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Aligning Business Need & Community Impact

The Cenovus community investment team is working in the Canadian energy industry, an industry that has seen tremendous change over the past few years.

Navigating through uncertain economic times made it necessary for the team to more clearly demonstrate their community investment strategy and the goals of their decisions.

“The Cenovus Community Investment team is small and geographically dispersed,” says Andrea Wagner, Advisor, Community Affairs at Cenovus. “In the past few years, our industry has experienced significant change, and Cenovus was no exception. With these changes, we had to narrow our focus areas, refine our strategy and include new people in the decision making. It became very important to develop a revised tool that helped drive consistency and rigour across the broader team.”

As a team of professionals representing Cenovus to many people in communities, the community investment team is specifically trained to seek out links between business need and community impact. The potential for community impact can be assessed by an opportunity’s alignment with their focus areas, the characteristics of the opportunity and the breadth of their reach. From a business need perspective, proximity to operations, potential to strengthen key stakeholder relationships and the ability to bring attention to the Cenvous brand are important considerations.

“Working with the Cenovus team was really interesting,” says Stephanie Robertson, SiMPACT CEO and facilitator of LBG Canada. “They already knew the characteristics of a great impact opportunity that would address both a business and community need. My role was to help articulate that clear thinking so a common approach could be applied across the whole team.”

Once they had begun, articulating criteria seemed like common sense. An unexpected challenge was finding a comfortable and straight-forward way to rank initiatives on a consistent scale, for each of the seven criteria.

Establishing the ranking was quite important. Ideally, the score assigned by each criteria’s ranking would effectively illustrate investments that made complete sense, decisions that required more information and opportunities that were not the right fit for Cenovus.

“We continued to ask ourselves ‘why does Cenovus really value this partnership?’,” says Andrea. “Until our answers revealed how we were going to separate the ‘no’s’ from the ‘absolutely, yes”, the initiatives that met our threshold for automatic approval were not that many. We discovered that many of our investments required us to ask more questions and consider the initiative further. Becoming ok with that was a learning curve.”

“It was really helpful to have a knowledgeable sounding board that helped us articulate why things were important to us. The why led us to a ranking that enabled us to distinguish between seemingly similar investments. The SiMPACT team always encourages companies to pick up the phone and ask questions – we are very glad we did!”

While utilization of the decision-making criteria is still in its early stages, the feedback across the broader Cenovus team has been positive. The community investment team is finding the tool helpful in making decisions and assessing requests all through the same lens. This consistency allows for greater confidence in reporting on community activities, because there is a clear strategy underpinning their decision making.

“Working on a decision making criteria was absolutely worth the effort,” says Andrea. “I would recommend it as an integral part of how we do our job as practitioners – assessing requests and making sure they are aligned to our strategy and what we value – for both the business and community. The criteria also set us up to continue making process with measuring and demonstrating impact, something we’ll continue to focus on in 2019.

To learn more about Cenovus’ community investment programs, please visit:

To learn more about the LBG Canada program, please visit:

1Images used with permission