Sun Life aims to remove systemic barriers

By The IJ Staff | July 20 2020 01:23PM

Photo: Freepik

Sun Life says it is actively removing systemic barriers that negatively affect the lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

"We're at an inflection point in society ─ there is a movement to drive lasting change to address and eliminate systemic racism," said Dean Connor, President and CEO of Sun Life in a July 17 statement. "At Sun Life, we're increasing our efforts to create organizational and societal change. That includes engaging in difficult conversations about race to create equal opportunity and foster inclusion for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour at Sun Life."

Sun Life’s action plan, which includes an additional $1 million investment this year, focuses on three categories where the company says it can make a meaningful difference: clients and communities; talent and culture and learning and development.

Community initiatives

Among the actions taken, the insurer has signed on to the goals in the BlackNorth Initiative, led by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. It is also funding community groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

Sun Life says it also encourages the inclusion of diverse suppliers as part of its competitive bidding process. “We will continue to focus on increasing our relationships with vendors, suppliers and small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and women,” says the company.

Organizational change

Within its organization, the insurer says it is intensifying its goal to have 25% of under-represented minorities at the senior leader level within five years, “with specific representation objectives for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour where we are particularly lagging.” The insurer is also setting goals for representation below the senior leader level for the same timeframe.

The company is also looking to strengthen career paths and opportunities for diverse students. One quarter of the 300 students hired in North America this year by the insurer self-reported as ethnically diverse.

Diversity training

Sun Life adds that it is also equipping its leaders and employees with knowledge, information and safe spaces “to get comfortable engaging in uncomfortable conversations about race and racial injustice.”

These efforts include intensive diversity training for its executive team and holding internal learning forums about racism, racial diversity and inclusion. “We've created safe spaces for our employees to share their personal stories, experiences, insights and perspectives,” says the insurer.

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