Resolved: Shareholders request that Sun Life produce a report, at reasonable expense and omitting confidential information, documenting the health impacts and potential insurance implications of its investments in fossil fuels on its current and future client base. The report should be reviewed by independent experts to add credibility.
As a health and life insurer, Sun Life’s stated purpose is “to help our clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives.” On its home page under “Why choose Sun Life?” the company answers: “We’re building sustainable, healthier communities for life.”
Yet, as an asset owner and asset manager, Sun Life via its subsidiaries invests tens of billions of dollars in fossil fuels. Sun Life is the largest Canadian investor in companies on the Global Coal Exit List, at US$11.9 billion in 2021. An independent study of Sun Life’s financed emissions estimated them at 222 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, nearly the combined entire emissions of Ontario and Quebec.
Fossil fuel use has a range of direct adverse health impacts via air pollution and indirect health impacts via climate change, for example:
- The Government of Canada finds coal combustion impacts include asthma, respiratory diseases, and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths worldwide.
- A 2022 Lancet Journal study found the costs of premature mortality due to air pollution amounted to US$2.3 trillion in 2020, the equivalent of 2.7% of gross world product.
- The same study found heat-related deaths increased by 68% since 2000 and global heat-related mortality was estimated to cost $144 billion in 2021, equivalent to the average income of 12.4 million people. A “heat dome” killed over 600 people in British Columbia in 2021.
- A national assessment of climate and health by the Government of Canada concludes: “Health risks will increase as warming continues, and the greater the warming, the greater the threats to health.”
Sun Life has pledged to reach net zero in its financed emissions by 2050, but to date only its subsidiary InfraRed has a fossil fuel exclusion, calling it “vital to drive this transition.” Other subsidiaries continue to invest in fossil fuels with no timelines for change, driving the adverse health impacts listed above, and hindering Sun Life’s transition to net zero.
The contradiction between Sun Life’s stated purpose and its investments in fossil fuels represents a business risk. Its uneven approach to fossil fuels across its subsidiaries represents a governance risk and compliance risk as financial regulators develop guidance to address climate change, as the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is now doing.
Investors require more disclosure regarding the nature of this business risk, including information about the potential client base in the emerging markets that Sun Life is currently targeting for growth and where climate and health impacts are more extreme.
We respectfully request that shareholders vote FOR this proposal.