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 is 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 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.
Globally, Great-West Lifeco paid over $32 billion in benefits to customers in 2018. Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian companies helped families cope with loss, paying out more than $2.5 billion in life insurance benefits in 2018 and providing income for over 79,000 people who became disabled and could no longer work. It also helped over 30,000 employers provide benefits plans and 9,100 employers offer retirement savings plans to their employees. They also paid $9.3 billion in benefits and made $916 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 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 a greater understanding of mental health.
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. We also offer our employees access to Dialogue.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Great-West Life’s Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (the Centre), which celebrated its 11th anniversary in 2018, 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 180,000 users every year. To date, Great-West Lifeco has invested over $11.5 million in the Centre and mental health related initiatives and has made more than $5.5 million in charitable contributions to projects aligned with the Centre.
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.
For Great-West Lifeco’s Canadian operations, 2018 marked its fifth year of commitment as the national sponsor of the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Canada’s suite of outreach educational programs that are helping meet the financial literacy needs of community organizations, and underserved groups like new Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, post-secondary students and individuals of all ages. Since becoming the national program sponsor in 2014, Great-West Lifeco has provided almost $1 million in charitable support to the program. In 2018, CPA Canada reported that more than 75,000 Canadians accessed digital resources and 2,280 no-fee workshops in 35 financial literacy programs, including five new ones. 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.
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 gain a basic understanding of 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, under the banner of IG Empower Your Tomorrow, IG’s sponsorship and community platform focuses on building the financial confidence of Canadians who stand to benefit the most from it – youth, seniors, new Canadians, and Indigenous Peoples. Tailored financial knowledge and resources are delivered to these groups through strategic community partnerships. As an example, 50 financial literacy workshops were delivered to over 1,300 seniors and Canadian newcomers through the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE)/IG Wealth Management workshop series.
IG Wealth Management continues to make significant contributions to improving financial literacy of youth and their parents, having contributed $4.1 million since 1995 to support and promote financial literacy programs for Canadians, including through its continued collaboration with the 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, 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 2018, 69 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 Policy and, in 2018, female representation on their board of directors increased to 33 per cent, up from 6 per cent in 2015, the year the Board diversity policy was established. Women comprised 31 per cent of the executive team, achieving 45 per cent of the promotions at that level.
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.
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 March 2018, Wealthsimple conducted its first “Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging” study across its offices in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition to collecting data on race, gender, ethnicity, and other demographic information, they asked employees 11 questions about inclusion in the workplace. Interestingly, the survey revealed that 93 per cent of employees agree with the statement “Wealthsimple values diversity”. In 2018, women made up about 35 per cent of Wealthsimple’s employees, and held 29.5 per cent of roles at the management level.
As a way to further foster diversity, Wealthsimple supported the creation of two employee groups: Women at Wealthsimple and Rainbow (LGBTQ+). In addition, Wealthsimple is one of the founding partners of #MovetheDial, an organization whose objective is to increase the participation and leadership of all women in tech, and supports Women and Color, an online community of subject matter experts who identify as women and/or people of color.
Renewable Energy Financing
We invest in 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 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; 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; and Lion Electric, a manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles sold throughout North America.
Investments in Green Energy Projects
In 2018, Great-West Lifeco invested over $2 billion in wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects and the company’s public bonds group made 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 $7.9 billion in salaries and other benefits, and commissions in 2018. 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 2018, the company funded more than $3.5 billion in new private debt and commercial mortgages across Canada.
Great-West Lifeco is also a founding investor of the newly launched 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.
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 evolve its sustainability platform to meet the demand for smarter, climate-resilient, more sustainable and healthier buildings for tenants and residents. By investing in and developing mixed-use and residential spaces and certified green buildings, GWL Realty Advisors is not only helping address a growing (affordable) rental shortage in many major cities in Canada, but is also supporting sustainable buildings.
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. This has helped property teams drive operational and efficiency gains at corporate offices and investment properties, ultimately reducing their environmental footprint across three core areas, including energy efficiency, water efficiency and waste minimization. As 2018 marked the culmination of the 2013-2018 five-year target-setting initiative, GWL Realty Advisors reported that, thanks to the combined efforts of its property and asset management teams, it has surpassed its energy, water and GHG emissions reduction targets as at year-end 2018, seeing reductions of 10%, 8% and 22%, respectively.
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, 92 per cent of its eligible commercial portfolio by floor area is BOMA BEST® or LEED® certified, representing over 36 million square feet of its managed portfolio. In 2018, its parent company, Great-West Lifeco, marked a historic milestone with all its corporate head offices being BOMA BEST® Gold certified.
In 2018, GWL Realty Advisors was once again recognized as a leader in sustainability by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), earning its fourth consecutive Green Star ranking. GWL Realty Advisors received its second consecutive ‘5 star’ rating – the highest available. The GRESB Real Estate Assessment has placed GWL Realty Advisors among the top three participants in Canada and fourth overall (of 196 submissions) in the Global Diversified category. In addition to being recognized as a leader in the field, its score increased 16 per cent from its first submission in 2015, moving the company to the top seven per cent worldwide 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 (PRI) – including Great-West Lifeco’s subsidiaries GLC Asset Management Group, Putnam Investments and Irish Life Investment Managers, and IGM Financial’s subsidiaries 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. In 2018, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) also became signatory to the PRI, furthering its commitment to pursue the development of its responsible investment approach.
GLC Asset Management Group has joined the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) to help support their work in promoting responsible investment literacy as well as their advocacy efforts to shift public policy and regulation towards frameworks that are more conducive to responsible investing. IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie Investments are also members of the RIA.
Sagard Europe, Sagard Holdings and Sagard China, Power Corporation’s investment funds, as well as Pargesa and GBL, have formalized their commitment to incorporate ESG considerations into their investment analysis process through their respective CSR Statements.
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 2018 and in 2019, 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 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 2018, both Power Corporation and Power Financial obtained a score of A (Leadership), earning a spot on the CDP A List, along with 127 other companies worldwide. With IGM Financial also obtaining an “A” score, earning a place on the A list, and Great-West Lifeco scoring “A-”, four of the five top ranked Canadian financial services companies are members of the Power Corporation group.
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 17%, representing 25,970 tonnes of CO2e, surpassing its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6.6% by 2018.
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 IG Wealth Management, 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 IG Wealth Management 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.