2021 Sustainability Report

Our commitment to sustainability brings our Purpose to life. In this report, you can read about our sustainability performance in 2021.

Download report

2021 Sustainability Report

Our commitment to sustainability brings our Purpose to life. In this report, you can read about our sustainability performance in 2021.

Download report

Our sustainability plan

Our sustainability plan brings our Purpose – to help Clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives – to life. Sustainability is essential to our long-term business success in Canada and around the world. That’s why we strive to embed sustainability in everything we do, including our strategy, operations and culture. Being “sustainability driven” is a key part of Sun Life’s Client Impact strategy. 

Our sustainability plan focuses on our areas of expertise where we can have the most positive social and environmental impact:

  • increasing financial security,
  • fostering healthier lives, and
  • advancing sustainable investing.

These efforts build from our foundation of operating as a trusted and responsible business.

Learn more about our sustainability plan and approach

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals

Through our sustainability plan, we focus our support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the five where we believe we can have the greatest impact. These are:

#3 Good health & well-being
#5 Gender equality
#7 Affordable and clean energy
#8 Decent work and economic growth
#13 Climate action

Advancing our sustainability plan

We aspire to increase the lifetime financial security of our Clients, employees and communities. We’re advancing financial security through innovative products and services, proactive education and improved access to and use of insurance and wealth products.

Our priority Sustainable Development Goal: #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.

2021 performance:

  • Helped drive good financial decisions and habits with 1.4 million positive financial actions taken by Clients in Canada towards financial security. For example, thanks to Ella, our digital coach, Clients placed $690 million in savings products and obtained $951 million of insurance coverage.
  • Teamed up with Conquest Planning to provide their best-in-class digital planning tool to our Clients in Canada. Clients will be able to set, track, and continuously adjust their goals, weighing the effect of life events and other changes. The new tool will also enable us to provide Clients with needs-based advice more seamlessly across our businesses.
  • Made it easier for Clients in Canada to access life insurance coverage. An industry first,
    Sun Life Clients aged 18-40 may now qualify for up to $5 million in life insurance coverage without lab exams. This enhancement in Sun Life’s underwriting means up to 76% of Clients may not need a medical exam to apply for life insurance. This capability enhances the Client experience and provides greater flexibility.
  • Encouraged legislative changes in Canada to explicitly allow for automatic features in voluntary pensions and savings plans. These changes would reduce red tape and administrative burden for employers while also helping more employees participate in these plans, save more (with the help of employer contributions) and retire on time.

Learn more about how Sun Life is increasing financial security

We aspire to improve health and wellness outcomes for all. To achieve this, we offer Clients and employees products and tools to help them live healthier lives. At the same time, we’re working to improve health and wellness in society. We do that by improving access to and use of health and disability insurance. We also invest in community health and thought leadership.

Our priority Sustainable Development Goal: #3 Good Health and Well-being.

2021 performance:

  • Helped drive healthy decisions with 378,000 positive health actions taken by Clients in Canada after a nudge from our digital coach, Ella.
  • Introduced our online Mental Health Coach pilot project to support group benefits Clients in Canada and help prevent or address mental health issues. The program identifies group benefits Clients most at risk of developing mental health problems and guides them towards support.
  • Continued to invest in virtual care solutions, ranging from health-care navigation assistance to online ask-an-expert features. 556,000 Clients and their family have access to Lumino Health Virtual Care in Canada. It’s a free and accessible tool that allows our Clients to connect with local health-care providers and book an appointment.
  • Donated $20.9 million to community organizations globally, including $6 million for diabetes awareness, prevention and care – Sun Life’s global philanthropic cause since 2012.  
  • Demonstrated leadership in creating a psychologically healthy and safe workplace with a Platinum Certification by Excellence Canada. This certification is based on Excellence Canada’s Mental Health at Work®1 framework that is aligned to Canada’s National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Our goal is to be a leader in workplace mental health and to lead by example with our employees.
  • Engaged in Health Canada’s consultations on developing a national drug strategy for rare diseases. Contributing Sun Life’s perspectives is part of our work to support broader access to treatments and coverage for Canadians living with a rare disease.

