Climate change

Climate change

We’re committed to being a part of the climate solution and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Climate change

We’re committed to being a part of the climate solution and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

We’re decarbonizing our business by integrating climate action into everything we do. Having a meaningful and lasting impact on the environment is essential to achieving our Purpose.

Our work is aligned to Sustainable Development Goals #7 Affordable and Clean Energy and #13 Climate Action.

Carbon neutral from 2021. Net zero by 2050. 

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Our approach

Guided by ambitious targets and plans, we’re intensifying our actions to limit climate change and steward a more sustainable environment, society and economy. With $1.33 trillion in AUM1, 52,500 employees2,3 and 97,400 advisors2 globally (as of Dec 31, 2022), Sun Life is positioned to have a meaningful impact on the global goals of the Paris Agreement and the critical transition to a low-carbon economy. Refer to Sustainable Investing for more details on our sustainable investment approach, including the ways we’re supporting this transition. 

We support the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature increase in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To help achieve this future, we have set the following goals and targets:  

  • Net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 for both our operations and investments. 
    • An interim target of a 50% absolute reduction of GHG emissions in our operations by 2030, relative to 2019.   
    • Interim targets have been established or are under development for our asset management businesses and for Sun Life’s general account.

Refer to our Net Zero by 2050 report for the latest updates on Sun Life’s progress towards net zero. 

Sun Life’s asset management companies are also contributing to net-zero efforts through participation in the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative (NZAM). These companies include: MFS Investment Management (MFS), SLGI Asset Management Inc. (SLGI Asset Management), SLC Fixed Income, BentallGreenOak (BGO) and InfraRed Capital Partners (InfraRed). Part of the commitment as a NZAM signatory includes setting an interim target for the proportion of assets to be managed in line with net zero by 2050 or sooner. Learn more in Sustainable Investing

We’re developing climate action plans that will act as a roadmap to 2030 and set the foundation for our work to 2050. Although the data and technology needed to achieve net zero involve limitations or do not yet exist, we intend to be part of the solution by investing in new technology and working with Clients and investees to generate the data needed for decision making. 

We continue to maintain CarbonNeutral®4 company certification across our operations globally and remain committed to maintaining this status in future years. Our commitment has two components: 

  • Reducing our total energy consumption (the source of (GHG) emissions in our operations) by investing in energy-efficiency initiatives in our offices. 
  • Buying high-quality carbon credits to offset GHG emissions we haven’t yet reduced or eliminated. We’re working on decarbonizing our operations – but because we can’t achieve true net zero today, in the meantime, we’re purchasing enough high-quality carbon credits to match the emissions we haven’t yet eliminated.  

To learn more, read our feature story “Carbon offsetting helps the environment, communities and Sun Life”.

We’re working to understand and address potential climate change risks to our business overall. For example, we have been gaining experience with climate change scenario analysis and stress testing. We assess the potential effects of various climate change-related impacts on our office locations and investment properties. These include storms and flash floods that we expect to become more frequent and intense. Each year, we update our business continuity plans to ensure key business functions and normal operations can resume effectively and efficiently should a major disruption occur (including but not limited to an extreme weather event). 

We review environmental risks within Sun Life’s Risk Management Framework (RMF). Our RMF outlines our risk management process for how we identify, measure, manage, monitor and report current and emerging risks. Learn more in Risk Management and in our Annual Report.  

As a long-term investor, we are also working to address the climate emergency. We invest proactively in assets and businesses that support the transition to a lower-carbon economy. Examples include renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings and clean transportation. In our asset management businesses, we consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks as part of our investment decision-making process. ESG risks include the physical and transition risks that climate change poses. Read more about our Sustainable Investing approach. 

We’re adapting our facilities and portfolios to a changing climate, including through enhanced risk management and building and infrastructure retrofits. Proactively, we examine ways to build climate resilience and human wellness features into our real estate portfolios.

  • We have built a sustainability assessment process into all aspects of our corporate real estate operations in North America. New sustainability scorecards for major sites in North America and Ireland are measuring how well facilities are performing against aspects of various industry sustainability and wellness accreditations. The process covers the entire lifecycle of buildings, from building the space, through ongoing operations, to decommissioning. 

  • During the acquisition process for specific assets, BGO identifies climate-related issues like flooding, extreme precipitation, hurricane-force winds, sea level rise, water and heat stress, and earthquakes.

Strong governance and clear lines of accountability help us deliver on our environmental commitments and remain accountable to our stakeholders.  

  • The Governance, Investment and Conduct Review Committee of the Board of Directors provides oversight of Sun Life’s net-zero goal.  

  • Our Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is accountable to ensure the company meets its sustainability commitments and advocates for strong government policies and regulations that support a lower-carbon, more inclusive economy. These efforts are supported by the sustainability team. 

  • Our Vice-President of Climate Change and Environmental Impact oversees the development and implementation of the enterprise-wide climate change strategy, climate risk and decarbonisation performance and reporting functions.

  • Our International Sustainability Council (ISC) drives the implementation of Sun Life’s sustainability plan and is chaired by our CSO. This plan integrates environmental considerations and actions, including those addressing climate change.  

  • We reward performance on goals related to our GHG reduction targets and other environmental achievements.  

