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Nov 5, 2019

'We can move the dial': Suncor CEO urges business leaders to partner with Indigenous groups

Suncor CEO urges business leaders to deepen ties with Indigenous groups

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The chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc. is calling on business leaders across Canada to engage with Indigenous communities and businesses, and not rely on governments to solve challenges around reconciliation.  

“I think one of the epiphanies I’ve had as a business leader is I kept waiting for the government to solve the Indigenous challenges around economic reconciliation,” Mark Little told BNN Bloomberg’s Tara Weber Tuesday. “I realized, okay, we can do this ourselves [but] we can’t do it for all the First Nations in the country, and we can’t do it as one company.                                   

“But together, if all of the companies started engaging Indigenous communities and Indigenous businesses across the country, oh we can move the dial.”

Calgary-based Suncor has been an industry leader when it comes to business partnerships with Indigenous groups.  In 2016, the company sold a stake in one of its oil-storage facilities to the Fort McKay First Nation‎ in a $350-million deal, which saw the aboriginal group buy a 34.3-per-cent interest in Suncor's East Tank Farm. The company has also partnered with First Nations groups on the ownership of Petro-Canada stations.

But Little, who has been a Suncor executive since 2008 and took over for Steve Williams as CEO in May, says there’s an opportunity for other companies to deepen their relationships with First Nations groups as well.  

“For me, what you start to realize, is it’s like oil and gas. People conjure up an image in their minds without actually knowing. They’ve never been there, they don’t know what’s happening,” Little said about the perceptions around Indigenous group.  

“So when you go onto a First Nation and find out they don’t have roads, the don’t have curbs and sewage systems, they don’t have treated water, you realize okay, something’s not working. Something has to be better and we have to figure out a different path forward.”

“The real opportunity is for all business leaders to engage, and learn and understand and figure out where can we each make an impact.”