Sustainability Management

We are commited to responsible and sustainable development of the Syncrude Joint Venture's oil sands leases.

Our Approach

We are committed to responsible and sustainable development of the Syncrude Joint Venture’s oil sands leases. Toward achieving this outcome, we are guided by a number of inputs, including:


  • Corporate Vision and Values
  • Code of Ethics and Business Conduct Policies
  • Syncrude Joint Venture Participants
  • Board of Directors Safety, Health, Environment and Corporate Sustainability Committee
  • Material risk analyses
  • Corporate management systems – Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS), Global Reliability System (GRS) and Controls Integrity Management System (CIMS).
  • Safety, Health and Environment Policy
  • Research and development program
  • Performance-based compensation


  • Laws, government policy and regulations
  • Expectations of Aboriginal Communities of Interest (COI) and stakeholders
  • Community advisory panel feedback
  • Independent environmental monitoring programs
  • Industry collaboration, representation and best practice

More information and highlights related to these inputs are featured in this chapter and referenced throughout the report.

Code of Ethics and Business Conduct

Internal and external stakeholders expect Syncrude to conduct our business with the highest ethical standards. This is guided though our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct Policies, which cover such areas as conflict of interest, treatment of employees and security.

All employees are required to review our policies upon hire and every four years thereafter. Employees receive an annual letter from the CEO as a reminder of these policies. All employees also must sign a certification stating they understand the policies – Administrative, Professional and Technical employees certify annually based on their increased exposure to potential external situations and Occupational employees certify every four years.

In addition to internal processes, an external system is in place through EthicsPoint for the anonymous and confidential reporting of concerns about corporate conduct. This is available to employees, suppliers, communities of interest and other members of the public. Information on how to report is available internally to all staff and to the public through Syncrude’s external website. In 2016, 11 submissions (via phone or email) were received by EthicsPoint, of which none led to a confirmed breach of company ethics or business conduct.

Employee Performance-Based Compensation

Variable short- and long-term incentive pay for all Syncrude employees is tied to the achievement of certain corporate metrics. This includes factors relating to production, cost, safety and sustainability, such as events with significant environmental or public impact.

Regulatory Oversight

Syncrude is subject to numerous federal and provincial regulations, many of which are referred to in related chapters throughout this report. Syncrude currently has all approvals needed to operate.

Environmental compliance is primarily governed by the Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. It imposes specific environmental requirements upon Syncrude and, in certain instances, also imposes significant penalties for violations. Additional regulatory oversight was introduced in 2012 through the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP).

Currently, the Government of Alberta is developing a regional Landscape Management Plan (LMP) for the Lower Athabasca Region. This plan is expected to provide strategies and guidelines for reducing the extent and duration of human footprint in support of the objectives identified through the Biodiversity Management Framework (BMF), LARP and other relevant policy and planning initiatives. The LMP and BMF are still under development. Syncrude is participating in workshops and providing feedback, as requested by government, on these drafts.

Environmental Monitoring Programs

The Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) was the agency established in 2012 to implement and manage the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program (JOSM). AEMERA was disbanded in 2016 by the Alberta government, and its operations were integrated into those of Alberta Environment and Parks Science and Monitoring Division. Syncrude provides funding to support JOSM initiatives in the region.

Industry Best Practices

Syncrude participates in a number of industry associations committed to responsible development of Canada’s natural resources, and improving both performance and transparency. These include:

Mining Association of Canada – Towards Sustainable Mining

As a member of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), Syncrude participates in the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative. TSM is a set of guiding principles and performance indicators that govern key activities of companies in the mining and mineral-processing industry. Developed in collaboration with communities of interest and key stakeholders, these principles are mandated across MAC members and are reflected throughout Syncrude’s management systems.

Specific measurement criteria are established in protocols for tailings management, energy and greenhouse gas emissions management, Aboriginal and community outreach, crisis management and communications planning, safety and health, and biodiversity conservation. In addition, a Mine Closure Framework has been adopted and a water protocol is under development.

Protocols are self-assessed using a bond-like rating system (C, B, A, AA, AAA) and reported annually. Every three years, assessments are externally verified to ensure accuracy and transparency. Syncrude underwent an external verification for the 2016 reporting year and was confirmed to have high performance in all areas. However, we did not meet our performance targets for energy and greenhouse gas emissions, or for safety and health. More details on TSM and the 2016 external verification can be found in relevant chapters of this report, and on the TSM website.

In addition, a senior Syncrude executive is actively engaged on the TSM Communities of Interest (COI) Advisory Panel, which is comprised of representatives from Indigenous, environmental and social NGOs, labour and financial organizations, and industry. The COI panel provides a forum for all parties to discuss mutual issues of concern and to provide guidance and feedback on the TSM program.

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business – Progressive Aboriginal Relations

The Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program is Canada’s only certification program with an exclusive focus on Aboriginal relations. It was developed as a framework for companies to measure progress on developing progressive Aboriginal relations and considers corporate efforts in employment, business development, building individual capacity and enhancing relations with communities. Certification includes independent verification and review by a jury composed of Indigenous business people. Syncrude holds top level Gold PAR distinction, and has been certified at this level six consecutive times. More information can be found here.

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)

Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is a partnership amongst producers focused on improving environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands industry through collaborative research and technology development. It brings together industry, government, academia and the wider public to improve measurement, accountability and performance in four Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs) – tailings, water, land and greenhouse gases. To date, more than 900 distinct technologies and innovations – worth over $1.3 billion in development costs – have been shared amongst members. More information on COSIA can be found here.

Other Strategic Partners

Syncrude is also an active participant with other organizations working to address and improve the economic, environmental and social performance of Canada’s natural resources sector. These include: