Our Sustainability Path

Our sustainability path reflects our commitment to responsible development of the oil sands resource. We are guided by our corporate Vision & Values, below, which speak to how we operate and the principled and ethical approach toward achieving our goals:

Securing Canada’s Energy Future with

  • The vision to lead,
  • The knowledge to succeed,
  • The commitment to do better,
  • and The heart to win the race

We will do this by:

  • Encouraging learning and innovation in everything we do,
  • Pushing the limits of what technology can accomplish,
  • and Working together to make Syncrude the best place to work

In this way we will be:

  • Safe, reliable, responsible and profitable,
  • and All of our stakeholders will want to invest in our future

Assessing Our Material Sustainability Risks

Sustainability strategies are informed through independent analyses of material issues which are assessed on the level of interest or concern to stakeholders and their potential consequences to our business now and in the future. Results form the basis of a materiality risk matrix which is then stewarded through the Syncrude Board of Directors Safety, Health, Environment and Corporate Sustainability Committee. A detailed reassessment every three years helps to identify trends, ensure proper business focus and evaluate performance.

As of 2015, high priority issues were identified as Land and Biodiversity, Tailings Management, Water, Aboriginal Relations, and Regulatory and Government Relations, with medium issues as Climate Change, Community Sustainability, Employment and Labour Supply. (Note: As part of the three-year cycle, a reassessment was completed in early 2016; all high priority issues remained the same with the addition of climate change, which will be reflected in the 2016 report.)

Materiality Risk Matrix

Community Advisory Panel

Community advisory panels are convened to seek input on Syncrude’s performance and sustainability reporting. The most recent panel occurred in 2013. Please refer to the 2014 report for an overview and the feedback received. (Note: a community advisory panel meeting was held in early 2016 which will be discussed in next year’s reporting.)

Corporate Performance Overview

Our material risk analysis and community advisory panels provide the basis for the structure and content of Syncrude’s sustainability report. High priority short- and long-term goals, 2015 results and ongoing actions are reviewed in the table below. Greater detail, as well as progress on medium and low priority risks, is provided throughout the report in relevant chapters.

Land and Biodiversity

Material Issue

Return disturbed land to a healthy, productive condition, while meeting evolving expectations, standards and regulations to ensure and protect biodiversity

  • Continued reclamation of former mining land; 75 hectares in 2015
  • Ensure integrity and effectiveness of waterfowl deterrent system
  • Monitor impacts to species adjacent to operations and on reclaimed land
2015 Results
  • 54 hectares reclaimed and 272,000 seedlings planted
  • Early peat formation in reclaimed fen wetland
  • 51 avian mortalities related to oiling; improved monitoring procedures being implemented
  • Over 2,200 birds captured and released at eight monitoring stations
Ongoing Actions
  • Assess exposure to potential federal Species at Risk regulatory changes
  • Support biodiversity and reclamation research studies independently and through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Continued monitoring of wildlife presence on reclaimed areas


Material Issue

Ability to remediate tailings and address shared business and stakeholder concerns regarding long-term liabilities.

  • Achieve 50% fine capture at Mildred Lake and Aurora sites in 2015
  • Manage volumes of fluid fine tailings (FFT) by using new technologies, including start-up of full-scale centrifuge plant in 2015
  • Continue research of additional remediation technologies
2015 Results
  • 51% fines capture at Mildred Lake; 53.5% at Aurora
  • Successful start-up of $1.9 billion tailings centrifuge project
  • Over 60 active tailings-related projects underway through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
Ongoing Actions
  • Meet recently enhanced regulatory requirements for tailings management
  • Manage volumes of fluid fine tailings (FFT) through research, development and implementation of new technologies
  • Continued collaborative research through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)


Material Issue

Continued access to and protection of regional water resource.

  • Reduced fresh water use: 40.7 million m3 and 2.35 barrels water per barrel crude oil produced in 2015
  • Develop broad water strategy to address operational, regulatory and stakeholder risks
  • No spills to the environment
2015 Results
  • 37.6 million m3 withdrawal from Athabasca River; 2.57 barrels water per barrel crude oil produced
  • Actions underway to improve water use; condensate stripper construction completed, saving 500,000 m3 per year
  • No spills to regional water bodies, creeks or river systems
Ongoing Actions
  • Achieve overall net water use reduction of five million m3 over next several years
  • Continue to research viable treatment technologies for water re-use or safe return to the environment
  • Support science-based water quality monitoring

Aboriginal Relations

Material Issue

Relationship-building and effective management of issues of concern.

  • Identify procurement opportunities for Aboriginal businesses
  • Continue to recruit and retain qualified Aboriginal employees
  • Continued and effective consultation with First Nations and Métis Locals on operations and future development plans and Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs)
  • Continued health, education and quality-of-life investments in Aboriginal communities
2015 Results
  • $198.5 million in Aboriginal procurement and over $2.4 billion cumulative to date
  • 9.4% Aboriginal workforce representation, highest in 10 years
  • Consultations continued on Mildred Lake mine extension project (MLX) and statements of concern received
  • Over $1 million invested in Aboriginal community projects and initiatives
Ongoing Actions
  • Continue focus on six key commitment areas of our Aboriginal Relations program: Corporate Leadership, Employment, Business Development, Education, Community Development, and Environment
  • Continue consultation on MLX, address statements of concern, identify IBA opportunities, and incorporate Traditional Land Use studies and Traditional Environmental Knowledge

Regulatory and Government Relations

Material Issue

Understanding government expectations and regulatory requirements impacting development.

  • Continued active engagement on policy and regulatory issues affecting operations and future development
  • Continue to execute consultation related to regulatory application for MLX project
2015 Results
  • Executive and senior management representation on key industry associations (e.g. Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers)
  • Regulatory and Environmental Impact Assessment applications submitted to Alberta Energy Regulator
Ongoing Actions
  • Continued consultation and engagement on MLX regulatory application
  • Continue to monitor and assess possible future regulatory enhancements and expectations related to reclamation, tailings management and water return

About This Report

This report is a comprehensive discussion of the environmental, social and economic impacts of Syncrude’s business activities during 2015. The report is published on a biennial cycle, with an interim update. The 2015 report has been informed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

More information about Syncrude and access to past reports can also be found on our website.