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 key 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.

A 2016 reassessment reaffirmed all previous high priority issues – Land and Biodiversity, Tailings Management, Water, Aboriginal Relations, and Regulatory and Government Relations – with the addition of Climate Change.

Priority Chart

Community Advisory Panel

Syncrude convened a Community Advisory Panel (CAP) in early 2016 comprised of local stakeholders to gather input on our sustainability (environmental, social and economic) plans, performance and practices. Feedback was also sought on our community investment strategy and where investments within key areas might best align with community interests and needs. In addition, we sought input on a range of broader socio-economic issues, such as local supply chain and Aboriginal business development, as well as feedback on the company’s engagement practices, and whether we are achieving the right level of dialogue with local stakeholders and what could be improved. Candid views of the company’s overall sustainability performance were also welcomed to help drive improvements across the organization.

The Panel was comprised of the following stakeholder participants:

  • Annette Antoniak, CEO, Regional Recreation Corporation
  • Tyrone Brass, Secretary/Treasurer, Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association
  • Susanne Chaffey, Executive Director, Northern Lights Health Foundation
  • Harry Cheecham, Land Use Manager, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation
  • Bryce Kumka, Treasurer, Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce
  • Muhammad Rizwan, volunteer, Markaz-Ul-Islam Mosque
  • Alan Roberts, Director, Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre
  • Dr. Brenda Sautner, Associate Superintendent of Education and Administration, Fort McMurray Public Schools
  • Rob Welte, Syncrude Heavy Equipment Technician
  • Dennis Vroom, Manager, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Industry Relations

A number of Syncrude executive and senior management representatives were also in attendance.

Overall, CAP members had a positive perspective of Syncrude its work. Recommendations included:

  • Greater visibility in Aboriginal communities and efforts to acquire feedback
  • More dialogue with local and Aboriginal suppliers to help them better understand obstacles and opportunities
  • Further efforts to help build community capacity
  • Aligning educational support towards programs that meet future technology and labour needs
  • Support of language and literacy programs to assist otherwise qualified new immigrants and others to access careers in the trades
  • Recognition of the value of the STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics – model in the educational curriculum
  • Awareness of mental health issues in the region
  • Increased investment in acute care services and grassroots environmental programs and infrastructure
  • More recognition of Aboriginal traditional knowledge in both the school curriculum and Syncrude environmental initiatives.

Another stakeholder advisory panel is planned for 2017 to obtain feedback on further sustainability issues, reporting and the results of our materiality risk matrix.

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, 2016 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

  • Reclamation of 110 hectares
  • Ensure integrity and effectiveness of waterfowl deterrent system
  • Monitor impacts to species adjacent to operations and on reclaimed land
  • Achieve a minimum externally-verified Level A performance in Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Biodiversity Conservation Management Protocol indicators
2016 Results
  • 126 hectares reclaimed and over 400,000 seedlings planted
  • 39 avian mortalities related to oiling
  • Over 1,500 birds captured and released at eight monitoring stations on reclaimed and natural sites – other species recorded include grey wolf, Canada lynx, wood frog and Canadian toad
  • Externally verified Level AAA performance across all indicators in TSM program
Ongoing Actions
  • 2017 reclamation target of 98 hectares
  • Assess exposure to potential federal regulations regarding Species at Risk
  • Support biodiversity and reclamation research studies independently and through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Continued monitoring of Sandhill Fen research watershed and successful land restoration
  • Continued commitment and participation in TSM program


Material Issue

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

  • Meet or exceed approved Alberta regulatory requirements regarding new and legacy fluid fine tailings (FFT)
  • Implement and ensure operational reliability of new technologies to manage and reclaim FFT
  • Continue research and development of additional remediation technologies and collaboration through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Achieve a minimum externally-verified Level A performance in Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Tailings Management Protocol indicators
2016 Results
  • 5.3 million m3 of FFT reclaimed using new centrifuge plant; 26.2 million m3 through composite tailings process
  • Successful first year of operation for $1.9 billion centrifuge tailings treatment plant
  • Successful full-scale demonstration of FFT and overburden co-mixing
  • 32 tailings research projects worth $41 million completed by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Externally verified Level A performance in all TSM indicators, confirming a well-developed management and monitoring system
Ongoing Actions
  • Understand impacts and respond to regulatory requirements for tailings management
  • Manage volumes of FFT through research, development and implementation of new technologies
  • Continued collaborative research through COSIA and other key partners
  • Continued commitment and participation in TSM program

Climate Change

Material Issue

Meeting society’s energy demands while responding to stakeholder expectations regarding climate change action and responsible development

  • Energy intensity target of 8.78 gigajoules per barrel of production
  • Strengthen corporate climate change strategy, including short- and long-term opportunities for improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Achieve a minimum externally-verified Level A performance in Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Energy and GHG Emissions Management protocol indicators
2016 Results
  • Achieved 8.15 gigajoules per barrel of production
  • Executive-led steering committee established to oversee climate change strategy
  • Externally verified Level AAA in TSM energy and GHG management and reporting indicators, and Level A in performance indicator
Ongoing Actions
  • Implement corporate climate change strategy
  • Continue efforts to improve operations reliability
  • Evaluate applicable opportunities for collaboration within Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance
  • Continued participation and commitment to TSM program


Material Issue

Continued access to and protection of regional water resources.

  • Achieve water use reduction of 4 million m3 between 2014 and 2017
  • Develop broad water strategy to address operational risks, regulatory requirements and stakeholder expectations
  • No spills to the environment
2016 Results
  • 34.9 million m3 withdrawn from Athabasca River; 2.19 barrels water per barrel crude oil produced
  • New condensate stripper and reverse osmosis units saving approximately 800,000 million m3 annually
  • Large pilot plants planned to assess water treatment technology
  • Water strategy under development
  • No spills to regional water bodies, creeks or river systems
Ongoing Actions
  • Continued focus toward achieving water use reduction objectives
  • Integrate water strategy into operations stewardship and accountability
  • Continue to research viable treatment technologies for water re-use and safe release to environment, including collaboration within Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA)
  • Support science-based water quality monitoring

Aboriginal Relations

Material Issue

Building relationships and effectively managing issues.

  • Identify procurement opportunities for Aboriginal businesses
  • 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)
  • Investments in health, education, culture and quality-of-life initiatives
  • Achieve a minimum externally-verified Level A performance in Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) Aboriginal and Community Outreach Protocol indicators
2016 Results
  • $174 million in Aboriginal procurement and over $2.6 billion cumulative to date; 60 per cent increase over 2014 in Aboriginal procurement relative to total purchasing in Alberta
  • 9.8% Aboriginal workforce representation, highest in 10 years
  • 86 consultation meetings held on Mildred Lake mine extension project (MLX)
  • $1.2 million invested in projects and initiatives
  • Externally verified Level AAA performance across all indicators in TSM program
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
  • Continued participation and commitment to TSM program

Regulatory and Government Relations

Material Issue

Understanding expectations and requirements impacting development.

  • Continue active engagement on policy and regulatory issues affecting operations and future development
  • Continue regulatory and consultation activities on proposed Mildred Lake mine extension project (MLX)
2016 Results
  • Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act operating renewal application submitted
  • Input provided to the Alberta government consultation on Bill 21 – the Modernized Municipal Government Act
  • Input provided on Canadian Environmental Assessment Act review and other proposed federal regulatory changes
  • 86 formal consultation meetings held with First Nations and Métis Locals
  • Open houses held in Fort McMurray and regional communities
  • Responses issued for Supplemental Information Requests (SIRs) and Statements of Concern (SOCs)
Ongoing Actions
  • Continued regulatory and consultation activities on proposed MLX project
  • Continued focus on meeting regulatory expectations for reclamation plans, tailings management and water return
  • Monitor and assess impact of changes to Canadian Environmental Protection Act, implementation of Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and other provincial and federal regulatory changes
  • Continued policy input through engagement on key industry associations