Sustainable Finance

Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy and net-zero emissions by 2050 will require substantial investment beyond the public sector. Private sector capital and expertise will be needed to meet our climate objectives and create a climate-resilient economy.

Sustainable finance refers to financial activities that take into account environmental, social and governance factors as a means of promoting sustainable economic growth and the long-term stability of the financial system.

Developing sustainable finance in Canada will promote the long-term growth and stability of Canada’s financial system, involving a focus on climate change as well as gender and diversity issues. It will also create new opportunities for Canadian businesses and investors.

Sustainable Finance Action Council

In May 2021, the Government of Canada launched the Sustainable Finance Action Council to help lead the Canadian financial sector towards integrating sustainable finance into standard industry practice.

The council’s early emphasis will be on enhancing climate-related financial disclosures in Canada’s private and public sector, aligned with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. The council will also prioritize gender and diversity reporting.

The Action Council will serve as a centre of expertise, partnership, and dialogue on sustainable finance issues in Canada and internationally. It will also help champion the implementation of sustainable finance best practices across Canada's financial sector and the broader Canadian economy, and support the growth of a well-functioning sustainable finance market in Canada. This will help accelerate movement of private capital in support of the Government of Canada’s climate goals, in particular:

The council’s principal mandate is to make recommendations on critical market infrastructure needed to attract and scale sustainable finance in Canada, including: enhanced assessment and disclosure of climate risks and opportunities; better access to climate data and analytics; and common standards for sustainable and low-carbon investments.

It will work in close collaboration with Canada’s new and independent Net-Zero Advisory Body to ensure climate considerations are taken into financial decision-making, and will be a key tool to accelerate progress towards Canada’s climate objectives.  

Terms of Reference

Proposed Terms of Reference for the Sustainable Finance Action Council

Mandate

Reporting to the Ministers of Finance and Environment and Climate Change Canada (“ECCC”), the Sustainable Finance Action Council (“Action Council”) will:

  • Support the growth of a well-functioning sustainable finance market in Canada to strengthen the mobilization of private capital in support of the Government of Canada’s climate goals, in particular:
    • To support the achievement of Canada’s enhanced 2030 target;  
    • To transition to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050; and,
    • To ensure climate resilience and adaptation throughout Canada.
  • Provide financial sector input on the development of foundational market infrastructure including enhanced climate disclosure, defining green and transition investment, and climate data and analytics.
  • Engage with the official sector through the Official Sector Coordinating Group to discuss barriers and opportunities to mobilizing private capital to support climate transition and adaptation in Canada’s economy.
  • Serve as a centre of expertise, partnership, and dialogue on sustainable finance issues in Canada and internationally, and to help champion the implementation of sustainable finance best practices both across Canada's financial sector and the broader Canadian economy.

The Action Council will make climate-related financial disclosure its first priority, recognizing the Government of Canada’s commitment to the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, with an objective of achieving as broad as possible coverage across the economy in the near term. The Action Council will also focus on gender and diversity reporting as an early topic.

As circumstances merit, the Action Council will, if requested by the Ministers of Finance and ECCC and by mutual consent, work on additional sustainable finance issues, including broader environmental, social, and governance considerations, such as gender and diversity, and nature-related financial disclosures.

The Action Council is expected to work in close collaboration with other federal government advisory groups to ensure coordination and consultation on advice brought forth to the Government of Canada. As an immediate priority, the Chair of the Action Council will consult with the Co-chairs of the Net-Zero Advisory Body on the priorities, work plans and perspectives of the two bodies.

Reporting

The Action Council will submit a letter to the Ministers of Finance and ECCC annually on its activities and expected areas of focus in the next year.  The letter will discuss the state of sustainable finance in Canada and identify opportunities, challenges, and proposed solutions participants agree to advance. 

The Government of Canada is seeking the advice and leadership of the Action Council on climate disclosure. As an immediate priority, the Action Council will develop and provide, by July 2021, a summary of private sector perspectives on market readiness, barriers and overall impact related to broad adoption of enhanced climate-related financial disclosures in Canada aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures framework.  

Building on this work, the Action Council will provide perspectives on how Canadian financial sector participants and non-financial corporations can best move to adopt climate disclosure requirements, in Canada and internationally. While it is expected that this topic will be an ongoing area of focus for the Action Council, the Government of Canada is seeking the Action Council’s early views, in summer 2021.

