Powerful Partnership — How FortisBC Created a Holistic Inclusion Program
Written by Linda Luty
Director, Corporate Security & Business Continuity
National Indigenous History Month may be in June, but FortisBC, a subsidiary of Canada’s largest private utility company, is committed to building effective relationships with Indigenous Peoples in Canada year-round. Their top-down leadership approach to Indigenous relations is led by CEO Roger Dall’Antonia, and supported by executive leadership in connecting the company to Indigenous culture and building cultural awareness.
Tim Swanson, director of corporate security and business continuity at FortisBC Energy, shared insights on FortisBC’s commitment to connect their company to strengthening relations, fostering open dialogue and increasing diversity in their workforce through partnering with leaders in Indigenous communities.
FortisBC developed its Statement of Indigenous Principles 20 years ago by engaging with Indigenous leaders across the province. These leaders offered the company achievable steps they could take in order to better serve First Nation communities, build meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships, and develop an organizational culture where Indigenous employees and contractors can pursue their career goals.
“In 2001, these principles were aspirational; today, they form the backbone of our Indigenous Relations policy,” said Swanson.
Inclusion Starts at the Top
In addition to already having a diverse board of directors with Indigenous representation, the company restructured its executive team to include a new position of vice president, external and Indigenous relations. These actions highlight the value of their relationships with Indigenous people, communities, organizations and customers.
FortisBC provides numerous opportunities for employees to learn more about Indigenous cultures, including a month-long celebration of National Indigenous History Month in June.
During this time, learning opportunities are scheduled that include “tailgate talks” — conversations designed for employees to find out more about the importance of Indigenous relations — workshops hosted by Indigenous leaders and Elders sharing cultural knowledge, and craft fairs (in person and online) featuring Indigenous artisans.
Increasing Awareness and Taking Action
Indigenous awareness training is offered to all employees; this includes cultural awareness along with the business context for mutually beneficial relationships, such as business development opportunities and successful partnerships.
“We recently developed an Indigenous relations reference guide for FortisBC employees that provides guidance on preferred language and terminology, as well as highlighting the importance of strong relationships to FortisBC’s business priorities,” said Swanson.
The commitment to supporting Indigenous peoples extends beyond awareness; FortisBC also supports the communities through laptop donation, capacity funding, and working with other organizations such as PLATO and PGNAETA to provide scholarships, training, and employment opportunities.
FortisBC’s talent development team also focuses on ensuring employees, including those that identify as Indigenous, feel supported in their career development in a psychologically and culturally safe work environment. Their talent development team has a specific position dedicated to cultivating, engaging with, recruiting and retaining Indigenous talent while working with Indigenous communities, businesses and organizations to support education and experiential pathways.
Taking Inclusion to the Next Level
FortisBC is partnering with Upper Nicola Band and Okanagan Nation Alliance on the development of a large solar farm in Western Canada, which will provide economic benefits to the Nation.
“We are also working with communities to partner on innovative renewable natural gas projects. Our climate action partners program provides funding for communities to hire a senior energy specialist dedicated to helping achieve their climate action goals. And we are listening to Indigenous communities to understand their energy needs in order to develop custom-made solutions,” he said.
The commitment to sustainability includes personal support and energy consultation, custom rebates for those building homes, and energy efficient upgrades for homes in Indigenous communities.
By supporting and partnering with the Indigenous communities, FortisBC is helping create a more sustainable future and demonstrating their core values through action.
“Indigenous Peoples are integral to FortisBC’s business, now and into the future. My personal experience through our partnership with PLATO has been productive and positive. Great skills, from great people, making FortisBC better,” said Swanson.
Special thanks to Tim Swanson and FortisBC Energy.
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