Nation Elders who participated in the Wetland Plant Study. “I was surprised when I finally had a chance to see the greenhouse and the work being done to reclaim the land. Suncor had been talking about the seeds they were taking from our communities and harvesting for reclamation. I never believed it until I saw it with my own eyes. I was impressed.”

Fort McKay First Nation Elder Rita Roland (right) and Suncor employee Kim Rizzi (left)
Fort McKay First Nation Elder Rita Roland (right) and Suncor employee Kim Rizzi (left).

Piloting a new way to monitor air quality

Recently, the Sarnia refinery has been participating in discussions with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and local stakeholders to explore new ways to gain a better understanding of local air quality and to minimize benzene emissions.

In February 2017, the Sarnia refinery installed 12 monitoring stations around the perimeter of the site. These monitoring stations are part of a collaborative project being led by the MOECC to measure airborne concentrations of benzene, not only from the Sarnia refinery, but also from specified sampling sites at five other industrial sites in the area.

The monitoring locations were chosen based on specific criteria and considered feedback from both the MOECC and Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which has also installed several monitoring sites throughout its community.

The air samples are collected by tubes that are switched out every two weeks. Once removed, the tubes are analyzed at an accredited lab. This is important to ensure the data collected is sound.

“The goal of this collaborative air monitoring project is to evaluate the air monitoring technology being used to ensure it will meet the needs of the project,” says Scott Odolphy, environmental advisor at the Sarnia refinery.

Perimeter monitoring is included in the MOECC’s Benzene Technical Standard, which came into effect in July 2016. The standard outlines specific maintenance and operating practices to minimize benzene emissions.

The Sarnia refinery has already taken several steps to implement these practices, including implementing an increased leak detection and repair program and conducting maintenance on a number of storage tanks as a way of reducing source benzene emissions. The data we gather will help us understand what effect our refinery’s emissions and other industrial sites participating in the project may be having on ambient air quality.

Supporting processes

Beyond direct consultation and engagement activities, several internal processes ensure that we are aware of and understand the interests and concerns of stakeholders and Aboriginal communities, and are considering those views in our operations and business planning. These processes include:

  • 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 Aboriginal communities
  • through Suncor’s Asset Development and Execution Model (ADEM), consideration for stakeholders 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 regular multi-stakeholder forum with Ceres

Evaluating the effectiveness of our engagement


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 and Aboriginal communities that may arise from direct and/or indirect impacts associated with Suncor’s operations

Beyond our policies and management system, the ongoing effectiveness of our stakeholder relations activities is monitored through several processes, including the Aboriginal Relations Governance structure and SIMP.


The way the world views energy development has fundamentally changed. Expectations are increasing, the legal and regulatory context continues to evolve and become more complex. We believe our social performance is as important as our environmental and economic performance.

In 2016, we built on the learnings from the strategic environmental performance goals established in 2009 and released our first social goal. Now we’re focused on implementation of this goal, which is aspirational, bold and designed to challenge and stretch our organization.

In 2017, Suncor was certified at a gold level in the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program. PAR is Canada’s only certification program focused on best practices in Aboriginal relations.

The certification process includes external assessment from community members of an organization’s performance in four key areas: employment, business development, community investment and community engagement. This demonstrates that our approach is having an impact and contributing to advancing reconciliation in Canada.

“The PAR program encourages companies to evolve and participate in the Aboriginal business economy across Canada,” says J.P. Gladu, president and CEO, CCAB. “Suncor has demonstrated that they are willing to put in the effort to continue learning and growing in this area. They are a role model for positive and progressive Aboriginal relations and more importantly, they have a continuous improvement philosophy and focus.”

What we are doing differently

Social goal

We’ve learned that setting goals can incent us to look differently at how we do business and work with others. It is not the work of a small group at Suncor but 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, on our social goal page.

Expanding partnerships

In 2017, Suncor signed two significant business agreements with First Nations communities. In Quebec, Suncor purchased a 41% equity interest in PetroNor, a petroleum products distributor across the James Bay and Abitibi-Témiscamingue regions that is owned and operated by the James Bay Cree.

In Alberta, Suncor, Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation purchased a 49% interest in Suncor’s East Tank Farm Development, a strategic infrastructure asset in the Wood Buffalo region.

Both of these agreements are examples of new ways for business and First Nations to work together as partners.

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. As we continue to implement our social goal, we’ll look to increase opportunities with communities and our key partners across our operations, including though the work of the Suncor Energy Foundation.

On this page
On this page
Recommended readings
Community investment
Partnering with Aboriginal businesses
Social goal