Communities in the oil sands region stand to benefit significantly from continuing development of the oil sands.
A variety of jobs offering generous wages attract people from across Canada and around the world. Communities are enriched by this influx, through a diverse, vibrant population and intense economic activity.
Economic, social changes linked
But accelerated development brings its own baggage. As we’ve noted in past OSQARs, resource booms strain communities and their people. Roads become clogged, affordable housing gets snapped up and demand for education, health care and other basic services can outstrip supply.
With the pace of current development predicted to continue for some time, oil sands companies are working together to help communities maximize the upside of continued growth and minimize the downside. Through this work, industry has formed the Oil Sands Community Alliance (OSCA).
Building on the work of the former Oil Sands Developers Group (OSDG), OSCA’s goal is to help communities in the oil sands region thrive both economically and socially. It aims to use a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach that facilitates engagement, builds relationships and creates measureable socio-economic benefits within four focus areas:
- Aboriginal communities
- community well-being
Essentially, OSCA is pursuing shared value in the oil sands region with the notion that actions to improve the industry’s competitiveness can simultaneously improve economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates.
Harvard business professor Michael Porter is a key champion of the shared value idea and it’s one which Suncor and some of its peers have pursued in the oil sands, albeit on a smaller scale, for many years.
Women Building Futures is an example of shared value in action. The program equips women with the skills to work in the oil sands and other fields where trades are required. As program funders, Suncor, Shell and Imperial receive a steady supply of skilled workers needed to operate their facilities, while program participants qualify for great jobs and the opportunity to be positive social and economic contributors in their communities.
As Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance is starting to demonstrate, oil sands companies can have more impact when they work together versus tackling challenges alone.
OSCA is industry’s most recent collaboration and its creation is good news for communities in the oil sands region.