Canadian Fuels Association members produce, distribute and sell the transportation fuels that support the mobility of all Canadians. At all stages in the process that brings fuels to the point of sale, our members are achieving impressive goals for community involvement, innovation and environmental performance. In this issue of Perspectives, we talk to three individuals who make a difference.

Strengthening a respected brand

Deborah Gullaher keeps Suncor ahead of the retail curve.

Since Deborah Gullaher got her first job as a summer student in the energy industry 39 years ago, she’s been fine-tuning her downstream game. Today, after a career working primarily for Suncor (prior to that Petro-Canada and Gulf), Gullaher is focused as far downstream as one can get. She is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Suncor, which puts her in charge of all strategies, processes and products related to Petro-Canada’s retail and wholesale business.

And at a time when many major energy companies are divesting their retail interests, Gullaher’s work is taking her in the opposite direction. She is focused on protecting and building Petro-Canada’s strong brand across Canada, ensuring that it lives up to Canadians’ expectations for environmental responsibility and efficient retailing.

“We’re acutely aware that we need to deliver on the environmental technologies and programs that consumers expect and deserve, as well as deliver an excellent shopping experience,” says Gullaher. “The Petro-Canada brand is strong but there’s no way we’re going to rest on our laurels.”

Gullaher points to water reclamation at Petro-Canada carwashes (which has led to a 60–80 percent reduction in water use in some pilot locations) and LED lighting inside and outside retail outlets as strategies for reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

The strategy is part of a larger energy-efficiency effort at Suncor that invests $200 million a year into researching environmentally promising technologies and innovative thinking. Suncor is also working to bring leading retailing technologies such as point-of-sale, loyalty and back-office systems to the operations.

Set in the larger context of the energy industry’s retail prospects, staying ahead of the environmental and retailing curves takes on great urgency for Gullaher. “I’ve never in my career seen such channel blurring and change in the competition.” She says that the marketplace in Canada is becoming more fractured as it evolves towards large independent retailers and partnerships between grocery and gas.

“What it means is we’re competing with a different set. We have a strong network, brand and operating model and we have to protect our points of difference by making sure our strategies are the right ones moving forward.”

“The Petro-Canada brand is strong but there’s no way we’re going to rest on our laurels.”