The Chair of the Action Council will be prepared to brief the Ministers of Finance and ECCC on a semi-annual basis, or as needed.

The Chair of the Action Council may be requested to join the Deputy Minister(s) of Finance and/or ECCC in briefing provincial and territorial governments and securities regulators on the progress of the Action Council, as needed.

Duration

The Action Council’s mandate will extend to March 31, 2024.  The duration and content of the mandate may be modified by mutual agreement between the Government of Canada and the Action Council, as represented by its Chair.

Participants

The Action Council will have:

  • One Chair; and
  • Broad representation from Canada’s deposit-taking institutions, insurance companies, and pensions.

The financial sector composition of the Action Council will be based on function, size, capital position, regional and national representation, and sustainable finance commitment and expertise.  

The Action Council will have an Official Sector Coordinating Group that will observe and advise the Action Council.  It will include participants of the policy and regulatory community connected to sustainable finance, including Finance Canada, ECCC, the Bank of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, provincial securities commissions, and provincial prudential supervisors. 

In consultation with the Chair, each major financial sector group will select a lead(s) to serve on the Action Council’s steering committee.  The Chair of the Action Council will be the Chair of the Steering Committee.  

Observers and Experts
The Action Council may engage individuals and organizations with expertise in sustainable finance or related subject matter, domestic or international, to participate in full or sub-group meetings on an ad hoc basis. 

Plenary Meetings and Sub-Groups

Initially, the Action Council is to meet quarterly, with changes in cadence based on consensus of Action Council participants. 

The Action Council will establish sub-groups, as needed, to assess issues in support of the mandate.  These sub-groups may operate at different cadences.

Secretariat

Finance Canada and ECCC will staff a Secretariat, which will support the Chair and will provide logistical, administrative, and analytical support (e.g. backgrounders, summaries, and communiqués) to the Action Council in the fulfillment of the mandate.   Finance Canada and ECCC will provide additional support and information to the Action Council as needed, and will liaise with other departments with expertise related to the Action Council’s work.

Reasonable Expenses

Action Council participants will not be remunerated for their participation.  Only the Chair will be reimbursed for reasonable Action Council-related travel and accommodation expenses, subject to Treasury Board Guidelines.

Protection of Information

The Action Council participants will treat as confidential any non-public information, records, or documents, which they may obtain as a result of their work on the Action Council during or after the duration of the Action Council.

Conflict of Interest

Action Council organizations and their representatives are expected to contribute to the activities of the Action Council in a manner that reflects the broad national interest, and not solely the interest of the institution they represent. In providing their views and advice, they are to uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are conserved.

Representatives of Action Council organizations will also be required to meet any applicable requirements of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct that may arise as a result of their participation on the Action Council. Any representatives who are public office holders as defined in the Conflict of Interest Act are subject to and required to meet all applicable requirements of that Act in connection with their participation on in the Action Council.

Council Chair 

Kathy Bardswick
Kathy Bardswick

Kathy Bardswick has spent nearly four decades in the financial services industry, retiring in 2016 from her position as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Co-operators Group.

Under Ms. Bardswick’s leadership, The Co-operators was the first Canadian insurance company to become a signatory of the UN Principles of Sustainable Insurance. She was also a member of the UN Inquiry into a Sustainable Financial System. She has also accepted numerous recognitions on behalf of The Co-operators for its good sustainability, environmental, social, and governance practices. More recently, Ms. Bardswick served as President of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Ms. Bardswick holds a Bachelor of Science (Math) from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from McMaster University. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Guelph.

Council Representatives

Participating organizations

Senior representatives from the organizations below are participating in the Action Council.

  • Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo)
  • ATB Financial
  • Aviva Canada
  • BMO Financial Group
  • British Columbia Investment Management Corporation
  • Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec
  • Canada Life
  • Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
  • CWB Financial Group
  • Desjardins Group
  • Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan
  • Intact Financial Corporation
  • Manulife
  • National Bank Financial
  • Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)
  • Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan
  • PSP Investments
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Scotiabank
  • Sun Life
  • TD Bank Group
  • The Co-operators Group
  • University Pension Plan
  • Vancity

Contact us

Individuals and organizations with expertise in sustainable finance or related subject matter, domestic or international, seeking to engage with the Action Council, can contact the Action Council Secretariat at sfac-cafd@fin.gc.ca.

Media Enquiries:
E-mail: mediare@fin.gc.ca

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