Sustainable Products and Services
We invest in quality companies with sustainable franchises and attractive growth prospects that are managed responsibly and provide sustainable products and services.
For us, sustainable products and services are those that generate measureable social or environmental benefits alongside financial returns, creating long-term value for shareholders and society at large.
Given the mainstay of our investments are in financial services, we believe we represent a positive force in society by providing our customers with affordable and accessible life and health insurance, retirement savings programs, and a suite of investment products, including socially responsible investment funds. Our group’s 12,200 financial consultants and advisors are also contributing to financial literacy by providing financial advice and guidance to our clients. 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.
We are also helping finance renewable energy projects, through our subsidiary Great-West Life. These types of investments are supporting the transition to a low carbon economy, while positively impacting society and the environment.
Highlights from our Group Companies
AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE FINANCIAL SERVICES
Great-West Lifeco continues to innovate regarding its products and services to provide access to finance for a broad range of underserved markets, including younger people, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as the growing retired population. Recent innovations include a pilot program to help recent grads begin saving for their retirement sooner while at the same time paying down student debt, a new digital platform that provides customers with a consolidated view of their retirement savings, and an investment in a national financial literacy program in partnership with CPA Canada. With over 23,500 distribution associates across Canada, they are also helping Canadian families leverage the value of advice. In fact, households that worked with an advisor grew assets by nearly 4 times compared to non-advised households. Great-West Lifeco is also investing in new technologies to allow its customers to connect with them when, where and how they choose, and is developing innovative solutions and leveraging technology such as automation, digital interfaces, artificial intelligence and robotics to enhance customer reach, access and transparency, and meet the evolving needs of diverse markets.
In 2017, Great-West Life became the first national insurer in Canada to pilot a fully-bilingual virtual health care service called Dialogue. This virtual platform, available through web or mobile app, allows employees of participating group benefits plans to chat with a registered nurse or see a physician via secure video consultation, for various health and medical issues. It can be accessed from any location, seven days a week, saving hours of time typically spent waiting for in-person, non-urgent care. Power Financial also invests in Dialogue through Portag3 and Diagram.
Along with other major banks and insurance companies, Great-West Life 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.
In addition, Great-West Life is also committed to meeting the needs of all of our customers, and strives to provide their products and services in a way that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. As such, all Great-West Life employees across Canada are required to participate in accessibility training, and accessibility training is part of the orientation process for new employees.
IGM Financial is leading initiatives to ensure ongoing access to valuable financial planning and advice for Canadians from all age groups and income levels. 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.
Wealthsimple, Canada’s largest robo-advisor, in which we invest, 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.
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT FUNDS
GLC Asset Management Group (GLC), a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco, has had socially responsible investment (SRI) mandates for more than 15 years, providing clients with a meaningful way to ensure their investments promote a high level of environmental sustainability, social responsibility and corporate governance. Individual, group and institutional clients benefit from professional portfolio management services as well as screening and review processes for socially responsible investing. GLC considers ESG factors within all of investment decisions and portfolio strategies, not just SRI portfolios.
As a way to present investors with relevant investment options enabling them to match their own priorities, in 2018, Putnam Investments launched two new funds with dedicated ESG strategies. The Putnam Sustainable Future Fund invests in growth companies that directly demonstrate positive impact in social, environmental, or economic development while the Putnam Sustainable Leaders Fund invests in growth companies with the goal of delivering positive financial and ESG performance.
Through its operating companies, IGM Financial has a suite of socially responsible products and services to meet the evolving needs of its clients, including the Investors Group Summa SRI™ Fund, charitable giving funds, Registered Disability Savings Plans and retail mutual funds in Canada that abide by the United-Nations supported Principles for Responsible Investment.
In 2017, Mackenzie Investments also launched three new funds designed to generate long-term competitive returns while supporting positive environmental, social and governance change. Mackenzie Global Sustainability and Impact Balanced Fund provides Canadian investors with a solution that helps their investments have a positive environmental and social impact; and Mackenzie Global Leadership Impact Fund and Mackenzie Global Leadership Impact ETF provide an opportunity to impact social and governance change through a focus on companies that promote gender diversity and the benefits of women in leadership.
Investors Group and Mackenzie Investments have continued to be market leaders in offering Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP) for clients or family members with disabilities, providing them access to a tax-preferred savings vehicle and at the same time take advantage of generous government grants and bonds. The RDSP program, in conjunction with their products and services, enables them to help Canadians in a meaningful way. In 2017, assets under management within the RDSP grew significantly to over $680 million.
Wealthsimple offers SRI portfolios which have been designed using ETFs that prioritize low carbon emissions, advance cleantech innovation, and promote sustainable growth in emerging markets or gender diversity. Those ETFs are weighted according to environmental and social impact, as well as for performance. In addition, fees for Wealthsimple’s SRI portfolios are the same as for its non-SRI portfolios.
SUSTAINABLE PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SERVICES
GWL Realty Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco, manages a multi-client portfolio of nearly 300 office, multi-residential, light industrial and retail properties in Canada, including the corporate campuses of Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life. Sustainability principles are integrated into the management of these properties. In 2017, GWL Realty Advisors achieved a “Green Star” ranking from the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey 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, up from the top 10 per cent in 2016.
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. 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.
It was also recognized at both national and regional levels for its sustainability-focused property management practices. In 2017, six awards were presented to properties managed by GWL Realty Advisors, relating to sustainability, staff, and operational excellence. Great-West Life’s head office in Winnipeg won the BOMA Manitoba’s The Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY) award, recognizing excellence in building management and a strong commitment to energy conservation and environmental sustainability.
Irish Life Investment Managers have also integrated sustainability into their property funds. Their focus is to ensure property environmental impacts are managed effectively and environmental building efficiencies are optimized.
SUSTAINABLE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY INVESTMENTS
IGM Financial provides mortgages for energy-efficient homes and renovations that are eligible for mortgage insurance premium savings.
Responsible product management contributes to the development of sustainable business opportunities for Imerys. The technological expertise within Imerys enables the group to be in an excellent position to continuously improve the process efficiency and production methods of its operations. At the same time, the group’s innovation capacity together with its awareness of global megatrends will enable the group to harness opportunities for minerals’ development, taking due consideration of the environmental footprint and sustainability of products in collaboration with different stakeholders.