The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan is making diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives a top priority, including a commitment to combat anti-Black systemic racism.

Elena Palumbo-Sergnese, senior vice-president of human resources at the HOOPP, says the fund’s strategy encompasses four main approaches. These include the embedding of DEI into core processes and success measurements, allowing employees to drive the conversation and initiate change, ongoing education and partnering with like-minded organizations. “It’s important to recognize that DEI is a journey and that for organizations and the wider business community to improve, there must be a concerted effort on many fronts, both internal and external.”

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She says the HOOPP has undertaken such initiatives as launching a new DEI program for its employees and board members, factoring DEI metrics into its corporate performance management program and hiring a director of DEI to work with the senior leadership team on the implementation of the fund’s diversity strategy and initiatives. The HOOPP is also engaging staff through the launch of employee-led resource groups as well as guest-speaker sessions that cover DEI topics and new training programs that focus on inclusive leadership.

The pension fund was also among the many signatories of the BlackNorth Initiative Pledge to acknowledge and combat anti-Black systemic racism in Canada. “We’ve made [DEI] a top priority at HOOPP and have launched several activities as part of this commitment. These initiatives help us meet the BlackNorth Pledge while also serving our wider [DEI] goals.”

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Dahabo Ahmed Omer, executive director of the BlackNorth Initiative, says more than 400 Canadian companies have signed the pledge, including several in the investment and pension sectors. In addition to the HOOPP, these companies include Wealthsimple Inc., Mackenzie Investments, CI Financial Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. “We feel we’re building incredible momentum this year within the investment space and have received impactful feedback from leaders in the sector.”

She says while the challenges to dismantling systemic anti-Black racism in these sectors are similar to other industries, pension funds and investment firms are in a unique position to engage influential leaders and leverage their far-reaching networks across other sectors, particularly as the focus on environmental, social and governance factors in the investment community gains momentum.

“Many investors are now demanding that the brands and financial institutions they’re investing in uphold diversity and inclusion goals that align with their own personal values. As such, the pensions industry is paying attention to what’s not only happening in their own boardrooms, but how their internal practices are seen and valued by their various stakeholders.”

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