Suncor workers feeling "guilty" about oil work, corporate video shows

Oil sands company recruitment video reveals workers' enviro anxieties, but it isn't gaining sympathy from environmentalists

Suncor video showing workers expressing their guilt about oil work
A Suncor promotional video shows employees with Canada's largest oil sands company feeling restless about working for a big oil firm.

With soft, brooding piano music playing, a new Suncor Energy promotional video shows employees expressing their environmental anxieties about working in the fossil fuel sector.  

Really.

It opens with a young, helmeted Suncor environment advisor in St.John's, Newfoundland.

"Working for the oil and gas industry, I think when I first started, I had a little bit of internal conflict, ya know?" 

It follows with a Fort McMurray aerial shot of a polluting oil sands facility, and an Edmonton new hire admitting:

"When I was going through my co-ops, I decided that I would never work for an oil and gas company because of that environmental aspect."

Then a Suncor manager of strategic relations admits the knots in her stomach:

"I had my doubts about what I was really doing."

It goes on.  The video's apparent purpose is to recruit new employees, including possibly those who might feel restless (like those in the video) about working for Canada's largest oil sands company.  

The video is on the company's recruitment website.

 

Sierra Club Foundation's John Bennett had a hard time not chuckling when presented with the Youtube video.

“I think they’ll be a lot of environmentalists laughing at this, but they’ll be close to tears at the same time,” Bennett said from Ottawa.

"It got sadder and sadder as [the video] went."  

Suncor is one of the most heavily polluting group of companies in Canada.  Its facilities spewed 14.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2011, according Environment Canada.

That amount of climate-warming pollution is equivalent to adding 2.9 million cars to the road that year alone, using EPA conversion figures.  

Still, if you are "passionate" about the planet, Suncor's Vice President of Human Resources says his oil company is the right place for you.

"People who do have a strong bent toward environmental sustainability issues – what greater place can you be than part of an organization that has these challenges?” asks Paul Gardner from Calgary.

Bennett says he has "bent" for the environment, but wasn't persuaded to shift careers to the oil sands.

“The whole video is a testament to the seductiveness of money, and how money can create blinders for people.  I have no doubt these people are good people, doing their best for the environment.  But they have to understand that fossil fuels cause climate change.”

A further employee shown in the video -- a Suncor climate change policy advisor in Calgary --- gives some insight into the thinking behind the video.

The man, standing in front of solar panels, says that when he was interviewed by a VP for the job, he said he wanted to be an “instrument of change from within.” 

Suncor Energy has been requested to comment on this story.

Video still from Suncor video shows the green grass around an oil sands facility, near Fort McMurray, AB (Suncor Youtube video)

Suncor video still - green lawns around oil sands facility


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