The Co-op Community Spaces Program – building thriving communities and lasting relationships across Western Canada
Community spaces are what bring people together. In trying and often dividing times, they can…
Over the past two years, Cenovus has intentionally supported organizations and causes that have experienced increased demand during the downturn – focusing on basic needs, mental health and vulnerable populations with more philanthropically-motivated donations.
When the price of oil was around the $100 mark, the community investment team at Cenovus was carefully investing millions of dollars in three strategic areas that aligned with both the integrated oil company’s focus areas (learning, safety and well-being, and sustainable communities) and their business values.
And then, in 2014, the price of oil plummeted to $27.
Alberta was thrown into a brutal recession. Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs across the province. The community investment team at Cenovus – itself drastically reduced in both number of employees and budget – started looking more at refocusing their strategy on what people in the community needed to survive.
In 2016, they committed nearly $300,000 to 25 organizations including food banks, breakfast, lunch and nutrition programs, and community kitchens. Over $340,000 was invested into eight organizations providing mental health services across Alberta.
“We weren’t caught up with ‘this has to be part of our long-term strategy’,” says Vicki Reid, Cenovus Director of Community Affairs.
While the community investment strategy adapted with the economic circumstances, the Cenvous team stayed true to its values. One of the team’s first principles was to honour existing agreements and continue open and honest communications with community partners. The team also developed exit strategies for agreements that were due to end and looked for other ways to support organizations.
Staff giving/volunteering activities were encouraged through matching programs, and non-monetary donations like office space, computers and kitchen equipment.
“People have appreciated our honesty and understood this shift in focus,” says Reid.
“They’ve also appreciated that we are still looking at other ways we can support their work beyond just financial contributions.”
The community investment team at Cenovus , which have been part of the LBG Canada since 2011, sees business benefit and community benefit on a spectrum. “Sometimes it’s on one side more heavily and sometimes it’s on the other side more heavily,” says Reid. “And sometimes there is a sweet spot where they are perfectly balanced.”