Sustainable Products and Services
We invest in quality companies with sustainable franchises and attractive growth prospects that are managed responsibly and provide sustainable products and services.
For us, sustainable products and services are those that generate measurable social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns, creating long-term value for shareholders and society at large.
Given the mainstay of our investments is in financial services, we believe we represent a positive force in society by providing our customers with affordable and accessible life and health insurance, retirement savings programs, and a suite of investment products, including socially responsible investment funds. Our group’s financial consultants and advisors are also contributing to financial literacy by providing financial advice and guidance to our clients. These services are helping to make a real difference for a broad spectrum of society in all age and income groups – including those with lower incomes.
We are also helping finance sustainable and renewable energy projects, through our subsidiaries Power Energy and Great-West Lifeco. These types of investments are supporting the transition to a low carbon economy, while positively impacting society and the environment.
Highlights from our Group Companies
AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE FINANCIAL SERVICES
Great-West Lifeco continues to innovate regarding its products and services to provide access to finance for a broad range of underserved markets, including younger people, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as the growing retired population.
Recent innovations include the first-in-Canada flexible retirement savings program, which allows participating sponsors to help their members address both their retirement and student debt repayment needs. As members pay down their debt, an employer-matched contribution goes into their group retirement and savings plan. Indigo became the first national employer in Canada to offer this program to their employees. The program has since expanded with positive results: one sponsor increased group retirement savings plan participation by 11 per cent. The program continues to expand today.
Canada Life also launched Flexbox™, a solution for small business employers that helps increase the accessibility of employee group health benefits and taps a broader spectrum of previously underserved customers. Using a self-serve digital platform, employers can learn about group benefits at their convenience, and design a plan tailored to their budget and needs. Purchases can be made on the spot or through an advisor.
Great-West Lifeco is also investing in new technologies to allow its customers to connect with them when, where and how they choose, and is developing innovative solutions and leveraging technology such as automation, digital interfaces, artificial intelligence and robotics to enhance customer reach, access and transparency, and meet the evolving needs of diverse markets. One example is SimpleProtect™ – its digital insurance application tool – launched to all advisors who sell term, participating life and critical illness insurance. SimpleProtect simplifies the process to help Canadians get insurance protection faster – with applications completed in as little as 10 minutes. Since 2018, Canada Life also gives employees access to healthcare professionals on the go through a pilot with a fully-bilingual virtual health care service called Dialogue. Dialogue allows employees to chat with healthcare professionals by text, phone or video, renew prescriptions for themselves and their family members, and be referred to see a specialist in person. Power Corporation also invests in Dialogue through Power Financial and Portag3.
Canada Life is also a founding investor of the Canadian Business Growth Fund aimed at fostering innovation. Funded by Canada’s leading banks and insurance companies, the Fund will invest in Canadian entrepreneurs and provide businesses with the capital they need to grow domestically and globally. An advisory network has also been created to provide mentorship to help these businesses to achieve their full growth potential and write the next generation of Canadian business success stories.
As an extension of IGM Financial’s day-to-day work of helping clients with their financial goals, the company is committed to improving the financial confidence of Canadians who need it the most, knowing that providing people with the knowledge and resources they need to understand their personal finances will help them build a better financial future for themselves and their families. Through the daily work of financial advisors who serve its clients, the financial literacy presentations these advisors deliver in the community, and as partners in the creation of financial education programs and curricula, IGM Financial is a leader in the ongoing effort to advance the financial confidence and financial security of Canadians.
Wealthsimple, one of Canada’s largest online investment managers, in which we invest through our subsidiaries, provides advice and services that are accessible, affordable and human. Wealthsimple offers investment management services, including automatic rebalancing, dividend reinvesting and tax loss harvesting, that most people couldn’t afford until now or found too time-consuming and tedious to do on their own.
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT FUNDS
Responsible investing is not new to GLC Asset Management Group (GLC), which launched its first fund with specific ESG criteria 20 years ago and now includes responsible investing strategies in all the funds it manages. The company provides clients with a meaningful way to ensure their investments promote a high level of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and corporate governance. Individual, group and institutional clients benefit from professional portfolio management services as well as screening and review processes for socially responsible investing. GLC incorporates responsible investing strategies into existing mandates and applies its disciplined investment processes for all the funds it manages, including alternative asset class portfolios and asset allocation funds. In 2019, GLC focused on helping advisors be knowledgeable and ready to address the needs of their clients by developing a robust advisor training module, expanding the GLC website resources on responsible investing to include podcasts, short videos, GLC’s responsible investment policies, and articles on GLC’s News&Insights blog and in national industry publications.
