Our relationships with Indigenous communities over the past 50 years has been a journey. We have learned so much along the way and know that earning the trust and respect of Indigenous Peoples and communities are fundamental to strengthening our relationships, our organization and our business.
We launched our first long-term social goal in 2015. This goal was focused on strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples. In 2021, we evolved our social goal into the ‘Journey of Reconciliation,’ acknowledging that we are on a continual journey with no end. Through this journey, we are progressing the way we think and act to build mutual trust and respect with Indigenous Peoples.
We are living the Journey of Reconciliation in a meaningful way by continuing to learn about Indigenous culture, history and lived experiences and challenging ourselves to think and act differently. We are having deeper discussions about what reconciliation means on a personal level and for our organization, reflecting on the actions we can take as leaders and employees to move forward in the right way. With honesty, integrity and respect, we will continue to grow our relationships with Indigenous Peoples and explore ways we can partner together.
By blending numerical metrics with storytelling, we hope to provide a more complete picture of the impact of our journey and the progress we are making.
Reconciliation is a journey that will involve hard work and some uncomfortable reflections, but a necessary one. It will require us to further foster a culture of inclusion, humility and a willingness to shift our mindsets and behaviours. Based on what we learn along the way, we will continue to evolve our approach. There is a lot of work ahead of us, and through collaboration with Indigenous communities, our partners, and employees, we know we can move in the right direction together.
Our work in this journey is shaped by four areas of focus:
Valuing Indigenous worldviews
Valuing Indigenous worldviews begins with developing an understanding of the rich culture and history of Indigenous Peoples through training and experiential learning opportunities, but it is deeper than that. It is also about listening to Indigenous perspectives and reflecting Indigenous knowledge in what we do, where appropriate.
Suncor has offered Indigenous awareness training to employees since 2011 and our training has evolved since then. By the end of 2021, more than 10,000 people across the company have completed our web-based training. Our facilitated training, called Canada’s History with Indigenous Peoples, takes learners through a powerful and moving interactive discussion. We also honour Indigenous culture and history through celebrations, participation in special ceremonies and by offering immersive learning experiences in the community and on the land.
Indigenous Peoples have a deep spiritual and cultural connection with the Earth and hold the worldview that everything from the sea to the sky is connected. It is through this worldview that we are learning and reflecting on ways to integrate Indigenous knowledge into aspects of our work. Whether through consultation, collaboration on environmental matters, or participation in advisory groups with Indigenous Elders and community members, we value Indigenous Peoples’ deep knowledge and perspectives that encourage us to approach our work in new ways.
Partnering with Indigenous businesses and communities
Partnerships start with honest and respectful relationship-building to get to know one another and understand common interests and mutual benefit. We know communities have different priorities and we will take the time to listen and understand what they are.
Since 2017, Suncor has announced three equity partnerships with First Nation and Métis communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta and the James Bay region in Quebec. These long-term partnerships are an important step towards economic reconciliation and shared prosperity. They are examples of how working together, with respect and trust, creates mutual benefit.
When it comes to our supply chain, our Indigenous Business Participation Strategy supports sourcing goods and services from Indigenous businesses across the company. Working with local Indigenous businesses provides close and reliable talent and services. It also supports Indigenous businesses to invest revenues back into their communities.
For more information on Indigenous business participation in our supply chain, please contact the team at SCM-Sustainability@suncor.com.
In 2021, Suncor and Syncrude spent a combined $2.4 billion with Indigenous suppliers, representing 18% of total spend on the procurement of materials and services. We know it’s about more than the dollars spent, it’s also about a focus on employment and understanding the effect on communities. We have moved away from spending targets and instead, approach working with Indigenous suppliers to be just the way we do business – a standard versus a goal.
Our work with Indigenous communities also remains strong through our Petro-Canada™ business. We have 61 Petro-Canada™ branded retail stations and wholesale marketing arrangements with First Nation and Métis communities. Not only do the retail stations service the community but, in some instances, they have become a gathering place where community members connect and learn about what’s happening in their community.
Strengthening Indigenous workforce and inclusion
We are focused on contributing to improving the participation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s workforce by strategically partnering in the development, attraction, employment, inclusion and retention of Indigenous Peoples within our company.
This means creating an inclusive and equitable workplace where Indigenous employees feel valued and respected, while also contributing to the future Indigenous workforce through partnerships, programs and community engagements. This helps us to attract and retain Indigenous employees who want to build meaningful careers and brings different perspectives to our work and new ways of thinking.
Suncor, and through the integration with Syncrude, has over 900 Indigenous employees. That means approximately 5% of our workforce is of Indigenous representation, based on voluntary self-identification. We also work with our vendors, suppliers and contractors to grow their Indigenous workforces.
Our Indigenous Employee Mentorship program connects Indigenous employees with mentors in the company. This program supports career coaching and an inclusive and positive experience for Indigenous employees, while providing reverse mentoring opportunities for mentors seeking to increase their knowledge of Indigenous culture and experiences.
An integral part of Indigenous inclusion is Journeys, Suncor’s first employee network, which continues to play an important role in supporting Indigenous employees to feel a sense of safety, pride and belonging within the company. Journeys has been pivotal in creating deep connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employees and contractors. They host numerous events and cultural experiences throughout the year, including medicine harvests, sharing circles and Indigenous Awareness Week events, inspiring employees to learn and reflect on their role in reconciliation.
Partnering with Indigenous youth
Partnering with Indigenous youth is about making meaningful connections to support young leaders and provide learning opportunities for Suncor. We value the wisdom that today’s young leaders bring and the power of their voices. We partner with them in many ways including the Indigenous Youth Advisory Council and the Indigenous Student Program.
The Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (IYAC) works with various teams within Suncor and the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF), including senior leaders, to listen, share, reflect and act on issues of mutual interest that are affecting Indigenous communities and the lives of Indigenous youth. Young Indigenous leaders are supported to develop their leadership potential while advising Suncor and SEF on important matters, including how Suncor honours the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The IYAC Mentorship Program was formed in 2021. The program focuses on reciprocal two-way mentorship between members of the SEF board and IYAC to support one-on-one human connections that are foundational to strengthening relationships.
We believe that gaining real-life work experience when in school should be within reach for everyone. Knowing that Indigenous students have less opportunities to access work placements than non-Indigenous students, our Indigenous Student Program aims to help bridge that gap.
Our Indigenous student program, which has been running since 2015, is more than just a work term; it gives Indigenous post-secondary students the chance to gain practical work experience within Suncor’s operations across Canada, while bringing fresh perspectives into the organization. In its early days, the program placed eight Indigenous students at Suncor’s Base Plant in Northern Alberta. Now, the program has grown to include positions that have spanned across Suncor’s Canadian operations – from Burnaby, B.C. to St John’s, Nfld.
* Suncor has started to transition its language from “Aboriginal” to “Indigenous” based on consultations with employees and Indigenous communities. Some references still require updates, including the Aboriginal Awareness web-based training.