Learn more about how Sun Life is fostering healthier lives

1 Mental Health at Work is a registered trademark of Excellence Canada.

We aspire to deliver sustainable returns for Clients and drive the transition to a low-carbon, inclusive economy. To pursue our aspiration, we:

  1. Manage capital with sustainability embedded in our investment processes
  2. Offer our Clients and employees1 sustainable investing opportunities
  3. Invest assets to support a low-carbon and more inclusive economy

Our priority Sustainable Development Goals: #7 Affordable and Clean Energy and #13: Climate Change.

2021 performance:

  • Made progress towards our commitment to $20 billion in new sustainable investments by 2025, with $6.8 billion in new investments in assets and businesses that support the transition to a low-carbon and more inclusive economy.
  • Reached $65.2 billion sustainable investment assets under management, including nearly $2 billion in new investments in renewable energy generation and energy storage solutions in 2021. These investments help the growing low-carbon economy.
  • Announced goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 for our investments (and operations), with interim targets to be established in 2022.
  • Using our proprietary scoring methodologies, scored substantially all of our internally managed active investment grade public corporate and private fixed income general account assets, during both initial and ongoing reviews.
  • Evolved Sun Life Canada’s Group Retirement Services (GRS) business’s proprietary ESG evaluation framework to help Clients identify managers and funds who are ESG leaders. GRS uses the framework to engage its core platform managers on areas where they could improve their ESG integration and/or active ownership practices or reporting.
  • SLC Management, our institutional asset management business, became a Founding Participant and Contributor in Climate Engagement Canada. This finance-led initiative aims to drive dialogue between the financial community and Canadian corporations to promote a just transition to a net-zero economy.

Learn more about how Sun Life is advancing sustainable investing

1 Majority of funds offered through employee retirement savings plans integrate ESG factors into investment considerations.

We aspire to be a responsibly-managed business that is Client-focused, competitive, forward-thinking, financially and environmentally resilient, and sustainable for the long term.

Operating ethically, treating our Clients and employees with utmost respect, and acting on critical environmental and societal issues are all vital components of maintaining the longevity and resiliency of our business.

Our priority Sustainable Development Goals: #5 Gender Equality and #13 Climate Change.

2021 performance:

Diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Continued to focus on leadership diversity. Reached 35% women1 in Vice-President (VP)+ roles globally (target 50% by 2025) and 16% underrepresented ethnicities2 in VP+ roles in North America (target 25% by 2025).
  • Achieved our minimum gender representation goals for Board members, with 42% self-identifying as women and 58% self-identifying as men. We continue to aim towards balanced gender representation by 2025.
  • Expanded our commitment to Indigenous communities in Canada by working on reconciliation as defined by The Truth & Reconciliation Commissions’s Calls to Action # 92. We are using the Progressive Aboriginal Certification Program as a process to guide Sun Life towards reconciliation. Learn more about our Indigenous Commitments

Client experience

  • Proactively connected with Clients in Canada over 153 million times through Ella, our digital coach. This is up 25% from the previous year.

Talent management

  • Maintained an 89% employee engagement score3, exceeding the global financial services norm4. Employees continue to indicate they are better enabled to get work done and are more likely to recommend Sun Life as a place to work.

Climate and environmental action

  • Stepped up our commitment to reducing GHG emissions significantly, with a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. This announcement signals our support of more urgent action on this defining issue.
  • Participated in a pilot project between the Bank of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) and five other financial institutions. We used the scenarios and guidance provided to analyze climate transition–related credit and market risks to bonds, loans and equities in the nine most carbon emission-intensive sectors in the economy.

Learn more about how Sun Life is operating as a trusted and responsible business


1 Individuals who self-identify as women. Refer to Sustainability Data Scope – Note 5.

2 Canada: those who voluntarily self-identify as Visible Minorities per the Employment Equity Act; U.S.: those who voluntarily self-identify as People of Color per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

3 72% of employees surveyed participated. Refer to Sustainability Data Scope – Note 2.

4 Based on Willis Towers Watson’s Benchmark of Global High Performance Companies and Global Financial Services