Kaleb Bedier, an advisor in Suncor’s Business and Operations Contracts team, remembers feeling nervous as employees of all levels of the organization introduced themselves at the first Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) Post-Secondary Donation Program advisory group orientation.
“I didn’t know there would be directors, general managers and senior leaders present,” says Kaleb. “During the orientation, the facilitators emphasized that everyone in the group was there to provide a valuable perspective and welcomed everyone’s opinion. They created a space everyone felt comfortable to actively listen and participate.”
The SEF Post-Secondary Donation Program provides donations to universities and colleges across Canada, and regularly receives more strong applicants than it has to budget to fund. To help make recommendations about which schools to fund, SEF involves an employee advisory group to review and assess applications from. This way of engaging employees also helps the foundation live its recently-updated strategic objectives, which include an intention to share power with more diverse voices.
Along the way, Suncor employees also get to learn about the foundation’s funding priorities and how post-secondary institutions are aligning their work to those priorities – such as developing an Indigenous-led approach to address the impacts of climate change on food security and water quality (Mohawk College)or increasing enrollment for the University of Saskatchewan’s energy security program, to enable Indigenous and northern participation in the energy transition.
“If SEF is going to do its part to fulfil Suncor’s purpose of providing trusted energy that enhances people’s lives while caring for each other and the Earth, one of the things we need to do is connect more of our work to Suncor employees,” says Kelli Stevens, Specialist, SEF and Social Innovation. “We know that complex challenges like climate change and systemic racism – two of many issues being tackled by post-secondary partners – require collaboration. We are testing out new approaches like employee advisory groups to increase the ways we collaborate within Suncor and across multiple sectors.”
Back to Kaleb, he is a new grad completing his final rotation at Suncor. Having received support from his professors and student services during his time at Mount Royal University, he was keen to give back to the post-secondary community and applied to be a part of the advisory group.
“I think the younger employees who recently completed university were able to lend a fresh perspective that complemented the experience and wisdom of the more senior members,” reflects Kaleb. “In the end, the final recommendation about which post-secondary institutions to fund was thoughtful and well-rounded because everyone contributed. I really enjoyed that.”
The SEF Board of Directors agreed, approving all nine recommendations from Kaleb and his fellow group members.
“I learned a lot from the whole process,” says Kaleb. “I learned about different programs within Canadian post-secondary institutions, and I learned about some of the work that goes on at Suncor. It has been one of the highlights of my time working here.”
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