The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Home / case studies / Case study: How Sun Life promotes ethical business conduct

Case study: How Sun Life promotes ethical business conduct

As a leading international financial services organization, offering a range of services – from life insurance to asset management – and operating in various markets around the globe, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan and China, operating with integrity is a key priority for Sun Life.

This case study is based on the 2016 Sustainability Report by Sun Life published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.Layout 1


Providing a wide range of protection and wealth solutions to individuals, businesses and institutions, Sun Life is committed to building and maintaining stakeholder trust, not least by encouraging ethical behaviour throughout all of its activities. In order to promote ethical business conduct Sun Life took action to:

  • train employees to adhere to key policies and guidelines
  • promote ethical behaviour through the Code of Business Conduct
  • enable employees to raise ethical concerns

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report Sun Life identified a range of material issues, such as digital innovation, data security and privacy, talent management, workforce wellness, responsible investing. Among these, promoting ethical business conduct stands out as a key material issue for Sun Life.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process s of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Sun Life engages with:   

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement





·         Client experience surveys

·         Focus groups

·         Client feedback channels (in-person, email, social media, call centre)

·         Customer/market research

·         Claims management processes

·         Complaint resolution processes

Employees and advisors
·         Bi-annual Global Employee Engagement Survey

·         Training and development activities

·         Internal social media and online forums

·         Manager/staff meetings, including formal performance appraisals

·         Town hall meetings with senior executives

·         Employee Ethics Hotline

Shareholders, investors, ESG analysts



·         Investor Days

·         Annual Meetings

·         Quarterly earnings conference calls, webcast presentations, conference participation

·         Meetings with investor groups

·         Participation in surveys

Community organizations and members



·         Community outreach

·         Sponsorships

·         Employee and advisor giving and volunteerism

·         Memberships

·         Community consultations/meetings

Governments and regulators, NGOs, industry associations
·         Ongoing dialogue

·         Participation in consultation processes

·         Participation in conferences, events, symposia

·         Industry/trade association memberships

·         RFP processes

·         Regular meetings and briefings

·         Ongoing relationship management

·         Supplier risk assessment

·         Supplier Diversity Program

·         Briefings/interviews

·         Press releases

·         Phone, email and social media channels

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritize material topics Sun Life engaged both internal and external stakeholders through a stakeholder panel on sustainability. Stakeholders represented in the panel included clients, employees and advisors, investors, shareholders, government, advocacy groups, industry associations, sustainability think tanks, NGOs, community interest groups and academia.

What actions were taken by Sun Life to promote ethical business conduct?

In its 2016 Sustainability Report Sun Life reports that it took the following actions for promoting ethical business conduct:

  • Training employees to adhere to key policies and guidelines
  • All Sun Life employees receive annual mandatory training on key policies and guidelines, including the company’s Code of Business Conduct, Financial Crimes Awareness (focused on deterring fraud, combatting money laundering and terrorist financing, and rejecting corruption and bribery), Maintaining the Privacy and Security of Personal Information, Records Management and Security Awareness.
  • Promoting ethical behaviour through the Code of Business Conduct
  • Sun Life’s Code of Business Conduct sets out the company’s standards of honesty and integrity. Most importantly, all directors and employees have to comply with the Code of Business Conduct, reporting any misconduct. The Code covers topics such as fairness and safety in the workplace, deterring fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing, rejecting corruption and bribery, avoiding conflicts of interest, respecting privacy and confidentiality.
  • Enabling employees to raise ethical concerns
  • [tweetthis]An Employee Ethics Hotline enables Sun Life employees to report ethical misconduct.[/tweetthis] The Hotline can be accessed through a toll-free telephone number or a secure website and is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day in many languages.

Which GRI indicators/Standards have been addressed?

The GRI indicators/Standards addressed in this case are:

1) G4-56: Describe the organization’s values, principles, standards and norms of behavior such as codes of conduct and codes of ethics – the updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 102-16 Values, principles, standards, and norms of behavior

2) G4-SO4: Communication and training on anti-corruption policies and proceduresthe updated GRI Standard is: Disclosure 205-2 Communication and training about anti-corruption policies and procedures


80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.

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1) This case study is based on published information by Sun Life, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning.  If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:




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