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Acden: A Values-driven Business

Acden is more than just a business; it’s a symbol of unity, empowerment, and community. What sets Acden apart is that we are community-owned by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN or the ‘Nation’).

Acden represents the very essence of a community-owned Indigenous business, a model that transcends personal gain and brings prosperity to an entire Nation.

Our core mission isn’t solely profit-driven but centers around creating opportunities, building self-sufficiency, and ensuring a brighter future for ACFN.

Acden’s operations reflect and support the values of the Nation: Trailblazing, Empowerment, Collaboration, Accountability, Service and Respect.

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Naturally, our decision to be the presenting sponsor of the Top 50 Under 50 for the past three years is driven by the shared values of this initiative and Acden, while celebrating those who live those values in our community.

Next year Acden will celebrate 30 years of being in business. Our flagship company Denesoline Environment (now Acden Environment) began with the trailblazing team shown in this photo. Today, there are 18 companies under the Acden brand which has grown to be one the largest community-owned Indigenous enterprises in Canada.

“In 1994, Tony Mercredi was Chief of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. During that time, Syncrude and Suncor were gearing up to expand their oil sands operations. This accelerated the growth of economic opportunity for Indigenous communities in the region. Chief Mercredi realized the opportunity to develop a business arm that could help the Nation achieve financial independence. That year, working together with Syncrude, Chief Mercredi established our founding company, Denesoline Environment. The company started with one truck and 10 employees performing waste management services on-site. One opportunity led to another and ACFN Business Group was formed, eventually rebranding in 2012 as Acden.

Since 1994, Acden has worked to meet the same founding goals: to ensure a strong, sustainable future for ACFN and to achieve service excellence. With the continued guidance of ACFN Chief and Council, the administrative team at Acden keeps the vision of Chief Mercredi alive while adapting to an ever-changing economy, industry and region,” explains ACFN Chief Allan Adam.

Acden is incredibly lucky that the woman on the far right of the photo above is still an active part of the Acden family. Aside from her role as Administrative Assistant – Operations at Acden Environment, Peggy provides cultural guidance and continuing education to the Acden team.  “As one of the original employees, I could never have foreseen where Acden would be today. Almost 30 years later, I’m still so proud of Acden, both as an ACFN member and as a long-tenured employee. It’s the people that make a company and bring the growth – there are great people at Acden, some like me who have been with the company for many, many years.

It was then Chief Tony Mercredi’s vision to create employment opportunities for members and take care of the community – both of which are still integral focuses of the company today. Acden works with the Nation to provide training and services to help members gain employment and find success.  It also supports a lot of local organizations while continuing to support and participate in the cultural activities and events held by ACFN and in the region,” explains Peggy.

There is an old saying that goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”. The past and present winners of the Top 50 Under 50 awards demonstrate the power and importance of that sentiment. This saying also speaks to the value of collaboration which Acden strives to embody in our teams throughout our organization and operations.

Shirley Cardinal firmly believes in the power of collaboration and teamwork. As Human Resources Director for ACFN, Shirley and her team work closely with Acden to remove barriers to employment and administer a unique application process for all Indigenous applicants, with a focus on ACFN members.

“Collaboration is essential between Acden and the Nation as Acden is our band-owned business. Our teams pooled our talents, knowledge, and skillsets to develop a unique application process that supports our members to gain employment. We aim to increase the number of ACFN members employed with Acden and elsewhere in their preferred work areas. Success for our teams is realized when qualified members are employed in their fields of choice as apprentices, welders, drivers, and management roles, for example.

We work with Acden to help members receive the training and education they need to find employment, and we have removed barriers wherever possible to support their success. I’m proud of what we’re creating together. This application process allows us to work together to set all applicants up for success and help them develop skills through training to achieve their career goals. I think other companies can learn from the recruitment style that Acden and ACFN demonstrate,” she shares.

Acden’s success is an example of how community-owned Indigenous businesses can be a force for positive change. By focusing on the broader community and investing in the well-being and development of the Nation and our employees, Acden is breaking the mould of traditional business models. It’s not just about profit margins; it’s about creating a brighter, more sustainable future for ACFN and its future generations. Acden looks forward to serving, collaborating and investing in this region for another 30 years.

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