Social innovation

A group photo of participants at SevenGen’s Innovation Jam- a Suncor Energy Foundation supported intiative for youth innovation.

We all have a role to play in creating our future. Moving forward requires deep conversations – with governments, community members and industry partners, among others. These conversations reinforce what we all want – good quality of life, a healthy environment and vibrant communities. By considering and working with whole systems, there’s opportunity to transform ourselves, our organizations and society.

For us, "social innovation" is any initiative, product, or process that challenges or changes society’s thoughts, beliefs or actions. It provides the opportunity to consider and work with a whole system on issues that cannot be addressed by one sector alone. We believe that social innovation is one way we can transform ourselves, our organizations and ultimately society in service of positive systems change.

As a part of the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) strategy, Suncor and SEF work with others to build and maintain the social innovation ecosystem in Canada. We help bring social innovation into Suncor, use its tools and processes to design and deliver programs, -and to evaluate our collective work.

Some examples of initiatives that have come about through our social innovation efforts include:

Post-secondary program

We know post-secondary institutions are being challenged to serve society’s complex needs, and that systemic barriers affect students’ opportunities to attend post-secondary institutions. These barriers affect a variety of people, including Indigenous communities.

Our Driving Innovation and Reducing Barriers donation program for Canadian post-secondary institutions aims to reduce or eliminate the barriers to participation for students and community members while supporting society in moving toward a more fair and sustainable economic system.

Apply for post-secondary funding online

Post-secondary program overview

(PDF, 360 KB)
David Leoni, an environmental engineering student from the University of Waterloo who received assistance from Suncor’s post-secondary donation program in 2021.
Ontario-based David Leoni, an environmental engineering student at the University of Waterloo benefited from the post-secondary donation program in 2021.

The Gathering

Working toward sustainable communities that are adaptable and offer personal and collective well-being takes the effort of many voices, with a variety of perspectives and experiences.

The Gathering is an event that brings together people from charitable organizations, non-profits, thought leaders, Indigenous communities, and Suncor to focus on ways we can collectively care for each other and the Earth. It supports participants to explore complex social issues that require collaboration to make progress and see lasting community change.

SEF co-hosts several small-scale Gatherings across Canada each year, focused on specific topics of interest (as determined by community members and co-hosts), as well as larger Gatherings to learn from the themes and common objectives uncovered at the smaller sessions. These Gatherings provide a forum for diverse networks to:

  • connect existing work and initiatives
  • take a system-wide view
  • explore a variety of perspectives
  • strengthen partnerships

If you have an idea for a Gathering to be co-hosted with SEF, please contact us at

A picture of a 2021 invite to a Suncor Energy Foundation gathering for those in the eastern time zones.
Invitation to the 2021 Gathering hosted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social finance

Social finance includes ways of lending and investment into social enterprises, charities, and other impact-focused organizations that deliver a social dividend and economic return.

In 2019, SEF began a three-year partnership with Community Foundations of Canada (CFC). The partnership is expected to help CFC expand their pilot project work and share their learnings with other foundations. Along the way, Suncor and SEF aim to learn more about social finance by participating in CFC’s work with the goal of advancing new, community-led, multi-sector approaches to raising money and deploying it where needed to support social good.