  • Employees play an important role in reducing negative environmental effects of our offices and other work settings. We engage employees on environmental matters and empower them to take more sustainable actions. We encourage this behaviour, whether they’re in the workplace or working from home. 

We closely monitor our environmental programs to track progress against our targets. We commit to transparent reporting and strengthening our climate disclosures:  

  • We report on several key performance indicators including sustainable investments and GHG emissions annually in our Sustainability Report.  
  • We have disclosed GHG emissions to CDP since 2010.  

In our Annual Report, we provide disclosures guided by the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). TCFD recommendations support calls for a collective increase in reliable climate-related financial disclosures – an important step in ensuring greater understanding of the financial implications of climate change for greater market stability and transparency. We support the actions of regulators to require TCFD-aligned reporting. 

In addition, BGO manages Sun Life’s real estate investment properties (a small portion are Sun Life corporate offices). BGO has an ISO 14001-certified Environmental Management System (EMS) to ensure successful implementation of environmental programs and continuous improvement. The EMS covers the collection, monitoring, record keeping, evaluation and reporting of environmental and sustainability data from properties within BGO’s control. 

Sun Life is committed to advocacy and collaboration with governments, regulators, investors and industry leaders to develop supportive net-zero programs and policies that bring us closer to decarbonization. We’ve engaged with policymakers and regulators advocating for climate-related financial disclosures, greater consideration of the life and health impacts from climate change, and opportunities to create more climate-resilient buildings and infrastructure. 

You’ll find highlights of our public policy activities throughout our Sustainability Report.

Goals

  • Net-Zero GHG emissions by 2050 for our global operations. We set a net-zero goal for investments as well. Refer to our Net Zero by 2050 report for the latest details.

  • 50% absolute reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our operations by 2030, relative to 20195

    36.9% absolute GHG emissions reduction compared to 2019 baseline5,6 (FY 22)

  • Carbon neutral operations globally from 20217

    Maintained CarbonNeutral®4 company certification in 2022

2022 highlights

  • Continued to target GHG emissions reductions through operational efficiency projects across our corporate offices and data centres
  • Built climate bench strength and accountabilities with new climate-related roles and working groups

Learn more about our progress and performance in our 2022 Sustainability Report and ESG Performance Tables.

Net Zero by 2050: Sun Life’s Climate Journey

Doing our part to achieve net zero means driving climate action not only within our own operations, but also across our investments and the broader industries and economies in which we play a key role.

Learn more

Recognition

Energy Star Award 2022: Partner of the Year, Sustained Excellence Energy Star Award 2022: Partner of the Year, Sustained Excellence

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy awarded BentallGreenOak (BGO) with the ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year–Sustained Excellence award (12th consecutive year). This award recognizes BGO’s leadership in energy management and achievements in reducing the environmental footprint of the Company’s portfolio.

2022 Energy Star High Efficiency: Building of the Year, Commercial 2022 Energy Star High Efficiency: Building of the Year, Commercial

Sun Life’s Waterloo King building won the 2022 ENERGY STAR® Canada Awards for the Building of the Year - Office (2nd consecutive year). The award recognizes businesses and organizations for their outstanding contributions to protecting the environment and saving energy.

2022 Green Lease Leaders Gold 2022 Green Lease Leaders Gold

BGO received Gold Recognition in the 2022 Green Lease Leaders program organized by the Institute for Market Transformation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance. Launched in 2014, Green Lease Leaders sets national standards in the U.S. for what constitutes a green lease, while recognizing landlords and tenants who modernize their leases to spur collaborative action on energy efficiency, cost-savings, air quality, and sustainability in buildings.

CE Worldwide Conference Logo CE Worldwide Conference Logo

Sun Life’s Asia Service Centre India was recognized out of 1100+ nominees for its contributions in “Professional Excellence in Environment, Health and Safety, and Energy Conservation” at the 138th CE Worldwide Conference held in India.

Commitments and memberships

UN Environment programme finance initiative logo
CDP logo
Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures logo
The Geneva Association logo
Climate Action 100+ logo

1 Comprises general fund assets, segregated funds, mutual funds, managed funds and other AUM.

2 Rounded to the nearest hundred.

3 Represents full-time equivalent employees and includes 29,169 regular employees, 1,258 temporary employees and employees in Asia joint ventures (21,549 regular employees and 525 temporary employees).

4 CarbonNeutral® is a registered trademark of Climate Impact Partners and is achieved in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol, the leading global framework for carbon neutrality.

5 Emissions resulting from global corporate offices and data centres as well as from business travel, inclusive of majority-owned Sun Life affiliate companies. All emissions reporting is aligned to the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard using the financial control approach.

6 DentaQuest corporate offices are excluded for the 2022 reporting cycle.

7 Includes MFS and SLC Management affiliates (BentallGreenOak, InfraRed Capital Partners and Crescent Capital Group).

8 MFS, SLC Management and Crescent are signatories and participate in direct engagements. 

As of March 28, 2023, MFS, SLC Fixed Income, BentallGreenOak, InfraRed and Sun Life Global Investments are signatories to NZAM. 

10 SLC Fixed Income joined the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials in 2022.

Refer to Sustainability Data Scope.