Aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals
We are committed to aligning our core business strategy with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the mainstay of our investments are in financial services, we believe we represent a positive force in society. Our major operating subsidiaries offer life and health insurance, retirement savings programs and a broad range of investment vehicles, including socially responsible funds. The following examples demonstrate how products and services at the Power Corporation group of companies are contributing to the SDGs.
With more than 30 million customer relationships in Canada, the United States and Europe, our financial services companies represent a positive force in society by enabling financial security through life and health insurance, retirement savings programs, and a suite of investment products. In 2016, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations helped more than 44,000 families cope with loss, paying out more than $2.4 billion in life insurance claims; provided income for over 76,000 people who became disabled and could no longer work; helped over 30,000 employers provide benefits plans and over 12,000 employers offer retirement savings plans for their employees; and made over $800 million of annuity payments, helping Canadians fund their retirement with a secure income stream.
Our financial services companies provide clients with a financial advisor who is encouraged and trained to recommend products that are suitable for each client’s individual situation. At IGM Financial, financial advisors are helping to continuously enhance the financial well-being for clients and can make a difference for Canadians in all age groups and income levels – including those in lower income ranges. Their mutual funds are available at very low investment minimums, making it possible to provide much-needed access to financial products and services to all households, regardless of income or wealth levels.
We provide our employees and their families access to an Employee and Family Assistance Program to support work, health and life issues, including workplace challenges, nutrition, physical and mental health, addiction concerns, stress, depression and anxiety, family and parenting, relationships, and other situations. We also provide life insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, vision care, and dental coverage for our employees and retirees. We also subsidize employees’ fitness memberships.
In 2016, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations paid over 56 million claims representing more than $4.6 billion in health and dental benefits for plan members.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Great-West Life’s Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace has fostered collaboration and dialogue by bringing together thought leaders and driving discussions on issues affecting mental well-being. The Centre is a leading source of free, practical tools and resources designed to help Canadian employers with prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues. These resources are available to all employers and organizations through the Centre’s website, which receives an average of 12,500 visits every month.
Personal Health Assessments
We have also supported healthy living through Great-West Lifeco’s launch of an enhanced Personal Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) tool for its group benefit plan members. Aggregate data from the PHRA can help plan sponsors understand risk factors among their members, better focus wellness programs, measure the total cost of absenteeism and presenteeism, and monitor progress. With extensive sections on work/life balance and depression, this tool provides insight into both physical and mental wellness.
Financial literacy is a basic need for Canadians of all backgrounds and stages of life. Being financially literate means having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make informed financial decisions. Through Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial, we support programs that promote education in financial literacy. Our group’s 13,900 financial consultants and advisors provide our clients with financial advice and guidance, which is an important part of financial literacy.
For Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations, 2016 marked its third year of commitment as the national sponsor of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada’s suite of outreach educational programs that are helping meet the financial literacy needs of community organizations, underserved groups like new Canadians and Indigenous peoples, post-secondary students and individuals of all ages. In addition, the company’s SmartPATH website offers free online learning for all stages of savings and retirement planning through games, calculators, videos and text-based learning about personal financial planning and the value of group retirement and savings plans.
Investors Group continued its collaboration with the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) and its support of the CFEE's Building Futures program to integrate financial education into the school curriculum for grades 4 to 10. In 2016, Investors Group received the CFEE Financial Literacy Award for its leadership and continued commitment to improving the financial literacy of youth across Canada through the Money and Youth and Building Futures programs.
We have a commitment to increase the number of women at the Board and at senior management levels, which we articulate through our Board and Senior Management Diversity Policy. Great-West Life supported the launch of Women @ Great-West Life and Women @ London Life, a networking and mentoring group for up-and-coming female leaders, focusing on education, inspiration and networking. At IGM Financial, the approach to Board and senior management diversity was formalized through a Diversity Policy, and, in 2017, female representation on the board of directors increased to 25%. Both Investors Group and Mackenzie Investments have implemented Taking the Stage®, a program for women focusing on the skills and tactics that drive leadership presence and effectiveness.
Renewable Energy Financing
We are financing investments into the sustainable and renewable energy sector through our wholly owned subsidiary, Power Energy Corporation, which actively invests in the sustainable and renewable energy sector. Power Energy has invested in Potentia Renewables, a renewable energy generation company, active in the solar and wind sector in North America and the Caribbean; Lumenpulse Group, a leading manufacturer of high-performance, specification-grade LED lighting solutions; and Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, which owns and operates 75 hydroelectric facilities that produce over 814 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually in the United States.
