The Power of Partnership: Indigenous Involvement in Canada’s Energy & Mining Sectors
Future success depends on how effectively energy and resource-based organizations reevaluate environmental and social impacts here and now. The way organizations approach this process will have a tremendous impact on long-term results. Collaboration is critical – and it must absolutely include effective, equitable, and meaningful partnerships with Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous communities, governments, and organizations in every region of Canada have been actively developing renewable energy projects over the last two decades. Since 2017, the number of medium- and large-sized Indigenous clean energy projects has grown by 29.6 per cent. As of February 2022, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit entities were partners or beneficiaries of almost 20 per cent of Canada’s electricity-generating infrastructure. Recent EY Research shows that relationships and agreements between corporations and Indigenous groups have come a long way over the years. Still, many businesses don’t seem to know how to cultivate truly effective working relationships with Indigenous groups.
In fact, 85 per cent of organizations are categorized as ‘disengaged’ in terms of engaging with Indigenous communities and their awareness, readiness, strategies, consultations and partnerships. Just 25 per cent of companies have strategies for Indigenous employment, business development or community development; only 10 per cent have actually implemented these plans. In a world where so much depends on better, stronger relationships between the sector and Indigenous Peoples, we can – and must – do better.
Effective Indigenous relations support a whole host of benefits. First and foremost, these kinds of partnerships and alliances help move us forward on the path to reconciliation. Strong Indigenous relations also bring corporations and Indigenous Peoples closer together around collective goals that are good for society as a whole. Organizations with strong Indigenous relationships can:
- Foster stronger environmental, social and governance (ESG) progress;
- Improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) performance;
- Generate new forms of public and private investment, grants and incentives;
- Diversify the labour force; and
- Bolster credibility and social trust — valuable currencies in today’s working world.
Failing to invest purposefully in Indigenous relations opens energy and resource-based organizations up to a broad range of risks – from reputational damage and lost credibility to project delays, cancellations, and exclusive cultures that leave people out.
Granted, building up Indigenous relations may feel complex. Each Indigenous community in Canada is unique. Relationships will be, too. Prioritizing this focus area requires companies and organizations to take a thoughtful approach; one that is tailored to the specific stakeholders involved. Relationships should always be built around free, prior and informed consent and participation from Indigenous communities, especially given Canada’s abundance of natural resources. From there, organizations can take relationships further by keeping four key considerations in mind:
- Indigenous relations are about sustaining long-term relationships.
- It’s essential to recognize that First Nations, Inuit and Métis people and communities have their own cultures and priorities.
- Open engagement of each community is paramount.
- The context of Indigenous history in Canada is critical to understanding Indigenous relations, and their importance.
At EY, we address these principles by using a framework that puts cultural awareness and respect at the heart of Indigenous relations. This is your foundation. Every aspect of relationship building must serve that core value. Then, we layer in business collaboration, financial participation and engagement, adapting the relationship based on the nuances of the stakeholders involved.
This is a starting point. There can be no one-size-fits-all answer to building Indigenous relations. No standard approach will work long term. But staying true to core considerations and building on a foundation of awareness and respect certainly helps. The future of the sector, and Canada, depends in many ways on our ability to invest in these relationships now.
About the Author
As the managing partner for the energy market segment, Lance leads EY Canada’s oil and gas, power and utilities and mining sectors across Canada. Lance supports the team to drive growth in key client accounts by integrating EY offerings and go-to-market approaches, while shaping and developing innovative solutions and assets to serve our clients in new value-add ways. Lance also coordinates future thinking regarding energy business trends, uncertainties, risks and opportunities.
As a strategy practitioner working with the C-suite, Lance has provided consulting services on more than 150 projects to over 60 clients in 11 countries. He brings a broad set of strategic skills and experiences, helping clients solve some of their most complex strategic problems.
Lance has authored numerous points of view on essential business topics. As a forward-thinking leader in Canada’s energy trends and market dynamics, Lance has been featured in multiple industry publications, national and international newspapers, radio and broadcast. Lance writes opinion columns and serves as an external advisory board member for CEOWORLD magazine. Lance authored Disaster Proof: Scenario Planning for Post Pandemic Future, exploring how scenario planning can help organizations be more resilient, building shock absorbers at a time of great uncertainty and drastic change.
Lance holds a Doctorate in Business Strategy from Haskayne School of Business in Calgary, an undergraduate degree from Exeter University and an MBA from Cardiff Business School. Lance is a Certified Management Consultant, a Certified Change Management Professional, a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and a Project Management Professional. Lance completed a LEAD certificate in Corporate Innovation at Stanford GSB, advanced strategy at INSEAD and an AI certificate from MIT.
Lance engages with the community as a Visiting Professor at the University of Calgary Haskayne School of Business and also serves on the Board of the Canadian Energy and Climate Nexus, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that helps Canadians develop energy systems in balance with climate change constraints through collaborative problem-solving, collective commitment and action.
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