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Bigger Profits, Less Charity: That’s Suncor’s New Mantra Under New CEO Rich Kruger

Despite making almost $23 billion in profits last year, Suncor Energy is slashing its commitment to charity, marking a stark shift in the company's approach

Suncor Energy is focusing more on producing cheap oil, making more money, and giving less to charity—a big shift for the foreign-owned company that made almost $23 billion in profits last year. 

Under the leadership of Rich Kruger, who became CEO last April, Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) will be cutting back its funding to non-profit groups.

The charitable foundation funded by the company was considered a model of good corporate citizenship over its first 25th years.

In 2022, SEF gave $17.8 million to more than 100 non-profits and charitable organizations.

But that’s about to change.

A Stingy Future?

In an email sent recently to these non-profit groups, Suncor Energy Foundation laid out a stingy future.

“The foundation has become easily distracted by the number of directions in which it tries to move at once” and “has been spread too thin,” the statement read.

“Given this reality, we’ve asked – and been asked – big questions about where and how we can make the strongest impact. Those questions were tough, and the answers were tougher. Among other things, it became clear that we need to reduce the number of organizations we support.”

The timing is odd.

The “Less Giving, More Drilling” corporate strategy led to Suncor reporting 4th-quarter oil production as its second-highest quarter ever.

Suncor hit a major milestone in November when their in situ oil sands operations produced their one billionth barrel of oil.

The company’s stock price soared nearly 6% as a result.

A Step Backwards?

Non-profits are calling this a step backward for the Calgary-based oil company, which had made philanthropy a central pillar of its business.

“When it comes to social licence for these companies, I think Suncor has really been a model through the establishment of the Suncor Energy Foundation,” said Eric Campbell, executive director of the Ontario-based Clean Economy Fund, in an interview with the Globe and Mail

“And if anything, we want the other oil and gas companies to be emulating that model rather than Suncor cutting that part of its identity,”

The Clean Economy Fund received $200,000 from Suncor last year.  

A quarter of that was spent on its core operations. The rest went to other groups doing research and work on climate change.

Canada’s oil and gas corporations often donate to the towns they operate within

They support causes like parks, sports and community centres.

According to Campbell, the Suncor Energy Foundation was different.

As a registered charity, it’s much more transparent than the generic community funding efforts at other energy companies, he said in the Globe interview.

But it’s been slash and burn since Rich Kruger took the helm at Suncor

At an August meeting with analysts, Kruger said that all parts of its business were under review, including its philanthropic efforts. 

Not only are charities suffering under Kruger, but so are employees and contractors. 

In June, Suncor announced it was going to lay off 1,500 employees, and in November, it announced plans to reduce the number of contractors by 20 percent. 

A grinch or a shrewd businessman?
A grinch or a shrewd businessman?

Back to the Basics

Suncor is also distancing itself from previous statements supporting an energy transition away from oil and gas.

Kruger has made it clear – he wants to get back to the basics of extracting fossil fuels from the ground and driving profits to the sky.

As for its donation program, SEF said that all current funding commitments through to 2026 will be kept.

Organizations that will lose their funding will get an “exit donation,” according to a statement emailed to the Globe and Mail.

In its 2022 contributions report, Suncor’s Foundation said that their charity work “embodies our purpose of caring for each other and the Earth by connecting business and community strengths to make a positive difference in society.”

Suncor Energy is influential. 

It owns Petro-Canada and is the 2nd biggest oil and gas company in Canada in terms of revenue. Although it positions itself as a “Canadian” company, Suncor is primarily foreign-owned.  

In twelve months ending in September 2023, Suncor recorded a gross profit of almost $23 billion

Suncor is scheduled to release its fourth-quarter financial and operating results at the end of February 2024. 

We’ll see how many more billions of dollars it will have to line its pockets this year.

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