Corporate responsibility in Canada

Our vision

There's strength in diversity and inclusion. That's why our mission is to continue to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) into our DNA. In doing so, we're committed to creating a better, more inclusive workplace for our people, while providing superior service to our clients.

Why?

  • Promoting diversity and a culture of inclusion is simply the right thing to do.
  • Diversity helps us attract and retain top talent. We act for diverse clients across Canada and around the world, and it's important that our team reflects this.
  • Diversity helps us better serve our clients. Diverse teams bring different perspectives, apply different approaches to problem-solving, and generate better, more creative solutions.
  • Inclusion breeds innovation, collaboration, commitment and productivity.

Our strategy

We've been taking concrete steps to make our EDI vision a reality. We are committed to our national Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy, which outlines clear, measurable goals to be achieved over the coming years. To guide this strategy, we partnered with the Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) to conduct a firm-wide EDI self-identification census, becoming one of the first law firms in Canada to do so.  More than 1,500 of our legal professionals and staff across the country voluntarily took part in the census. The CCDI also conducted focus groups and individual interviews to learn more about our culture and identify specific areas of focus.

The results of the census, focus groups and interviews provided us with an important benchmark in terms of understanding where we are now, what we are doing well and where we need to concentrate our efforts.

Our strategy is overseen by a national EDI Council, comprising our CEO, national director of human resources, national EDI manager, national director of legal talent and representatives from each of our offices. The council recently completed an extensive review of diversity in our recruitment and retention practices and is in the process of implementing the recommendations across the country.

Current initiatives

BlackNorth Initiative Law Firm Pledge: As a signatory to the BlackNorth Initiative (BNI) Law Firm Pledge, Gowling WLG is committed to addressing and ending anti-Black and other forms of structural racism in the legal profession. We signed the pledge in August 2020 alongside our colleagues at Blakes, BLG, Davies, Dentons, Fasken, Goodmans, McCarthy Tétrault, Osler and Torys, demonstrating our individual and collective commitment to achieving the goals set out in the Pledge and to delivering on the concrete, measurable actions that will effect meaningful change.

Together, we commend the BNI for initiating the Law Firm Pledge. The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) played an important role in our collaborative discussions. We will continue to work with BNI, CABL and other stakeholders across the legal profession to break down barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Black people in our firms. Stronger together, we will drive progress and deliver lasting change.

Reconciliation Action Plan: We have launched our own Reconciliation Action Plan – a document designed to help us address Canada's mistreatment of Indigenous peoples by outlining clear ways we will make meaningful contributions to authentic reconciliation efforts. The plan commits us to supporting reconciliation through the many ways we deliver legal services to clients – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike – by our legal professionals and staff, and aims to ensure that everyone is culturally attuned to Indigenous-related issues, opportunities and goals.

United Nations Global Compact:  Gowling WLG is formally committed to the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact, which focus on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The Global Compact is a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles, as well as taking steps to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Women's Empowerment Principles: Gowling WLG was the first international law firm to sign the UN Women's Empowerment Principles, a powerful global initiative designed to help businesses advance gender equality and promote women's economic empowerment within their workplaces, industries and communities.

NRCan Equal by 30: Gowling WLG is a proud signatory of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)'s Equal by 30 campaign, a public commitment to work towards equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030.

EHRC Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity: In 2019, Gowling WLG became the first law firm to sign the Leadership Accord on Gender Diversity. Developed by Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC), the Accord is a call to action and public commitment by Canadian employers, educators, unions and governments to champion and promote the values of gender diversity and inclusion within their organizations.

Mental Health First Aid Training: Gowling WLG is proud to be the first large law firm in Canada to deliver mental health first aid (MHFA) training to partners, associates and staff across our Canadian offices. MHFA is the help provided to a person experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental health problem.  To date, more than 120 people, including the firm's leadership team and all levels of management, have become certified MHFA providers. 

Unconscious Bias Training: The majority of Gowling WLG team members in Canada have completed unconscious bias training. This training has helped move our firm toward a more inclusive culture by raising awareness of how common forms of bias can shape our thoughts and actions - and have a negative impact on others.

Diversonomics: In 2016, Gowling WLG launched Diversonomics, a podcast that features discussions with leaders at the forefront of an international push to make the legal profession - and the broader business community - more welcoming, inclusive and diverse. The popular podcast is now in its third season.

Gender markers pro bono initiative: In partnership with the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity, Gowling WLG provides pro bono commissioning and notary services for trans and non-binary individuals who wish to change their gender markers on their identification. Those interested in engaging our services should contact us at gender.id@gowlingwlg.com to set up an appointment.

Women Get on Board (WGOB): Gowling WLG is a proud national strategic partner of Women Get on Board, an organization that helps connect and promote women to corporate boards. We have partnered with WGOB to host a series of events for clients, including a cross-Canada roadshow on the topic of "Assessing the Risks: Directors & Officers Liability Insurances & Indemnities."

Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN): Gowling WLG is a founding member of the LFDIN, a group of Canadian law firms working together to promote diversity and encourage a culture of inclusion in our firms and the broader legal profession. As a member of the LFDIN, we're committed to its Statement of Principles.

Legal Leaders for Diversity and Inclusion (LLD) Trust Fund: The LLD is a group of Canadian general counsel from coast to coast who have declared their support and commitment for creating a more inclusive legal profession. The group established the Legal Leaders for Diversity Trust Fund to advance diversity in law faculties and provide equal access to legal education by offering annual scholarships to young people with disabilities seeking to graduate from Canadian law faculties. Gowling WLG is a proud contributor to this worthwhile cause. Since 2015, we have hosted a special annual reception to honour the recipients of an LLD scholarship.

Gowling WLG Realizing Opportunities for Women (GROW): Founded by our professionals in Toronto and active in several offices across Canada, GROW promotes greater recognition and understanding of issues facing women in the workplace. Through engaging, well-attended networking events, GROW enables women to connect with mentors and build relationships that enhance their professional and personal lives.

Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program: Gowling WLG was the first law firm to join the PAR program, an initiative of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and the world's only corporate responsibility assurance program for Aboriginal relations. As a "committed level" member, Gowling WLG will undergo an external review by an Aboriginal business panel to evaluate the firm's performance in employment, community investment, business development and community engagement. The results will enable Gowling WLG to proceed to the certification levels of bronze, silver and gold, and further solidify Gowling WLG as a great firm for Indigenous peoples to work with and work for.

Justicia Project: In Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, Gowling WLG has played a key role in the Justicia Project, an innovative program designed to retain and advance more women in legal private practice. The project was first introduced by the Law Society of Ontario in response to evidence that women leave private practice at a higher rate than men in their first 10 years of practice. As a participating firm, Gowling WLG is committed to achieving goals in four areas: tracking gender demographics within the firm; reviewing/introducing flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies; adopting initiatives to foster women's networking and business development expertise; and promoting leadership skills for women.

Indigenous Law Centre: Gowling WLG is a strong proponent of the Indigenous Law Centre,  which offers pre-law courses through the University of Saskatchewan. The ILC program (formerly known as the Program of Legal Studies for Native People) helps prepare Indigenous students for a career in law by giving them the opportunity to study law and develop their skills before they enter law school. It includes writing workshops, mentorship, and a supportive and collaborative classroom environment. Indigenous customary law and traditions are also significant features of the program.

Starbucks International Excellence in Diversity Award: Gowling WLG was the first Canadian law firm to receive the Starbucks International Excellence in Diversity Award. Based on an annual diversity survey of Starbucks' legal service providers around the world, the award recognized our extensive efforts to enhance diversity and promote inclusion.