Continued focus on sustainability

Sustainability issues are of increasing importance for Canadians. A recent Sun Life survey found that 23% of Clients who purchased investments considered environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.1 Companies that rank high on sustainability measures often outperform their peers. Plan sustainability requires looking at the interaction of various ESG factors that could affect your organization, your plan, investments, and your plan members. In 2021, we launched several initiatives and resources to support you and your plan members along your sustainability journey.

In July 2021, we launched our Sustainability Playbook. It offers insights and actions you can take. Our Playbook builds upon the 2020 launch of our proprietary ESG evaluation framework for our core investment platform which helps to identify ESG leaders in major asset categories. It explores how having a sustainability strategy can improve outcomes relating to your plan, people, profits, and the planet – and how Sun Life can help. 

Fight, not flight: Shaping a better future through ESG engagement, explores the power of engagement over divestment. ESG integration is one of the most common sustainable investment approaches. But there are other ways to invest sustainably. This Bright Paper examines the various approaches to sustainable investing, and the pros and cons of each.

In 2021, we launched our sustainable investing educational campaign to help members understand what ESG is and how managers generally integrate ESG factors into their investment process. As part of the online campaign, we launched a brand-new site, including three educational videos, articles and industry research. We know that the majority of Canadians2 participating in their group retirement and savings plans are interested in seeing more sustainable investments offered to them. Also, over 30%3 didn’t consider ESG factors because they weren’t aware they were offered in their plan. The content-rich resources provided in the campaign can help plan members better understand how their group plan makes a difference – by offering, at the very least, access to investment options which consider ESG factors. Research suggests4 that this awareness can be a powerful way to engage members leading to better outcomes in their plans.

Watch the three videos here.

Lastly, we have begun to include information on “How this fund integrates ESG factors” on all Morningstar fund fact sheets for the funds on our core platform.

Education on sustainable investing principles, coupled with details of how each fund considers ESG factors, help plan members make informed decisions when it comes to sustainable investing.

At the end of last year, we announced our goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. This goal is for both our investments and operations, with interim targets to be announced this year. We’ll also target a 50% absolute reduction of GHG emissions in our operations by 2030. This new level of commitment builds upon Sun Life’s previous reduction targets.

Currently, eleven investment managers on the GRS core investment platform are signatories of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. These firms manage 78% of the GRS core platform5. We’re also committed to integrating climate strategies across our investment businesses and to working collaboratively with our plan sponsors across sectors, stakeholders, and the industry at large through our transition to net-zero.

During our Sustainable Investing Panel, we shared insights into Sun Life’s GRS ESG evaluation framework. We also provided a sneak peek into the digital experience we are building to help plan members make informed decisions when it comes to sustainable investing.

Key topics explored in the webinar included:

  • Engagement vs. divestment;
  • ESG integration in investment management process; and
  • Steps sponsors can take now to improve members’ outcomes tomorrow.

Watch the full video from April 2021 here.


This session highlighted key approaches to sustainable investments. It provided actionable insights and criteria to consider when assessing a manager’s commitment to ESG philosophy, strategy implementation and active stewardship. The session also included updates on the Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authorities (CAPSA) guidelines on Integrating ESG Factors in Pension Plan Risk Management and Investment Decisions.

Watch the Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM) full video from November 2021 here.

Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is part of the sustainability plan at Sun Life. For example, some of our diversity targets are: 50% women in Vice-President (VP) roles and above globally and 25% underrepresented ethnicities in VP roles and above in North America by 2025. Creating a workplace where all employees can contribute to their full potential is central to our values. It allows us to benefit from diverse thinking and perspectives. It also helps us to innovate for our Clients and build a workplace where everyone feels welcome, enabled and inspired to do their best. We take pride in our inclusive environment. It not only supports our employees, but also reflects our Clients and communities, allowing us to better serve your unique needs.

1, 2, 3 Sun Life Canadian Market Research Study, April 2021

4 MFS, Top Things You Should Be Thinking About in DC, July 2020. (Over 4,000 plan members globally, including over 1,000 Canadians)

5 Based on September 30, 2021, assets under management.