As a way to present investors with relevant investment options enabling them to match their own priorities, Putnam Investments offers two mutual funds with a dedicated sustainability focus. The Putnam Sustainable Future Fund invests in solutions-oriented companies dedicated to solving big global sustainability challenges, while the Putnam Sustainable Leaders Fund invests in companies with a dedication to leadership in sustainable business practices and whose products and services provide solutions that directly contribute to sustainable social, environmental, and economic development. Combined assets of these two funds were approximately $4.5 billion as of March 31, 2020, making Putnam one of the 10 largest managers of dedicated sustainable equity mutual fund assets in the United States.
Through its operating companies, IGM Financial has a suite of socially-responsible products and services to meet the evolving needs of its clients. For example, in addition to ESG integration across all investment funds, IG Wealth Management offers clients the proprietary IG Mackenzie Summa SRI fund. Launched in 1987, the fund was one of the first of its kind in Canada and is focused on companies with progressive practices towards environmental, human rights and other social issues. It also offers charitable giving funds, Registered Disability Savings Plans and retail mutual funds in Canada that abide by the United-Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment. For instance, IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie Investments have continued to be market leaders in offering Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP) for clients or family members with disabilities, providing them access to a tax-preferred savings vehicle and at the same time take advantage of generous government grants and bonds.
Mackenzie Investments also offers Sustainable, Responsible and Impact products to provide clients with opportunities to invest in specific ESG themes or in funds that optimize social or environmental needs first:
The Mackenzie Global Sustainability and Impact Balanced Fund selects companies that are willing to engage in or have incorporated strategies to improve ESG practices.
The Mackenzie Global Leadership Impact Fund and Mackenzie Global Leadership Impact ETF are aimed at driving social and governance change through a focus on companies that promote gender diversity and the benefits of women in leadership.
The Mackenzie Global Environmental Equity Fund focuses on opportunities in environmental sectors, notably in energy transition from fossil-fuels to renewable power.
In 2019, Investment Planning Counsel launched a dedicated ESG portfolio, the IPC ESG Balanced Essentials Portfolio which objective is to provide long-term capital appreciation by investing primarily in equity and fixed-income ETFs with top ESG scores in their category, while aiming to reduce volatility.
In 2016, Wealthsimple introduced SRI portfolios designed using ETFs that prioritize low carbon emissions, advance cleantech innovation, and promote sustainable growth in emerging markets or gender diversity. In 2020, Wealthsimple and Mackenzie Investments partnered to launch two socially-responsible ETFs. With the goal of achieving diversified exposure to companies that do not violate commonly held social and environmental values, the Wealthsimple North America Socially Responsible Index ETF will invest primarily in Canadian and U.S. equity securities while the Wealthsimple Developed Markets ex North America Socially Responsible Index ETF will invest primarily in equity securities of companies in Europe, Australia and Asia. The initial offering of the two ETFs has closed and they began trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange on June 16, 2020. These two ETFs are now the basis of Wealthsimple’s redesigned SRI portfolios.
SUSTAINABLE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SERVICES
GWL Realty Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco, manages a multi-client portfolio of over 300 office, multi-residential, light industrial and retail properties in Canada, as well as all the corporate campuses of Canada Life. Sustainability principles are integrated into the management of these properties.
Its Sustainability Benchmarking and Conservation Program covers its managed office properties, setting out five-year reduction targets for each of these properties, and using industry benchmarks and regional averages to gauge performance. GWL Realty Advisors reported that since 2013, it reduced its office and residential portfolios GHG emissions by 16 per cent, energy intensity by 9.5 per cent, water intensity by 14.2 per cent and waste to landfill by 4.9 per cent. In the five first years of the program (2013-2018), total reductions led to a cumulative utility cost avoidance of $8.2 million for its tenants and benefitted the environment by reducing GHG emissions by 21.7 per cent. Thanks to the sustained efforts of GWL Realty Advisors’ property and asset management teams, its office properties are now, on average, 18 per cent more energy efficient and 38 per cent more water efficient than the REALPAC-reported national office property averages, while the average waste diversion rate is 2 per cent better than the national average for BOMA BEST® certified offices. In 2019, new five-year (2018–2023) property-level targets were established for energy, water, waste and GHG emissions.
