Sun Life announced today that its Group Retirement Services (GRS) business is launching a proprietary Environmental, Social and Governance evaluation framework for its core investment platform of 23 investment managers and over 140 investment options. The framework is designed to enable plan sponsors and members make informed decisions when it comes to sustainable investing.

Sun Life noted that sustainable investment strategies saw record inflows by individual investors in the first half of 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, while sustainable investments outperformed broad market benchmarks. As sustainable investing is moving into the spotlight, information regarding the ESG-related aspects of investments, funds and mangers is coming increasingly in demand.

While a variety of ESG scoring providers are available, at both a fund and security level, to date, no single provider covers all GRS investment platform options. In isolation, an ESG score for a fund can create confusion and lack relevance for clients.

Tom Reid, Senior Vice-President, Group Retirement Services, Sun Life Canada said:

“This new evaluation framework is an expansion of the strong governance process we have in place today for our investment platform. Having a resilient and sustainable workplace plan is more important than ever. This added guidance will help Clients make more informed decisions about the investment choices in their savings plans.”

Sun Life’s framework has two objectives:

  • Identify ESG leaders (managers and funds), in every major asset category offered on the GRS core investment platform using proprietary criteria, and
  • Make it easy for plan sponsors to understand the level of ESG integration for the investment options they offer in their retirement savings plans.

Sun Life, which manages over $168 billion assets, stated that sustainable investing is one of three core pillars of Sun Life’s new sustainability plan, which also prioritizes financial security and healthier lives, and that the firm integrates ESG considerations into its own investment process. Sun Life’s overall sustainable investment philosophy is built on three beliefs:

  • Sustainable investing can improve long-term returns
  • ESG factors are incorporated to manage risks and identify opportunities
  • Engagement is more powerful than divestment

Developed by the GRS Investment Solutions team, the new evaluation framework aligns to Sun Life’s corporate-wide sustainability plan.

Melissa Kennedy, Executive Vice-President, Chief Legal Officer & Executive Sponsor of Sustainability, Sun Life, said:

“This is an exciting and important step in our sustainability journey, and delivers on our Purpose of helping Canadians achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives. We are proud that GRS is taking a leadership role on sustainability by empowering Clients with the same rigour that we use to manage our own assets.”