How Sun Life is leveraging the UN Sustainable Development Goals

May 26, 2021
CSR Strategy

The first article in this series outlines the SDGs and their importance to marketers.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework is comprised of 17 goals and 169 underlying targets all aimed at ending poverty, advancing human rights and protecting the planet. This framework can serve as a compass for the private, public and non-profit sectors to align in meaningful ways to tackle some of the most pressing needs of our planet. This article is the second in a three-part series on SDG implementation in marketing initiatives.

So, where is a company to begin? It starts with looking inward to identify the type of impact that a business wants to have on the world, and the skills, talent and capabilities the organization can best offer. Recently, the NFP Council caught up with Sun Life to learn more about how they are aligning their sustainability strategy to the UN SDGs.

As is critically important, Sun Life chose to focus on the three key areas where they would have the biggest opportunity to drive meaningful change: increasing financial security, fostering healthier lives and advancing sustainable investing. Underlying all of this was their continued commitment to be a trusted and responsible business. Ultimately, they were able to link these priorities to five of the SDGs:

  • #3 Good health and well-being (fostering healthier lives)
  • #5 Gender equality (acting as a trusted and responsible business)
  • #7 Affordable and clean energy (advancing sustainable investing)
  • #8 Decent work and economic growth (increasing financial security)
  • #13 Climate action (acting as a trusted and responsible business)

“All parts of society have to partner to achieve the SDGs. As a global insurer and asset manager, we have a big role to play. What is most exciting for us is the opportunity the SDGs present to create a fairer, cleaner, and more inclusive world that delivers value to all our stakeholders.” said Alanna Boyd, Vice-President of Government, Regulatory Affairs & Sustainability.

Companies should not stop there. Integrating sustainability priorities into marketing and brand building efforts is also becoming increasingly important. Focusing on sustainability isn’t just the “right” thing to do, it’s what consumers want. A recent study by MFS, Sun Life’s premier global asset management firm, shows that 73% of consumers believe that companies have a greater responsibility to support sustainability. Meanwhile a Sun Life survey found that over three-quarters (79%) of Canadian plan members are interested or somewhat interested in sustainable investments. Nearly a quarter (23%) of Canadians who have purchased investments considered environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors. And interestingly, millennials are most concerned about sustainability – 34% having considered ESG factors in their investment decisions.

Weaving sustainability and marketing together creates new opportunities to connect with consumers about what’s most important to them. This ultimately serves to protect and enhance an organization’s brand. Traditional marketers must be able to tell their company’s sustainability story in an authentic and compelling way. Laddering the organization’s impact back to legitimate frameworks such as the UN SDGs can help consumers understand and relate.

Marketers must look at all pieces of the puzzle. Today, consumers want to work with an organization that does it all – focuses on sustainability, offers convenience and provides a seamless customer/client experience. The trick for companies and their marketing teams is to demonstrate a clear strategy, a concise plan and authenticity. Regardless of the sector or size of the company, every marketer can and should find ways to include sustainability into their marketing efforts.

Read Part 3 of the series.

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Shelley Mayer

Founder and President Ramp Communications




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