Stephenson: George sets a worthy example to honour, follow

By Carol Stephenson
October 25, 2012

GeorgeContributed photo
Rick George was the 2012 honoree at the Ivey Business Leader Award. The annual award and fundraising event, organized by Ivey’s Toronto Alumni Chapter, raised $416,942 in support of student awards and a faculty fellowship.

On Oct. 17, the Toronto Alumni Chapter of the Richard Ivey School of Business presented its 21st Ivey Business Leader Award to Rick George, former CEO of Suncor. More than 400 members of the Canadian business community joined us in celebration of his career achievements, his leadership and his legacy – one of Canada’s greatest corporate success stories.

The Ivey Business Leader Award is presented each year to a business leader who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of business in Canada and who reflects Ivey’s mission to develop business leaders who think globally, act strategically and contribute to the societies in which they operate. Mr. George represents all of these qualities, and joins a long list of distinguished Canadian business men and women who have received this award.



Just over 20 years ago, when he was appointed CEO of Suncor, the energy industry was struggling. Mr. George saw in this challenge an opportunity missed by most. Over the next two decades, he grew Suncor from a struggling enterprise valued at $1.2 billion to a thriving global business with a market value of more than $50 billion. It is Canada’s largest energy company and the fifth largest in North America.

Along the way, Mr. George has demonstrated deep commitment to the people of Fort McMurray and the many other communities in which Suncor operates. The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS), led by Ivey professor Tima Bansal, director of Ivey’s Building Sustainable Value Research Centre, published an article this summer describing how companies need to report transparently on their sustainability initiatives and be accountable to their customers and community members. Suncor was highlighted as a company whose management systems prioritize sustainability.

The report states:

“A corporate commitment to sustainability leads to ethical employee action even when performance isn't being monitored. For example, Suncor makes the Chief Financial Officer responsible for environmental and social indicators as well as financial indicators, giving equal weight to all.”

Suncor is also a Founding Member of the NBS Leadership Council.

Ivey is not the only organization to recognize the positive impact Mr. George has made to Canada through his philanthropic and business endeavours. Among his many accolades: Mr. George was awarded the Outstanding CEO of the Year in 1999 and he was a member of the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness in 2007. He was named Canadian Energy Person of the Year in 2011 by the Energy Council of Canada. In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his leadership in the development of Canada’s natural resources sector, his efforts to provide economic opportunities to Aboriginal communities and his commitment to sustainable development.

The energy industry is critical to Canada’s future and to all modern societies. We are dependent upon reliable, cost-effective energy sources, and at the same time want to do the right thing to protect the Earth for our children’s future. We need to find a balanced solution.

More than 75,000 Canadians work directly in the Oil Sands industry and they may not take kindly to the simplistic solution to “quickly (and) substantially reduce … crude oil extraction and production.”

(Philosophy professor Stephen) D’Arcy and (Western student David) McNicoll’s commentary only served to increase polarization and misinformation (Award should fuel ‘embarrassment and outrage,’ Oct. 18).

It is so easy to criticize. It is not so easy to lead responsibly and to balance daily the economic, social and environmental needs of a diverse group of stakeholders.

All of our students would do well to follow the lead of Mr. Rick George.

Carol Stephenson, O.C., is dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business and the Lawrence G. Tapp Chair in Leadership.


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