I’m a big fan of the hit Apple TV series Ted Lasso, in part due to its lessons on life and leadership. One of my favourite episodes was Season 1, Episode 8, with Ted quoting the great American poet Walt Whitman in saying: “be curious, not judgmental.” The context is that we don’t always take the time or make the effort to understand something or someone, but rather are quick to judge, largely based on our own interpretations or personal biases.
In my nearly six months in the top job at Suncor, people have expressed a lot of curiosity and, in some instances, personal judgments regarding statements I’ve made about the company’s priorities, strategic direction and commitment to long-term sustainability. Recognizing that, I want to clarify exactly where Suncor stands and where I stand.
First of all, we are an energy company whose primary businesses today include the production, refining and marketing of petroleum products within North America. What we do every day is essential to people’s quality of life, enriching the living standards of millions, providing tens of thousands of well-paying jobs and bolstering the economy of Canada and the economy of parts of the United States. For reasons such as these, I’ve been honoured to work in the energy industry around the world for nearly 40 years.
As a company, Suncor’s performance in recent years hasn’t lived up to our standards or our shareholders’ expectations, and has lagged our peers. Consequently, we are significantly increasing our focus on the base business fundamentals, the fundamentals of safety, operational integrity, reliability and profitability.
Why safety? Because we care about people. Why operational integrity? Because we care about the environment. Why reliability? Because we care about performance. Why profitability? Because we care about paying our bills, contributing to our economy, supporting our communities, rewarding our shareholders and, last but not least, funding future growth and sustainability projects.
We believe today’s profitability and long-term sustainability go hand in hand — you simply can’t have one without the other.
So, is Suncor committed to the long-term sustainability of its businesses? Absolutely. Is Suncor committed to being part of the solution as the world’s energy system transitions over time? Again, absolutely. Does this mean that Suncor will throw money into opportunities outside of our core competencies where we can’t see a path to future competitiveness and profitability? No, we won’t. Does it mean that Suncor will collaborate, innovate and invest to improve base business performance, reduce carbon emissions and establish new low-carbon solutions? Yes, we will.
And that’s exactly what we are doing today.
We are taking tangible actions to decarbonize our base hydrocarbon businesses by investing in energy-efficient cogeneration capacity at our large oilsands sites, by piloting novel lower carbon injectant technologies for use in our in situ operations, by installing charging facilities for electric vehicles at our Petro-Canada stations and by operating Canada’s largest ethanol manufacturing plant to produce renewable fuels.
Looking to the future, we are collaborating with five other oilsands companies in the Pathways Alliance to pursue large-scale carbon capture and sequestration, supporting our objective to achieve net-zero GHG emissions from our operations by 2050. The Pathways Alliance, of which Suncor is a founding member, involves unprecedented collaboration within industry and with multiple levels of government.
We are committed to ensuring a profitable, high-performing business today and in the future. In our company, it’s about both today and tomorrow, not one or the other.
I am proud of the team at Suncor, employees and contractors alike, for what they do and how they do it — working together to improve today’s performance and ensure tomorrow’s sustainability. Thank you, well done and keep it up.
And thank you Ted Lasso (and, of course, Walt Whitman), for reminding all of us to “be curious, not judgmental.”
The importance of energy to each of our lives and to our world, both today and tomorrow, is simply too important to be anything else.
Rich Kruger is president and CEO of Suncor Energy.