Report on Sustainability 2019

Stakeholder and Indigenous relations

The trust and support of stakeholders and Indigenous communities are valuable to Suncor and foundational to successful energy development.
Employees and members from seven local Indigenous community planting several culturally significant plants
Employees and members from seven local Indigenous community took part planting several culturally significant plants species (sweetgrass, ratroot, sweet gale and several grasses) at Suncor’s Lake Miwasin.

Stakeholders and Indigenous 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
  • trappers
  • governments
  • 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, Indigenous 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 social, environmental, and economic impacts, and ensuring that local communities benefit from development.



participated in a cultural experience



spent on direct purchases from Indigenous businesses in 2018


Petro-Canada branded retail sites

owned and operated by First Nations across Canada

Our approach

Those affected by Suncor’s business have a right to be informed about our activities, participate in a transparent engagement process and be involved where the issues and opportunities affect them. Input and feedback on our activities and decisions are necessary and stakeholders and Indigenous communities are asked how they wish to be consulted.

Relationship building and authentic discussion are essential, as well as more formal engagement or consultation processes. For example, we regularly take part in community advisory meetings with several Indigenous communities.

Participating in multi-stakeholder forums and engaging on issues of national interest are also vital. This includes work with Ceres, a sustainability non-profit organization that works with investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions. We also contribute 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 (OEMS), we have tools and frameworks to align us in using a consistent approach to relationships with stakeholders and Indigenous communities, whether it is local engagement or involvement in national forums.

These tools and frameworks outline Suncor’s responsibilities and commitments, and provide a mechanism for us to consider the needs, interests and concerns of stakeholders and Indigenous communities, and to incorporate them into our business decisions. They are implemented via standards and guidelines and are 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 Indigenous communities near our operations. Other related policies include:

Suncor's Stakeholder Relations and Canadian Aboriginal Relations policies are reviewed every three years to incorporate learnings and reflect evolving societal expectations and external context.

Suncor supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action for the corporate sector to adopt United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a framework for its relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. To implement this framework, Suncor is committed to meaningfully engage with communities, listen, have open dialogue about our historical relationships and deepen relationships. We also engage with Indigenous thought leaders, in efforts 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 policies outline our commitment to authentic, meaningful relationships with stakeholders and Indigenous Peoples and communities in Canada. Building and maintaining long-term and mutually beneficial relationships is at the core of these policies.

Beyond commitments outlined in the policies, we also have agreements with Indigenous communities near our operations. 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, as well as supporting skills/employment and training programs.

Integrated Indigenous relations governance

We recognize the need to embed our approach to stakeholder and Indigenous relations across the organization. One of the ways we’re doing this is through an integrated Indigenous relations governance structure. The structure helps connect work across the organization.

Suncor’s Indigenous 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 Indigenous Peoples in Canada. They include:

  • VP forum: focused on strategy and linked to a subcommittee of Suncor’s most senior executive team
  • network: focused on planning and implementation and linked 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 open communication, authentic engagement and being involved in and part of community. This allows us to listen and engage with local stakeholders and Indigenous community members.

Lake Miwasin

Reclamation and closure isn’t just about returning the land, but doing so in a way that considers the concerns and knowledge of the local communities that will use the land. Lake Miwasin (previously referred to as demonstration pit lake), represents a collaborative effort with seven local Indigenous communities in the Wood Buffalo area and another step change on our reclamation and closure journey.

Lake Miwasin is part of our closure technology development program that is designed to ensure we can successfully reclaim mine sites. This project incorporated the permanent aquatic storage structure (PASS) fluid tailings treatment process as the first step to establish a lake capable of supporting a full ecosystem of aquatic life.

During the planning phases and throughout implementation we engaged with local Indigenous communities.

An Indigenous engagement workshop, held in April 2018, provided the group of Elders, community members and technical reviewers a chance to learn more about Suncor’s tailings treatment and closure technologies, as well as the opportunity to provide input into the program.

In August 2018, Indigenous Elders and Suncor’s Indigenous co-op and summer students participated in planting vegetation around the lakeshore. The planting list included culturally-significant plants, such as ratroot, sweetgrass and sweet gale, recommended by Indigenous elders and knowledge holders through the Suncor-sponsored Culturally Significant Wetland Plant Study. This was an opportunity for Indigenous communities to see how their input is improving reclamation outcomes, to continue sharing knowledge about the species being planted, and to see progress.

