Report on Sustainability 2019

Strengthening relationships

Strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians, starting within Suncor.
An attendee at the Indspire event in Calgary
An attendee at the Indspire event in Calgary

We can do more to learn about the history and experiences of Indigenous Peoples, so we can better understand one another and change the way we think and act.

We commit to providing our employees with training and opportunities to participate in cultural experiences. We aim to measure changes in understanding and behaviours – within Suncor and through the work of the Suncor Energy Foundation’s key partners like Indspire, Bridges Social Development and Reconciliation Canada.

Supporting initiatives

Strengthening relationships is a priority for Suncor, and we have designed many supporting initiatives to enable our employees along the way. We’re focusing on four key areas:

  1. Increasing awareness
  2. Building understanding
  3. Shifting attitudes
  4. Changing behaviours

Aboriginal awareness training

Aboriginal awareness training is a key way we’re enabling every employee at Suncor to learn more about the history and experience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Since 2015, Suncor has offered a web-based training module to ensure every employee can have a basic level of awareness about the history and experiences of Indigenous Peoples. We developed our training with input and guidance from partners such as Reconciliation Canada and our own Indigenous employees. The training features their stories and perspectives, which has made the information and messages more relatable.

By the end of 2018, 95% of all employees at a director level and above, and 56% of employees company-wide, had completed Aboriginal awareness web-based training. Additionally, 40% more employees completed the training in 2018 as compared to 2017.

After requests from Suncor employees and a number of community partners who wanted to share the training within their organizations, we made the web-based training module broadly available (free of charge) on in the spring of 2017.

We also offer a more comprehensive classroom session for employees that expands on the awareness created through the web-based training. It builds understanding about the historic and current relationship between Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians through storytelling and meaningful discussion. In 2018 more than 1,100 employees participated in classroom training.

Employees who’ve taken the training have given some great feedback. A participant in the Introduction to Aboriginal awareness classroom training reflected “I always thought I had an understanding of the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. After today, I now know there is so much I do not know.”

Aboriginal Employee Network

Suncor’s Aboriginal Employee Network (AEN), now known as Journeys, is our employee resource group that supports advancing Indigenous inclusion at Suncor. With more than 700 members, the network is structured around four focus areas called circles.

The Aboriginal Awareness Circle specifically supports cross-cultural sharing by increasing awareness and understanding of Indigenous experiences within Suncor. For instance, the AEN distributes a regular e-newsletter and shares cultural insights, maintains a page on Suncor’s intranet that highlights a wide variety of topical resources (books, movies, websites, music and podcasts), and hosts lunch and learn sessions.

AEN ambassadors also attend cultural and community events. In 2018, this included the Indspired Youth Experience and awards and gala in Winnipeg, the Calgary Folk Fest where Suncor sponsors the Great Spirits Indigenous program, and pow wows and Treaty Days throughout areas where Suncor operates.

The AEN recently introduced a series of cultural insight slide decks company-wide covering various topics, including the significance of medicine wheels, smudging ceremonies, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. These are being used by employees in a variety of ways, including sharing knowledge at the beginning of meetings.

It opens up conversations, breaks stereotypes and increases people’s comfort to ask questions. This is an opportunity for everyone to promote Indigenous awareness and inclusion across the company; I call them ‘reconcili-actions'.
Shantel Stotschek
Contracts systems administrator at Suncor and member of the AEN

Cultural learning opportunities

We are creating opportunities for employees across Suncor to participate in cultural learning experiences. These experiences enable direct engagement and cultural exchange between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

We are working with partners, including those who manage Suncor offices and facilities, to establish policies that allow for the incorporation of Indigenous ceremonies and cultural events on our premises. This includes work with Brookfield on a new smudging and pipe ceremony policy in our Calgary office.

In early August 2018, Suncor and the Fort Chipewyan Métis partnered to offer approximately 20 Suncor leaders in the Wood Buffalo region an opportunity to visit the community and participate in a fishing day.

“For me it provided a much clearer understanding of the challenges the community faces due to its remoteness – things like food, housing and education that many of us take for granted,” reflected Stephen Young, a project director at Suncor. “I also gained a better understanding of the concerns of oil sands development and the impacts it can have on their community.”

For a number of years we have also regularly offered Rediscovery’s First Contact activity to leaders and employees.

This cross-cultural learning opportunity is a way of experiencing how different values, customs and social traditions can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, particularly during first contact between peoples.

Brent Janke, senior vice president of regional services at Suncor, shared, “It was an emotionally powerful event and experience. It dispelled myths and answered questions, and also showed it’s possible for peoples who have dramatically different experiences to come together and chart a path to understanding. It was an opportunity to connect as human beings, and build community.”

In 2018, we introduced another cultural experience, the KAIROS Blanket Exercise.

The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is a unique, interactive and participatory history lesson developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators. It covers more than 500 years in a 90-minute experiential workshop that aims to foster understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

It was incredibly emotive, gave me more empathy and the moving on and around the blankets helped to make it real. I feel I entered with a good foundation and understanding of the history, and there was still so much I learned.
Jodi Drake
Human Resources director at Suncor

Measuring our progress

We’re measuring culture shifts in a number of ways along the journey. One way to measure awareness building and changing attitudes is through the number of participants attending the online and classroom-based Indigenous awareness training.

Conducting pre and post-surveys gives us an understanding of changes in thinking. We’re also starting to use developmental evaluation frameworks to assess the effectiveness of our work, to look for shifts in perception, attitudes and behaviours, as well as identify emerging opportunities.

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Recommended readings
Our social goal
Partnering with Indigenous businesses
Community investments