Brian Fairley, Vice President of Operations at Syncrude Canada Ltd., took time out of his busy schedule recently to speak to MBA students at the Odette School of Business about Syncrude’s approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Syncrude is a joint venture of oil and gas companies mining the Athabasca oil sands 40km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. It is ranked as the world's largest producer of synthetic crude from oil sands and the biggest single source of oil in Canada.
In his presentation entitled “Earning Your Social License,” Mr. Fairley told the students that CSR includes not just philanthropy, but also aspects of long term sustainability. “We don’t own the resource; we must respect all the communities, wildlife and the environment around us.” He stressed the importance of balancing economic contribution and a clean environment with creating wealth for all stakeholders. “Putting all this together is our social license to operate,” he explained.
According to Mr. Fairley, companies need to be socially responsible and reinvest their profits back into the community if they want the public to support them. “A social license is earned, not given,” Mr. Fairley said. “Companies must earn this license and give back to their neighbour. When your neighbours are the First Nations, giving back has never been as important.”
Dr. Allan Conway, Dean of the Odette School of Business said that having Canada’s senior business leaders speak to students is a key focus at Odette. “Our Leaders-in-Residence program allows students to interact with business leaders in ways that augment the learning in the classroom,” said Dr. Conway. “Hearing about how different companies approach issues such as CSR and learning about the opportunities and challenges this presents gives students an important perspective they can’t ordinarily get.”
Brian Fairley earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Windsor in 1982 and then joined Imperial Oil. Throughout his career, he has played a number of roles in the oil industry including design and maintenance, business analysis and conducting turnarounds. As vice president of Canada’s largest oil producer, with over 3000 employees directly reporting to him, Fairley manages an annual operating budget of over $4 billion annually.