Aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals
We are committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and work to support the goals they outline, including the eradication of poverty, building economic growth, addressing social needs, and tackling climate change. Given the mainstay of our investments is in financial services, we believe we represent a positive force in society. Our major publicly traded operating companies 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 31 million customer relationships in Canada, the United States and Europe, our financial services companies enable financial security through life and health insurance, retirement savings programs, and a suite of investment products.
Having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions is critical to the financial well-being of our clients. Through the innovative products and services provided by our operating subsidiaries Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial, and the fintech companies in which we invest, such as Wealthsimple, we are helping clients of all horizons plan for their long-term financial security.
In 2020, Great-West Lifeco paid over $39 billion in benefits to customers globally, including $9.3 billion in Canada. Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian insurance companies helped families cope with loss, paying out more than $2.6 billion in life insurance benefits in 2020 and providing income for over 82,000 people who became disabled and could no longer work. Their participating life insurance products delivered over $1 billion of policyholder dividends. They also helped approximately 27,000 employers provide benefits plans and more than 9,000 employers offer retirement savings plans to their employees. In addition, they made $912 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.
Through our subsidiaries, we also invest in Wealthsimple, one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing online investment managers, which 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.
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 addition, we invest in businesses that promote health and wellness. For instance, Great-West Lifeco’s health and life insurance business is helping thousands of Canadians manage their personal wellness. Working together with other healthcare partners, they are improving the accessibility and affordability of group benefits, providing education on physical health, and developing a greater understanding of mental health. Great-West Lifeco’s subsidiary, Putnam Investments, also invests in companies whose core business directly supports human health and well-being, as determined by Putnam. As of December 2020, approximately 16 per cent of Putnam Sustainable Leaders holdings and 30 per cent of Putnam Sustainable Future holdings consisted of such investments.
Another example is Dialogue, a leading global virtual healthcare platform and the #1 provider in Canada, in which we invest through Portage. Dialogue offers to its customers’ employees online access to healthcare professionals who can provide virtual consultations, diagnoses and treatment plans. The company helps employees to better manage their physical and mental health, while contributing to employers’ efforts to reduce their overall healthcare costs and absenteeism. We also offer our employees access to Dialogue.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, compliments of Canada Life (Workplace Strategies), initially established in 2007 as the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, offers a range of tools and resources for employers and employees to protect psychological health and safety at work.
In 2020, Workplace Strategies launched the Psychologically Safe Leader Assessment (PSLA) – a free online tool helping managers assess their leadership strategies related to psychological health and safety. Based on organizational psychology research that shows that taking a break can help people make better decisions, stay focused, retain information and be more creative, Workplace Strategies also created Break Box – a practical, enjoyable box of activities and resources designed to help support mental health at work and home. In August, Canada Life teamed up with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to send boxes to over 200 Canadian businesses and not-for-profits.
To further support Canadians during the pandemic, Workplace Strategies offered a webinar on building resilience when stressors are high which was delivered to individuals from over 300 businesses and local chambers from across Canada, and they posted to their YouTube channel a series of COVID-19 videos addressing a variety of topics on viewers’ minds.
Workplace Strategies is also helping support wellness for post-secondary students, staff and faculty with Mindful Campuses. Through this program, postsecondary institutions can apply to receive a grant to help with on campus or virtual activities. All applicants receive a digital tool kit, which includes Workplace Strategies’ Plan for resilience for staff and faculty and From surviving to thriving for students, which is also available for free to anyone on the Workplace Strategies website.
Since its inception, Canada Life has invested over $13 million in Workplace Strategies and mental health-related initiatives, and more than 780,000 visitors browsed Workplace Strategies’ free online tools and resources. In addition, the group has made more than $11 million in charitable contributions to mental health-related initiatives.
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.
Canada Life is the national development sponsor of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)’s award-winning financial literacy program, which draws upon the knowledge and expertise of more than 7,000 passionate CPA volunteers to deliver objective and free sessions that help Canadians, from children to seniors, to make informed decisions and achieve their goals. Since becoming the Financial Literacy Program National Development Sponsor in 2014, the company has provided over $1 million in support, which has helped CPA Canada build a strong volunteer network with in-person workshops and digital training and resources. This year, to address needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada Life supported Wellness in a Time of Crisis & The Road Ahead, a new program to help Canadian workers survive the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and adapt to changing circumstances. The program provided straightforward information, distilled jargon and helped Canadians formulate a plan to move forward. The series also featured resources from Workplace Strategies for Mental Health to provide Canadians with practical hands-on tips on managing their well-being. More than 102,000 people attended or downloaded resources from the series. Overall, in 2020, over 750 sessions were held with more than 183,000 Canadians attending workshops and more than 162,000 people accessing digital resources.
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.
In addition, the platform IG Empower your Tomorrow focuses on assisting four key groups who are underserved when it comes to financial guidance: Indigenous peoples, newcomers, seniors and youth. This platform is brought to life through IG Wealth Management advisors, national partnerships, community seminars, events and educational materials. All told, more than 1,600 households participated in Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE)/IG financial literacy workshops in 2020, up from less than 1,100 in 2019. In late 2020, the company launched the IG Empower Your Tomorrow Indigenous Commitment, which dedicates $5 million over the next five years to support programs and initiatives to further the financial confidence of Indigenous communities in Canada. The centrepiece of the campaign is a new partnership with Prosper Canada to build the financial confidence of Indigenous people in isolated, rural communities. IG and Prosper Canada will leverage the capacity and expertise of leading regional financial empowerment organizations – SEED Winnipeg and Community Financial Counselling Services in Manitoba, and Sudbury Community Service Centre in Ontario – as well as their national Indigenous partner, AFOA Canada. The new program will begin with pilot projects in two Manitoba and two Ontario First Nation communities to be identified in 2021.
Lastly, knowing that learning the financial systems of a new country can be daunting, IGM Financial works with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to provide financial education in newcomers’ first language.
We have a commitment to promote gender diversity at the Board and at senior management levels, which we articulate through our Board and Senior Management Diversity Policy.
In recent years, Great-West Lifeco's Canadian companies supported the launch of networking and mentoring groups, such as the Women in Leadership group, and other initiatives for up-and-coming female leaders, focusing on education and inspiration. These groups reflect the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and in particular support the advancement of women in the organization. In 2020, 68 per cent of Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian workforce and 46 per cent of its management-level employees in the country were women.
At IGM Financial, the approach to Board and senior management diversity was formalized through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy. Since the adoption of the policy in 2016, 71 per cent of vacant board positions have been filled by women directors, and the percentage of women on the board has exceeded the objective, rising from 12.5 per cent in 2016 to 33 per cent in 2020. In 2020, women comprised 56.5 per cent of the company’s employees.
In early 2018, all three of IGM Financial’s operating companies became signatories to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles, which promote gender equality in the workplace, communities and marketplace. With guidance from organizations such as GATE, Catalyst and Women in Capital Markets, IGM Financial is implementing targeted strategies and initiatives aimed at enabling the upward mobility of existing talent and increasing sourcing opportunities for external talent. While the ultimate goal is gender parity, the short-term objective was to have at least 35 per cent of IGM executive roles – vice president and above – held by women by 2020. In 2020, 33 per cent of these roles were held by women.
Both IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie Investments have implemented Taking the Stage®, a program for women focusing on the skills and tactics that drive leadership presence and effectiveness. In 2020, the Taking the Stage training for women was delivered to 679 women.
Wealthsimple conducts a diversity, equity and inclusion internal survey twice a year. In light of the results, the company decided to implement new initiatives to further foster diversity. For instance, it made some changes to its overall hiring and interview process, including sourcing candidates outside its traditional networks and making sure people with different backgrounds and identities were part of the interview and decision-making process. It also continues to invest in employee resource groups (ERGs) dedicated to anyone who identifies as a woman, non-binary or other gender identities.
Renewable Energy Financing
We invest in the renewable energy sector through our alternative asset investment platform Power Sustainable, which actively manages investments in companies that benefit from the global energy transformation. Power Sustainable 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. It currently holds investments in Potentia Renewables, a renewable energy generation company active in the solar and wind sector in North America and the Caribbean; and Nautilus Solar Energy, a leading U.S. solar developer and asset manager focused on distributed and utility-scaled generation solar projects. At December 31, 2020, Power Sustainable had invested a total of $609 million in its renewable energy infrastructure portfolio. In addition, Power Sustainable also has equity investments in LMPG, formerly known as Lumenpulse, an internationally recognized designer, developer, and manufacturer of a wide range of high-performance and sustainable specification-grade LED solutions for commercial, institutional, and urban environments; and Lion Electric, an innovative manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles that creates, designs and manufactures all-electric class 5 to class 8 commercial urban trucks and all-electric buses and minibuses for the school, paratransit and mass transit segments.
Investments in Green Energy Projects
In order to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, Great-West Lifeco decided to increase investments in the cleaner energy market, which in 2020 amounted to over $4.4 billion in wind, solar, and hydro renewable energy projects, as well as purchases of Ontario and Québec’s green bonds.
Job creation and benefits
Power Corporation and its group companies employed approximately 30,000 individuals and paid out $4.78 billion in salaries and other benefits in 2020. These funds flow through the economy, impacting the hundreds of communities in which our employees live and work. Our investments in training and new technologies also contribute to develop local talent and the intellectual capital of our people.
INVESTMENTS TO SPUR GROWTH
Through its investment activities, Great-West Lifeco provides long-term capital, contributing to economic growth, and helping Canadians reach their financial goals. The company’s commercial mortgages, public bond and private placement investments provide opportunities for businesses and governments to help create employment, fund research and development, and support infrastructure, healthcare, and renewable energy projects. In 2020, the company funded more than $2.6 billion in new private debt and commercial mortgages across Canada.
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 invests 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.
REGISTERED DISABILITY SAVINGS PLANS
IG Wealth Management 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.
