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.
Having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions is critical to the financial well-being of Canadians. 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 Canadians of all horizons plan for their long-term financial security.
In 2017, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations helped families cope with loss, paying out more than $2.4 billion in life insurance benefits and providing income for over 78,000 people who became disabled and could no longer work. It also helped over 30,000 employers provide benefits plans and 9,000 employers offer retirement savings plans for their employees. In 2017, Great-West Life held $109 billion in retirement and other investment holdings for Canadians, paid $9.4 billion in benefits and 58 million health and dental claims, representing more than $4.8 billion in health and dental benefits for plan members. It also made $858 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.
Through our subsidiaries, we invest in Wealthsimple, Canada’s largest robo-advisor, which provides world-class, long-term investment management. An online portfolio manager, Wealthsimple offers services, such as 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.
We also 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 greater understanding of mental health. In 2017, Great-West Life paid 58 million health and dental claims, representing more than $4.8 billion in health and dental benefits for plan members.
Another example is Dialogue, a technology start-up we invest in through Power Financial and Diagram, which offers to its customers’ employees online access to healthcare professionals who can provide virtual consultations, diagnoses and treatment plans. Dialogue helps employees to better manage their physical and mental health, while contributing to employers’ efforts to reduce their overall healthcare costs and absenteeism.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Great-West Life’s Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, 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 improve psychological health and safety in the workplace. These resources are available to all employers and organizations through the Centre’s website, which receives an average of 15,000 visits every month.
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 12,200 financial consultants and advisors provide our clients with financial advice and guidance, which is an important part of financial literacy. 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.
For Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations, 2017 marked its fourth 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 2017, the programs’ volunteers provided objective, easy to understand information sessions on 35 topics to 50,000 Canadians. Examples of the program’s initiatives include school programs to teach students basic concepts and skills through interactive activities and case studies, or a community session helping seniors to better manage their finances in retirement and protect themselves against fraud. Great-West Life’s SmartPATH website also 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 continues to make a significant contribution to improving financial literacy of youth and their parents, having contributed $3.9 million since 1995 to support and promote financial literacy programs for Canadian children and teens, including through its continued 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.
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 Life supported the launch of networking and mentoring groups for up-and-coming female leaders, focusing on education, inspiration and networking. 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.
At IGM Financial, the approach to Board and senior management diversity was formalized through a Diversity Policy, and, in 2018, female representation on the board of directors increased to 33 per cent and women comprised 28 per cent of the executive team, with women achieving 50 per cent of the promotions at that level. 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.
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. The Principles will guide them as they assess their policies and programs and help them to take action to empower women.
In addition to setting up a Women at Wealthsimple employee group that meets regularly to listen to speakers and network, Wealthsimple has also partnered with #MovetheDial, an organization whose objective is to increase the participation and leadership of all women in tech. At the moment, about 30 per cent of Wealthsimple’s 150 employees are women.
Renewable Energy Financing
We are financing investments into the sustainable and renewable energy sector through our wholly owned subsidiary, Power Energy Corporation, which actively manages investments in companies that benefit from the global energy transformation and currently has invested in companies that develop, own and operate solar, hydro and wind generating assets in North America as well as in leading manufacturers of sustainable technologies. To date, 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, a leading manufacturer of high-performance, specification-grade LED lighting solutions; Lion Electric, a manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles sold throughout North America.
Investments in Green Energy Projects
In 2017, Great-West Lifeco’s Private Debt Investments group in Canada invested over $880 million in renewable energy projects, which included wind, solar, and hydro energy projects, investments in publically-issued green bonds, as well as investments in transit-oriented and LEED-certified P3 projects.
Job creation and benefits
Power Corporation and its group companies employed more than 30,000 individuals and paid out $7.5 billion in salaries and other benefits, and commissions in 2017. These funds flow through the economy, impacting the hundreds of communities in which our employees live and work.
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 business and governments to help create employment, fund research and development, and support infrastructure, healthcare, and renewable energy projects. In 2017, the company funded more than $3.0 billion in new private debt and commercial mortgages across Canada.
Along with other major banks and insurance companies, Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations also announced, in October 2017, the creation of the Canadian Business Growth Fund to foster innovation through investments in small- and medium-sized Canadian companies seeking long-term, patient and minority capital to finance continued growth. The fund will facilitate mentorship and access to talent pools and help these businesses achieve their full potential. It will also establish an advisory network to provide mentorship to help close some of the knowledge gaps preventing many mid-sized companies from achieving their full growth potential at home and globally.
REGISTERED DISABILITY SAVINGS PLANS
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 2017, assets under management within RDSPs grew significantly to over $680 million.
Greener Real Estate
Great-West Lifeco's subsidiary, GWL Realty Advisors, is contributing to more safe, resilient and sustainable real estate assets. A majority of the buildings under GWL Realty Advisors’ 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. Throughout the year, GWL Realty Advisors continued to pursue its target of achieving green building certifications for all eligible properties. To date, 89 per cent of its eligible commercial portfolio by floor area is BOMA BEST® or LEED® certified, covering over 300 buildings across Canada. In addition, in 2017, all of Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian corporate head offices were BOMA BEST® certified and targeting Gold level upon re-certification in 2018.
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. as a way to identify both risks and opportunities to enhance long-term returns for investors.
Sagard Europe, Sagard Holdings and Sagard China, Power Corporation’s equity investment funds, as well as Pargesa and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL), have formalized their commitment to incorporate ESG considerations into their investment analysis process through their respective CSR Statements.
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 of Conduct, and to encourage more sustainable products and services. In 2017 and in 2018, as part of our 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 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. In 2017, we were once again recognized for our efforts by the CDP, as were Power Financial, Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial, all obtaining a score of A- (Leadership). We are proud to mention that among the 2017 CDP respondents in the financial services sector, four of the six top ranked Canadian companies were members of the Power group.
In 2017, 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) for a third consecutive year, reflecting the work done to consistently improve its score by focusing on the sustainability and efficiency of its managed portfolio. Ranking number one in Canada, GWL Realty Advisors is also ranked among the top 8 per cent of 850 global real estate management firms.
Together with our major operating subsidiaries, we are 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 2017, assets under management grew to over $230 million. In 2017, the charitable giving funds provided 4,190 grants to charities totalling $13.5 million. Since 2006, over 25,000 grants have been made, totalling $59.1 million.