Nutrien: Changing the Game with the Aboriginal Content Playbook

This is a story about investment—a long-term investment strategy designed to engage Indigenous businesses in Saskatchewan’s industrial supply chain. Originating during the days of Legacy Potash, then PotashCorp, and now Nutrien, there has been a constant commitment to engaging Indigenous business interests. Nutrien’s Aboriginal Content Playbook is supporting the company’s motto, Feeding the Future.

This partnership represents the work and leadership that has driven the initiative from both sides. For Nutrien, the motivation is creating a better workforce, building vibrant communities and strengthening the suppliers of tomorrow. It’s about developing exceptional value in the products and services from Indigenous suppliers while driving positive impact within their communities. It’s a practical approach, considering Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan represent the fastest growing segment of the population. They will make up a major part of the province’s workforce in the years to come.

“It is really important to us, when we look at the supply chain of the future and how substantial the Indigenous component needs to be. If we can figure it out, I feel that we will be creating competitive advantages in our business, in our supply chain, and at our operating sites in Saskatchewan and across Canada. It is important to build these partnerships and invest the right way and incorporate the future Indigenous talent into our business,” says Tim Herrod, Nutrien’s Vice President of Procurement.

Currently, Indigenous peoples represent 16 percent of Saskatchewan’s population, with a median age of 22.6 years.1 Compare that to the non-Indigenous population, with a median age of 40.9 years.2 By 2031, the First Nations population in Saskatchewan is projected to be approximately 21-24 percent.3 This is an important demographic shift in the province’s workforce, and Nutrien’s corporate strategy recognizes this. They are preparing to benefit from the change.

In Alberta’s oil patch, there is similar engagement between Indigenous businesses and oil companies. Syncrude, one of Canada’s largest oilsands developers, operates mainly in the Fort McMurray area. On National Indigenous Peoples Day 2017, they announced a milestone with their Indigenous employment. Ten percent of their full-time workers self-declared as First Nations, Métis or Inuit.4  Syncrude’s motivations are similar to Nutrien—engaging Indigenous business interests, investing in their communities, and developing the labour market.

Speaking with Cliff Tawpisin, CEO of Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), the impact of Nutrien’s Aboriginal Content Playbook becomes apparent. “STC is all about these partnerships. They help to build healthy communities. They make the cities more vibrant. They are making the province more successful because there are less social-economic issues as a result of more GDP in the hands of Indigenous people through sustainable employment,” says Tawpisin.

Tawpisin points out that there are two things at work in the process. The first is education and the second is economic development. “Having opportunities gives a sense of hope. It allows Indigenous people to look beyond some of the barriers they have experienced. If kids finish school and go even further, then real opportunities begin to emerge,” says Tawpisin. Nutrien is helping to create some of these opportunities and the benefits are targeted and direct.

“These programs are important for what the future is going to look like in regards to diversity in the economic development cycle,” says Brad Darbyshire, President of STC Industrial Contracting. STC Industrial has partnered with Nutrien and they are seeing results. “Nutrien is leading edge with written documented process. This has not been seen before,” he says. He points out that the playbook is a work in process. It is a live document and it has to be. Not everybody is in the same place, so the strategy has to adapt to situations while creating an environment where businesses can engage, develop and grow.

Nutrien has committed 30 percent of its procurement to Indigenous content. Darbyshire highlights that this does not mean they get carte blanche. It is a process with an opportunity to get on the playing field. STC Industrial knows and understands the benefits of inclusion of this scale. It goes right down to the grassroots level, from apprentices they hire, to the wages they pay and the impact that money has when it goes back into communities. All of their inclusion statistics are tracked so they know exactly how much money is being generated and where it is going.

There is faith in Nutrien as a company and in the playbook. It has more than demonstrated its value here in the province, and similarly in the Alberta oil sector, all with wide-ranging benefits for everyone involved.  “Indigenous and non-Indigenous get together…we’re going to be a powerhouse in this country,” says Darbyshire. “Our economies are going to grow at a rate never before seen.”