Sustainable Real Estate
Great-West Lifeco's subsidiary, GWL Realty Advisors, is contributing to more safe, resilient and sustainable real estate assets. Its goal is to accelerate progress towards meeting the demand for smarter, climate-resilient, more sustainable and healthier buildings for tenants and residents. Through its leadership and expertise, GWL Realty Advisors believes it can have the greatest impact by influencing the development of sustainable cities and communities; encouraging more responsible consumption and production within its managed portfolio; and reducing the energy and carbon footprint of its clients’ portfolios to support the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
Its Sustainability Benchmarking and Conservation Program covers its office portfolio, setting out five-year energy, water, waste and GHG emission reduction targets for the period from 2019 to 2023. GWL Realty Advisors reported that since the program was initially introduced in 2013, it reduced the carbon footprint of its office and residential portfolios by 29 per cent, energy intensity by 19 per cent, water intensity by 26 per cent, and waste to landfill by 21 per cent.
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. At the end of 2020, 92 per cent of its eligible portfolio by floor area had a green building certification, BOMA BEST® and/or LEED®, representing 37 million square feet of its managed portfolio, and 97 per cent of its office properties were part of the company’s “Going for Gold” challenge which aims to have properties attain or maintain a minimum BOMA BEST Gold certification by 2023. All of Canada Life’s main office properties have now reached this milestone. Also in 2020, BOMA BC honoured GWL Realty Advisors’ Kent Corporate Centre and Millstream Village buildings 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 2020, GWL Realty Advisors was recognized by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) for its leadership in sustainability. The company earned its sixth consecutive ‘Green Star’ and fourth consecutive ‘5 Star’ ratings and placed in the top 9 per cent in the ‘Global Diversified’ category. Moreover, the company’s Canadian Real Estate Investment Fund No. 1 (CREIF) made its third GRESB submission, ranking in the ‘Global Diversified’ category’s top per cent. GRESB also named CREIF the Regional Development Sector Leader in the North America/Diversified/Office/Residential/Non-Listed category, recognizing one of GWL Realty Advisors’ core competencies in sustainable property development.
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. Many of our group companies are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), including Putnam Investments, Irish Life Investment Managers, IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie Investments, which are integrating ESG factors into their investment processes as a way to identify both risks and opportunities to enhance long-term returns for investors. Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) is also signatory to the PRI, furthering its commitment to pursue the development of its responsible investment approach, as are our alternative asset investment platforms Sagard and Power Sustainable.
IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie Investments are also members of the Responsible Investment Association (RIA). In 2020, IG Wealth Management published it first Sustainable and Responsible Investing Report, which describes its sustainable investing approach in detail and includes case studies.
Sagard and Power Sustainable, via its platform Power Pacific, have also formalized, through a CSR statement and/or a responsible investment policy, their commitment to consider ESG factors into their investment analysis process.
GBL has formalized its commitment to incorporate ESG considerations into its investment analysis process through its ESG Policy, which was made public in March 2021.
We work collaboratively with our third parties to extend our responsible management philosophy through our Third Party Code of Conduct, and to encourage more sustainable products and services. In 2020 and in 2021, as part of our continuous Third Party Code deployment, we reached out to new key suppliers, consultants, advisors and other business partners, asking them to confirm their 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 Sustainable and Great-West Lifeco. 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 publicly traded operating companies, we continued to reduce our GHG emissions and implement innovative environmental initiatives. 2021 marked Power Corporation’s tenth year responding to the CDP climate change questionnaire. In 2020, Power Corporation was one of only three Canadian companies, with Great-West Lifeco, to receive the top score of A (Leadership) from the CDP. In addition, Great-West Lifeco placed in the top five per cent of companies globally and achieved the highest rating among Canadian insurance companies for the sixth consecutive year. IGM Financial obtained a score of A- (Leadership) for their response to the 2020 CDP questionnaire. Also in 2020, Great-West Lifeco’s subsidiary Putnam Investments joined the CDP as an investor signatory.
Reducing the energy and carbon footprint of its clients’ portfolios is a priority that enables GWL Realty Advisors to do its part to support the transition towards a low-carbon economy. Since 2013, it has reduced the carbon intensity of its portfolio by 32 per cent, representing 50,068 tonnes of CO2e.
All three of IGM Financial’s operating companies are signatories to the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles, which promote gender equality in the workplace, communities and marketplace.
In addition, both Canada Life and IG Wealth Management are signatories of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Accord, committing to fostering a workplace culture in which Indigenous peoples and all employees can contribute to their fullest potential.
Power Corporation supports initiatives that promote human rights in our community. For example, Power Corporation supports Lawyers Without Borders Canada, a non-governmental international cooperation organization whose mission is to support the defense of the human rights of people in situations of vulnerability by strengthening access to justice and legal representation. We also contribute to Equitas, Canada’s most recognized and active human rights education organization, and support its series of Equitalks conferences that focus on addressing inequities and discrimination and work to build safer and more inclusive communities throughout the world.
Charitable Giving Funds
Mackenzie Investments and IG Wealth Management are leaders in the provision of donor-advised giving programs in Canada, offering Canadians an easy and convenient way to manage their ongoing charitable giving and potentially leave a lasting legacy. 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.