Energy giant’s donations to United Ways across Canada span three decades of doing local good

It was a sunny spring day in Calgary. Ali*, a recent immigrant from Iran, was cooped up in his tiny inner-city neighbourhood apartment, thinking about the family and friends he had left behind in his home country.

Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by a stranger’s laughter coming from outside his apartment. Curious, he peered outside his living room window and noticed a group of people gathered in the park across the street. He watched as they raked and weeded the garden, cleaning up trash while chatting with each other. Drawn by their sense of comradery, and aware of his own struggle to build a sense of belonging in his new community, he summoned up the courage to leave his apartment and walk across the street.

As Ali approached the group, a friendly face smiled and gestured him over. He was introduced to a group of Shell Canada employees who were volunteering their time to build a more welcoming space for the Sunalta Community Hub neighbourhood residents. They asked Ali if he wanted to help. He nodded eagerly and soon found himself swapping life stories with a friendly stranger.

A few hours later, Ali left the park smiling. For the first time in a long time, he felt that he belonged.

Shell employees walking in a celebration of community.Changing lives to build stronger communities The Sunalta Community Hub is part of the Community Hubs Initiative, a partnership between United Way of Calgary and Area, The City of Calgary, and Rotary Clubs of Calgary. The initiative aims to reduce poverty and social isolation while connecting residents to critical services. In 2017, Shell Canada committed to a multi-year, $500,000 investment in the initiative, helping build five Community Hubs in neighbourhoods across Calgary. In 2019 alone, the initiative engaged almost 44,000 Calgarians, and thanks to the free tax clinics at the Hubs resulted in over $200,000 in tax refunds for people living on a low income.

According to Michael Crothers, President and Country Chair of Shell Canada, investing in initiatives that have the potential to help individuals and transform communities is something the company strives to do in all the places it operates in.

“Community spirit is rooted in our DNA, just as it is rooted in the core of our country,” he says. “A part of this is our determination to support each other, and to welcome people from all over the world to be a part of this community with us. These are the values Shell Canada lives by.

“We want to change people’s lives for the better.”

$100 million commitment to communities throughout Canada

The company’s commitment to community well-being is evident across Canada. Over the last 32 years, Shell and its employees have donated $100 million to local United Ways to help improve the lives of individuals and families throughout the country. The company’s core values—honesty, integrity, and respect for people—are at the forefront of what drives both their business and social investments.

Black and white photo of Shell Canada Black and white image of Shell Canada celebrating Calgary community

Every year, Shell Canada runs an impressive United Way campaign, matching employee and retiree donations, and running multiple activities and events to drive their fundraising and volunteer efforts. A few years ago, the company started a nation-wide grassroots volunteering initiative, Fuelling Kindness, which encourages employees to donate their time and talent to their communities. Crothers says he is continuously humbled by the generosity and kindness of Shell people.

“[Giving back] is so ingrained in our people, it’s incredibly humbling to see as a leader. You wouldn’t believe the pride it gives our people to see the impact they’re having and to say ‘I’m a part of that,’” he says.

Shell Canada views investments in initiatives such as Community Hubs to be instrumental in helping to build long-term, societal benefits to the communities within which the company operates. At times, these efforts include providing critical support during unexpected emergencies, such as the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Amping up support during times of crises

As the coronavirus pandemic struck Canada and cities across the nation scrambled to provide assistance to people within their communities, Shell Canada sprung into action. The company donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to emergency relief funds throughout the country, matching an additional $125,000 in employee donations to support local foodbanks. In Calgary, where the company has its headquarters, Shell Canada donated $250,000 to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, a collaboration between United Way of Calgary and Area and The City of Calgary (including Calgary Emergency Management Agency).

“Shell Canada’s generous gift to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund ensured agencies on the ground were provided with much-needed resources to continue their critical work in supporting vulnerable populations, including seniors, individuals experiencing employment disruptions, and others impacted by COVID-19,” says Karen Young, President and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area.

“Shell Canada is truly a role model in engaging their workforce to drive social change—and their $100 million contribution to communities throughout Canada is a testament to that. I am truly grateful to Shell Canada employees for their commitment to our community and for delivering on their social purpose of fuelling kindness.”

In central Alberta, Shell donated $100,000 to United Way of Alberta Capital Region to ensure sustainability of the Community Impact Fund and recovery work. The donated funds will support the ongoing delivery of community programs that provide immediate assistance and long-term solutions to create pathways out of poverty.

In Ontario, the company donated $50,000 to United Way of Sarnia-Lambton to help ensure social services agencies in the area can continue offering vital support during the pandemic. Guy Hackwell,

General Manager of Shell’s Sarnia refinery, says, responding to local needs is all part of being a good neighbour.

“Sarnia-Lambton is a caring community, repeatedly demonstrating we are stronger together. Shell in Sarnia recognizes an obligation to show up with care and commitment for the safety of our families, loved ones, and neighbours,” says Hackwell.

Helping each other builds a stronger community for all

There is a common belief at Shell Canada that a community is the sum of all its parts— that if we fail to care for each other, our quality of life will suffer as a whole. Crothers believes organizations like United Way are fundamental to building a caring society, and a caring community. But the onus, he says, is on all of us.

“It comes down to the sense of caring that we have as human beings. It’s about our values. Do we feel a collective responsibility to care for one another? Are we taking some personal accountability to build the society we want? Or do we want to live in a society where we just strive for ourselves? In my view, that’s not a vision that’s Canadian. That’s not a vision that has established Canada as a great place to live.

“I think there is an underlying determination to make our nation a place of hope, a place where people like Ali and others can fulfill their potential. If our employees can help make that happen in some way—it’s all we could ever hope for and why we are so committed to United Way.”

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We would like to thank Shell Canada Limited and its employees and retirees for their unwavering support and commitment to United Ways and communities across our country.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual.