Industry Awards

Voya Becomes First To Receive DALBAR ESG Retirement Plan Certification And Earn 5-star Rating For Its 401(k) Plans

New certification comes at a time when more than half of individuals say they would contribute more to an ESG-aligned retirement plan if it was certified

Windsor, Conn., June 10, 2021 — Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), announced today that it has become the first publicly traded company to receive an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Retirement Plan Certification from DALBAR, a leading expert in the retirement industry for evaluating, auditing and rating business practices. Voya received the certification, along with a five-star rating, for the 401(k) plans offered to its own employees. DALBAR’s ESG Plan Certification is an annual process to evaluate a plan’s success in actively applying ESG principles to its retirement plan.

“At Voya, we continue to embrace the broad view of ESG factors in our benefits offerings and are thrilled that DALBAR has recognized our teams’ work and efforts to obtain an ESG certification for the 401(k) retirement plans we offer our own employees,” said Kevin Silva, EVP and chief human resources officer for Voya Financial. “Providing the opportunity for all individuals to achieve a better financial future means taking actions that can help our own employees meet their health and wealth needs, including saving for retirement. For employers like Voya, one way to help support this is to expand ESG principles to workplace benefit offerings.”

DALBAR’s ESG Retirement Plan Certification* includes a review of all ESG factors including:

  • Environmental factors such as paper suppression, automatic enrollment and online capabilities;
  • Social factors like matching contributions and phone center capabilities; and
  • Governance factors, such as plan fees, regulation compliance and investment policy.

The underlying principle of the ESG Plan Certification is the recognition of providing an incentive for continuous improvement of plans to achieve this goal, where a five-star rating is achieved by supporting environmental, social and governance characteristics. Receiving the ESG Retirement Plan Certification can benefit both employers and employees themselves, including attracting new talent to a company that offers a plan with a commitment to serving the community.

Growing Popularity Of ESG

“While the topic of ESG has grown in popularity over the last several years, particularly as it pertains to investments within a plan, we recognize that building strong ESG practices into workplace benefits and a retirement plan involves multiple considerations,” added Heather Lavallee, CEO of Wealth Solutions for Voya Financial. “Whether looking at digital capabilities that can reduce print consumption or plan enrollment and default investment options, there are many factors to consider when looking at ways you can incorporate ESG best practices in a retirement plan.”

ESG principles integrate themselves to the individual operations and decisions a company makes on a day-to-day basis, including an employer’s retirement plan. What’s more, the interest in ESG is becoming increasingly important to individuals themselves. According to Voya research, more than half (60%) of individuals say they would likely contribute more to an ESG-aligned retirement plan if it was certified[1] — and the majority (83%) of working Americans find it important to apply ESG principles to workplace benefits.[2] The combination of increased participation and higher contribution rates can ultimately help create an increase in retirement security for more participants.

Providing the opportunity for all individuals to achieve a better financial future means taking actions that can help our own employees meet their health and wealth needs, including saving for retirement...

“There are four goals of our ESG certification: spot issues before they become problems; make cost-effective plan enhancements; gain public and internal recognition of the achievement; and enhance recruitment of talented candidates,” said Louis Harvey, president and CEO of DALBAR, Inc.

Pursuing ESG Retirement Plan Certification

Employers interested in pursuing ESG Retirement Plan Certification can learn more at the DALBAR ESG Certification website (here) and should contact their defined contribution plan’s recordkeeper to find out how they can work with DALBAR to begin the certification process. Voya provided assistance to DALBAR in developing this certification, but has no role in the assessment process.

As an industry leader focused on the delivery of health, wealth and investment solutions to and through the workplace, Voya Financial is committed to delivering on its mission to make a secure financial future possible for all Americans — one person, one family, one institution at a time.




1. Voya “ESG Principles & Investing” study conducted through Voya’s Online Consumer Community with n=101 consumers balanced by age and gender (June 2020).
2. Based on results of a Voya Financial survey conducted through AYTM Ask Your Target Market online research platform between Jan. 18 26, 2021 among n=750 Americans age 18+ who are full time employees and actively contributing to their employer sponsored retirement plan, balanced by age and gender to reflect the U.S. population.
*DALBAR, Inc. is a leading financial services market research firm that performs a variety of ratings and evaluations of practices and communications, committed to raising the standards of excellence in the financial services and healthcare industries. DALBAR is a separate entity and not a corporate affiliate of Voya Financial®. The DALBAR ESG Certification criteria fall into 3 categories: Environmental (Paper Suppression, Automatic Enrollment, Online Capabilities), Social (Premature Withdrawal Options, Matching Contributions, Phone Center Capabilities, Pre/Post Retirement Support) and Governance (Reasonable Plan Fees, Compliance with Applicable Regulations, Sound Investment Policy, Investment Review, 3rd Party Requirements). There is an annual fee for ESG Plan Certification which is uniform for all participants in the program and based on the number of participants in the plan (<1,000 participants is $500, 1,000 – 10,000 participants is $2,500, >10,000 participants is $5,000). The DALBAR ESG Certification does not reflect actual client experiences or outcomes and is not indicative of future performance. Voya provided assistance to DALBAR in developing the ESG Plan Certification. DALBAR asked Voya to participate in the data collection process and to provide DALBAR feedback on the questionnaire process from a client perspective. Voya participated in a beta test for certification. The certification process was run by Dalbar and Voya had no opportunity to influence the outcome. The certification is based on factors that are pass / fail and will be consistently applied to all plans seeking the certification.