A majority of the buildings under GWL Realty Advisors’ management also have green building certifications, and a range of sustainability features that are enhancing the health, wellness and environmental performance of buildings for their tenants. To date, 92 per cent of its eligible commercial portfolio by floor area has a green building certification, BOMA BEST® and/or LEED®, representing over 37.8 million square feet of its managed portfolio. In 2019, the company launched the “Going for Gold” challenge, to encourage office properties to achieve a minimum ‘Gold’ BOMA BEST® certification by 2023. And in 2019, Canada Life’s London office received BOMA BEST Platinum certification, making it the first of their buildings to earn this level of certification. In addition, BOMA Québec honoured their Montréal office with The Outstanding Building of the Year Award, which recognizes excellence in building management and all facets of operating, including community involvement and environmental and sustainability management.
In 2019, GWL Realty Advisors was recognized as a leader in sustainability by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), placing among the top 10 per cent of 964 companies globally and the top four per cent in the Global Diversified category, and earning a Green Star ranking for the fifth consecutive year as well as a third consecutive GRESB ‘5 Star’ rating. The GRESB Real Estate Assessment has placed GWL Realty Advisors among the top four per cent of participants in the Global Diversified category (of 230 submissions). In addition to being recognized as a leader in the field, its score increased 18 per cent from its first submission in 2015.
Irish Life Investment Managers is also committed to the development and management of efficient, healthy and safe buildings, working with all stakeholders including its planning and design teams, construction teams, tenants, property managers and co-owners across its property portfolios with a clear focus on the big picture agreeing a common approach to sustainability and reducing its combined footprint. The company strives to reduce the carbon footprint of the buildings it develops and manages and recognizes the important role it plays in helping its tenants to reduce their carbon footprint. This is why Irish Life Investment Managers is committed to developing programs in its multi-tenanted buildings that increase energy efficiency, optimize the use of water and reduce waste at source, while also monitoring trends and explore the use of renewable energy where economically and technically feasible. Finally, all buildings in its property portfolios hold a BER (Building Energy Rating) certificate in line with the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as adopted under Irish law.
SUSTAINABLE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENTS
Power Energy, which is managed by Power Sustainable Capital, one of Power Corporation’s investment platforms, creates long-term value by actively managing investments in the renewable energy sector with the goal of building and owning, over the long term, companies that can generate growing and stable cash flows. Power Energy invests in companies that benefit from the global energy transformation and has invested in companies that develop, own and operate solar and wind generating assets in North America as well as in leading manufacturers of sustainable technologies. Power Energy currently holds investments in the following companies:
Potentia Renewables – a renewable energy generation company active in the solar and wind sector in North America and the Caribbean
Nautilus Solar Energy – a leading U.S. solar developer and asset manager focused on distributed and utility-scaled generation solar projects
Lumenpulse – a leading manufacturer of high-performance, specification-grade LED lighting solutions
Lion Electric – a manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles sold throughout North America
At December 31, 2019, Power Energy had invested a total of $843 million in these four companies.
Imerys is fully aware of stakeholder expectations to reduce product environmental footprints while at the same time provide sustainable solutions aligned to global megatrends. Product management that incorporates environmental and societal criteria contributes to the development of sustainable business opportunities. The technological know-how of Imerys enables the group to be in an excellent position to improve the yield of its mineral resources. At the same time, the strength of the group’s commercial network and strong innovation capacity maximize the group’s production value and capacity to optimize resource use efficiency across the globe, thereby contributing to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Imerys also constantly seeks to develop ways to create a more sustainable, greener value chain and still produce high-performance end product for customers. While recycling rates of industrial minerals are relatively high, the group is committed to continue to identify recycling opportunities and assess circular economy solutions, recognizing the global need to produce with less, for longer and smarter. In addition, Imerys’ commitment to sound mineral resources management, technological improvements and newly-developed applications makes it possible to transform low-grade materials, tailings and wastes into marketable resources.
Being committed to innovation of solutions at the service of a low-carbon economy, Imerys also supports customers in this transition. To this effect, Imerys is conducting studies of its products portfolio to determine their carbon footprint. These studies serve a dual purpose of providing complete and transparent information to customers and giving the group an improved visibility over the impacts linked to specific products or facilities, which is a precursor to initiating any eco-design approach. In 2019, Imerys calculated approximately 30 product carbon footprints, from cradle to gate, using either the life cycle assessment or the Bilan Carbone® methodology and tool from the French Environment and Energy Agency. Some of these study results were shared with customers to help encourage downstream efforts to calculate product impacts and differentiate Imerys solutions from other competitors’ higher carbon products. In addition, in 2019, Imerys conducted life cycle assessments for 28 products, which provide a detailed inventory of non-energetic resources consumed during each phase of production of the products.