Investments in Green Energy Projects
In 2016, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian public bond and private debt groups invested more than $1.6 billion in infrastructure, of which $400 million was invested in green energy projects including investments in solar, wind and hydro energy projects.
Job Creation and Benefits
Power Corporation and its group companies employed more than 30,000 individuals and contributed $4.1 billion in employee salaries and benefits in 2016. These funds flow through the economy, impacting the hundreds of communities in which our employees live and work.
Investments to Spur Growth
Great-West Lifeco makes long-term investments to support growth in the Canadian economy while helping Canadians reach their financial goals. The company’s commercial mortgages, public bond and private placement investments provide opportunities for business and governments to help create employment, fund research and development, and support infrastructure, healthcare, and renewable energy projects. In 2016, its Canadian public bond and private debt groups invested more than $1.6 billion in infrastructure, including investments in green energy projects, airports, port terminals, hospitals, transit, highways, utilities, schools and universities. The company also invested more than $100 million in independent finance companies that act as alternative funding sources for small- to medium-sized Canadian businesses and funded more than $2.4 billion in new private debt and commercial mortgages across Canada.
Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP)
Investors Group and Mackenzie Investments have continued to be market leaders in offering Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) for clients or their family members with disabilities, providing them access to a tax-preferred savings vehicle and the opportunity to take advantage of generous government grants and bonds. In 2016, assets under management within RDSPs grew significantly to over $480 million. The RDSP program, in conjunction with the company’s products and services, enables IGM Financial to help Canadians in a meaningful way.
Greener Real Estate
Our real estate investments, through our wholly owned subsidiary Square Victoria Real Estate, and GWL Realty Advisors are contributing to more safe, resilient and sustainable real estate assets. A majority of the buildings under their management have green building certifications, and a range of sustainability features that are enhancing the health, wellness and environmental performance of buildings for their tenants. In 2016, 10.9 million square feet of GWL Realty Advisors’ managed portfolio was LEED-certified, and 96% of Great-West Lifeco’s eligible portfolio was either BOMA BEST® certified or actively pursuing certification – a total of close to 300 certified buildings.
As long-term investors, we believe in investing in quality companies with attractive long-term growth prospects that are managed in a responsible manner. We integrate ESG factors in our investment analysis, which is helping encourage more sustainable consumption and production patterns at the companies where we invest. Furthermore, many of our group companies are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment, including Great-West Lifeco’s subsidiaries GLC Asset Management Group, Putnam Investments and Irish Life Investment Managers, and IGM Financial’s subsidiaries Investors Group and Mackenzie Investments, integrating ESG factors into their investment processes.
Investors Group offers mortgages that incentivize energy-efficient homes and renovations making them eligible for mortgage insurance premium savings.
We work collaboratively with our third parties to extend our responsible management philosophy through our Third Party Code, and to encourage more sustainable products and services. In 2016, as part of our Third Party Code of Conduct deployment, we reached out to key suppliers, consultants, advisors and other business partners. To date, the vast majority of them have attested compliance to the requirements of our Code.
As a group, we are committed to playing our part in accelerating climate action and finding suitable financial solutions. From an investment standpoint, we are helping finance cleaner and renewable energy projects through Power Energy and Great-West Life. Despite our limited environmental impact as a holding company, we make every effort to conserve resources, improve energy efficiency, and manage waste effectively. Together with our major operating subsidiaries, we continued to reduce our GHG emissions and implement innovative environmental initiatives as part of our green building BOMA BEST® designation. In 2016, we were recognized for our efforts by the CDP as were Power Financial, Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial. Furthermore, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations earned a position on the CDP’s Climate A List, placing it in the top 10% of companies globally, the only Canadian financial services company to do so. GWL Realty Advisors continued to be recognized for its property management excellence, obtaining a Green Star ranking on the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB).
Together with our major operating subsidiaries, we are taking a leadership position in promoting justice for all and supporting human rights in society. For example, Power Corporation and its subsidiaries, Great-West Life, London Life, Canada Life, and Investors Group, collectively made a significant commitment to the launch of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The museum’s mandate is to explore the subject of human rights in order to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue.
Charitable Giving Funds
Mackenzie Investments and Investors Group are leaders in the provision of donor-advised giving programs in Canada, providing clients with a charitable giving account to support charities of their choice. Each company’s program is run through a Foundation which administers the charitable giving funds and applies all or part of the principal and income from those funds to eligible charities on behalf of clients. Both companies’ charitable giving programs were established in 2006, and in 2016 assets under management grew to over $210 million. In 2016, the charitable giving funds provided 3,740 grants to charities totalling $9.3 million. Since 2006, over 20,000 grants have been made, totalling $43.6 million.