“Regardless of company size, this type of collaboration helps build strong enduring relationships in the community. It’s important to put names and faces to an industry like ours.”
In days gone by business was done within small communities. Most deals were closed with a handshake. Grassroots relationships meant something.
Now, business is bigger, technology has advanced and it is difficult for companies to maintain ground-level, human connections, especially in rural communities. Despite this, it has become more important than ever to build trust and develop solid, long-term relationships within the communities in which we operate. Many companies are getting back to basics and even getting their hands dirty along the way.
“I learned to take care of the environment and
how we can hurt it if we don’t take care of it.”
- Jenna , Grade four
When Kia Pyrcz conducts business in the village of Delburne, she’s no longer a stranger. For two years running, Kia has led a team of energy company volunteers that have taken part in CAPP’s Energy in Action program in two Alberta communities where Vermilion has operations – Delburne and Niton Junction. The experience has helped her and locally-based employees understand the needs of areas and forge stronger bonds with the people who live there.
The Energy in Action program focuses on educating elementary children about Stewardship and the oil and gas industry, which augments their science and social studies curriculum. The program travels to approximately a dozen rural schools across Canada every May. Students at each school learn about energy development and environmental stewardship. They also roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty working on projects in their school yards or communities, such as planting trees, shrubs, and flowers. The Energy in Action program uses local resources as much as possible for the events. Several organizations get involved in developing the program curriculum and garden projects including Inside Education, the YWCA, the Alberta Conservation Association, and the Calgary Zoo.
Rural schools are often the most in need of resources and programming and typically welcome the Energy in Action teams with open arms. “The students and teachers take pride in and ownership of the initiative, which is key to the long-term success of the environmental projects,” said Kia.
Each initiative is tailor-made to the specific needs of the school and the community. Kia explains that this is the most successful aspect of the program. She works closely with principals, teachers, and community groups to determine what is most needed. “Last year in Delburne the principal wanted a wind break to shelter the kids from the cold during the winter months. So we helped the kids plant 100 trees along the perimeter of the school yard. This year in Alberta’s Niton Junction, the group wanted to create an outdoor space place that would help students understand that, by being stewards of the environment, the Earth can reap many rewards. “So we helped them create a garden oasis complete with herb, vegetable, and butterfly gardens, perennial flower beds, and a pumpkin patch,” added Kia.
On event day everyone lends a hand. It is not uncommon for locals to pitch in. At this year’s Niton Junction event, several volunteers came the Saturday before to install a limestone pathway that helps define the garden and also makes it accessible to students in wheelchairs. “There is a lot of informal networking, problem solving, and information sharing that goes on to make these events happen,” says Kia.
So how does all of this relate back to business? Kia explains that although the cost of company participation is low, the return on investment is high. “Projects like Energy in Action are an especially great opportunity for smaller industry players like Vermilion to educate the community on our local operations and our commitment to responsible resource development. Regardless of company size, this type of collaboration helps build strong enduring relationships in the community. It’s important to put names and faces to an industry like ours.”
Since last year’s event in Delburne, Vermilion has developed more open lines of communication and stronger relationships with village residents and village council. Kia helped host an open house there last winter and was able to greet several of the attendees by name. Many residents were very excited to see their children in pictures of the Energy in Action event that were on display. “It is great being able to show people that we really are part of the community.”