In May 2019, members of the First Nations and Metis community were invited for the Lake Miwasin / Constructed Wetland Treatment System workshop. The workshop provided an opportunity for additional community input on the proposed research and monitoring projects for the community led monitoring (CLM) program for the Lake Miwasin project.

A community member, Seth Kragnes, an Indigenous student at Sister Mary Phillips School in Fort McMurray, also selected the name of the lake through a naming contest. ‘Miwasin’ means ‘nice/beautiful’ in Cree.

In the coming year, the constructed wetland treatment system will be fully constructed and will work alongside Lake Miwasin in treating the water, so that we can study the potential for returning water back to the environment.

The project team also hit the spotlight after being announced as our first-ever Spirit Award recipient at Suncor’s 2018 President's Operational Excellence Awards (POEA).

The award was designed to reflect the heart of operational excellence, key behaviours, values and culture that we want to foster at Suncor. Mark Little, president and chief executive officer, had the honour of presenting this award.

“The project has shown a deep level of cross-functional collaboration, and introduced a step change in how we work with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders,” explained Mark at the POEA gala. “They demonstrated excellent stewardship of Suncor resources and transparency, and achieved great project results overall.”

New ways of engaging in Sarnia

In 2018, we continued to look for new ways to engage and work differently with communities near our Sarnia refinery, including the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

The Aamjiwnaang Environment Department was fully engaged in the development of a remediation project. Their input directly influenced aspects of the work, including air quality management and species-at-risk plans. That project is now fully implemented and progressing well.

“In the Aamjiwnaang community, relationships are foremost. Each year the community holds the ‘Circle of Aamjiwnaang’, where neighbours reaffirm their commitment to caring for and protecting each other,” says Sharilyn Johnston, environment coordinator with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

As neighbours with the Suncor Sarnia refinery, we feel that increased involvement and collaboration on projects, plus the involvement of refinery staff at community events and functions, strengthens that relationship and adds Suncor to that Circle of Aamjiwnaang. We know Suncor understands what it means to be part of the community.
Sharilyn Johnston
Environment coordinator with the Aamjiwnaang First Nation

We also came together to develop a work plan that is aligned with the annual priorities set out by Chief and Council, including shoreline softening efforts, development of a traditional medicine garden, and establishing a fund for entrepreneurs in the Aamjiwnaang community.

We look for opportunities to engage in the Sarnia community meaningfully, where we can both sponsor initiatives and support our employees to get involved. Examples include the annual Earth Day community clean up and Little Native Hockey League tournament that Aamjiwnaang hosted in Mississauga this year.

By remaining focused on community needs and priorities, we have been able to increase collaboration and strengthen relationships, creating more opportunities to work together and make positive community changes.

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 Indigenous communities, and are considering those views in our operations and business planning. These processes include:

  • our strategic issues management process (SIMP), which works to proactively identify, monitor and manage key environmental, economic and social issues considered most critical to Suncor, stakeholders and Indigenous communities
  • Suncor’s Asset Development and Execution Model (ADEM), where consideration for stakeholders and Indigenous 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 which identifies key issues of concern for stakeholders and Indigenous 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 OEMS, the Stakeholder Relations Framework includes:

  • guidelines and processes to ensure 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 Indigenous communities that may arise from direct and/or indirect impacts associated with Suncor’s operations

Beyond our policies and management system, we monitor the evolvement of our stakeholder relations activities using several processes, including the Indigenous Relations Governance structure and SIMP.


The way the world views energy development has fundamentally changed. Expectations are increasing, and 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. Since then we’ve been focused on implementing this goal meaningfully, which is aspirational, bold and designed to challenge and stretch our organization, culture and behavior.

Suncor is also 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.

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.
J.P. Gladu
President and CEO, CCAB

What we are doing differently

Social goal

Setting goals is one way to motivate us to look differently at how we do business and work with others. Another way, is to reflect and encourage positive changes to the way we think and act to increase the participation of Indigenous Peoples in energy development. It is not the work of a small group at Suncor but the work of all of us.

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 through the work of the Suncor Energy Foundation.

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