Corporate Responsibility


Environmental stewardship is incorporated throughout all phases of our projects, to mitigate our impact and maintain efficient operations. From planning to design, operation and final reclamation, careful consideration is given to reducing the footprint of our activities. We do this through comprehensive practices, investments in technology and innovation, and collaborations with different groups, including industry peers and Indigenous communities, to implement and share best practices.

Our Environment team works with management and all operating divisions to ensure all employees and contractors are aware of our commitment to improve environmental performance. Strong leadership and a participative culture are essential to improve processes and reduce our environmental footprint.

Environmentally Responsible Operations

Our goal is to develop resources in a responsible way. To proactively manage our practices, meet regulatory compliance and continuously improve our performance, our Environmental Excellence programs focus on the following:

• reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and air emissions,

• reducing fresh water use,

• minimizing habitat disturbance and advancing land reclamation,

tailings management;

• preserving and restoring biodiversity; and

preventing and responding to incidents.

Our Environmental Management System (EMS) provides the structure to identify and assess environmental risks, and to minimize impacts in all phases of our projects, from planning through to design, operation and final reclamation. Employee training, due diligence and communication on environmental priorities are critical to the success of our EMS, helping employees and contractors identify risks and prevent incidents. Alignment with our management systems is important to meet our goal of protecting people, the environment and our operations.

For information on our environmental programs and performance, check our 2020 sustainability report.

Environmental Management System

Canadian Natural’s environmental practices are maintained through the EMS. This system supports continuous improvement by setting targets to measure, monitor and review our performance, while meeting regulatory requirements and corporate standards. Performance is tracked through a combination of measurement techniques and internal auditing.

Canadian Natural's EMS is structured in accordance to guiding principles found within the Corporate Statement on Environmental Management, which are consistent with the requirements of the ISO 14001 Standard.

Contractor environmental compliance

Environmental stewardship and performance improvement at all of our sites also involves collaboration with our contractors to reduce incidents. Every employee and contractor has a role to play in identifying, minimizing and mitigating environmental impacts from our operations. Our environmental guiding principles apply to all our employees and contractors.

All contractors must be pre-qualified prior to performing any work or providing any services to our Company. Our process includes compliance management in the areas of health, safety and environment. For more information on our contractor prequalification process, read our Working with Contractors section.

Marine Environment Protection

Our International operations have an integrated Safety, Health and Environmental Management System (SHEMS) based on the same principles as our Canadian operations. To ensure asset integrity and marine environment protection, the SHEMS is structured to meet stringent operating standards and local regulatory requirements, such as:

  • exercising care with respect to all waste produced through effective waste management plans;
  • limiting environmental impact through use of water-based, drilling muds whenever possible; and
  • minimizing produced water volumes offshore through cost-effective measures.

Our International operations in the UK are ISO 14001:2015 certified. This new ISO standard emphasizes leadership commitment and organizational capability. Our UK assets are subject to annual environmental regulatory inspections as well as independent verification of CO2 emissions.

Waste Management

A comprehensive waste management program is also part of our EMS to reduce impacts on the environment. We work to minimize and reduce site-generated waste using technology and optimizing processes, including recycle, re-use and recover whenever possible. 

Canadian Natural is one of the few producers with its own infrastructure for sand handling, water treatment and oil processing. At our heavy oil operations, for example, we have processing plants and sand, waste and water disposal facilities. By integrating waste management facilities into our activities and using them effectively, we improve waste management, reduce our environmental footprint, and decrease transportation distances and costs. We also have a number of landfills in our NA E&P operations accepting production, drilling and reclamation/remediation materials, and two landfills in our oil sands mining and upgrading sites for operational, construction and camp waste.

At our International operations, we are reducing waste through a ‘Waste to Energy’ program that processes waste to generate electricity.

Read our sustainability report for more information on our waste management programs and performance data.

Risk and Incident Management

Canadian Natural’s management systems ensure we evaluate, prevent and mitigate the risk of incidents. Response plans are developed to predict the extent and magnitude of all risks. Rare events, such as an equipment malfunction that results in an incident, are managed quickly in accordance with structured emergency response plans. These procedures help manage the event as systematically and thoroughly as possible to mitigate any additional impacts and facilitate a safe and timely return to regular operations. Protocols identify the sequence of response actions to incidents such as the shutdown of the incident source, communication to government and public, and clean-up of any effects. For more details, read our Emergency Management section.

As part of our processes to improve performance, we also use spill data analysis to focus on cause, risk areas and other factors that contribute to incidents and implement preventative measures. Another area of focus is operator awareness to increase spill prevention and reduce incidents through improved practices. The majority of spills occur on operating leases within containment, with no adverse effects to the environment. For example, in our oil sand mining and upgrading operations the majority of spills are from tailings lines and all contained on lease. The number and volume of spills is available in our sustainability report.

Our environmental risk management strategies include quarterly internal stewardship reports to monitor targets and performance results (for GHG emissions, water use, land reclamation, etc.). These reports are reviewed by senior management and our Board of Directors. Performance results are reported externally, through regulatory reports and the sustainability report. Read more about our Governance.