Green Shield is a Waterstone Human Capital Most Admired Corporate Culture Winner

March 6, 2023

press release


You cannot be a successful social enterprise without understanding people. and you cannot understand people if you don’t engage, motivate, respond to and challenge your own team members. Our culture is the sum of our people .... working together to expand our social impact. — Zahid Salman, President & CEO, Green Shield

Green Shield has always been driven by a social mission to champion “Better Health For All” and by a unique culture that emphasizes social impact over all else. Green Shield offers meaningful work that is a force for good, and with a culture rooted in social impact, it’s no surprise that the organization has once again been recognized as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures.

Better Health for All

Green Shield’s origins go back to 1957, when a mother entered Green Shield founder William Wilkinson’s Windsor, Ont. pharmacy with two prescriptions: one for herself and one for her daughter. She could only afford one and sacrificed her own health to fill her daughter’s prescription.

The desire to provide affordable access to pharmaceuticals led William to establish Green Shield as North America’s first prepaid drug plan. To extend Green Shield’s positive impact beyond its direct customer bases, the company was founded as a not-for-profit social enterprise, with earnings re-invested to provide increased access to health care services for local communities and underserved populations.

This mission still guides Green Shield today and is why Green Shield attracts employees the company affectionately refers to as “noble challengers” — employees who are purposeful, ambitious, and focused on growing the business to fuel and accelerate its social impact efforts. Quite simply, giving back is more than what Green Shield does … it’s who Green Shield is.

Reimagining the future of care

After decades of establishing itself as one of Canada’s largest health and dental benefits providers, Green Shield’s culture is becoming even more admirable. Under the leadership of president & CEO Zahid Salman (winner of Canada’s Most Admired CEO in the Broader Public Sector category) and fuelled by the eight acquisitions made in the past two years (via Green Shield Holdings Inc.), Green Shield has doubled down on its commitment to health care by reimagining the health care experience, with the end user at the centre.

Now, as the only organization in Canada to be both a payer (offering insurance, administering benefits and paying claims) and a provider (offering medical, mental health and pharmacy services), Green Shield has created a new model of care built around the needs of their members to simplify their health journey and maximize health outcomes. This innovative payer-provider model unlocks the concept of “whole health,” connecting all the pieces of their members’ health care experience.

“As we build a new standard of care focused on the unique needs of our individual members, providing greater access to care for Canadians requires us to understand the unique needs of our customers, and apply a micro lens even as we expand our offerings nationally,” says Salman.

This new standard of care will create a simplified health care journey via a platform with unprecedented levels of integration, with services that talk to each other, where users can access their benefits administration and health care services effortlessly, anywhere, anytime.

“Our innovative approach to health care will enable Green Shield to provide greater access to convenient virtual health care solutions, creating a more integrated, efficient and seamless user experience,” says Salman.

“Ultimately, the data and in-sights gleamed will lead to improved health outcomes for individuals and organizations, leading to improved employee productivity and quality of life.”

Social impact as the measure of success

Green Shield’s evolution has also enabled the organization to directly offer their new wholly owned health care services — in addition to their longstanding financial contributions — to support under-served populations. Green Shield’s free women’s mental health program leverages its online mental health offerings and has positively impacted over 20,000 Canadian women. And, their oral health care program has positively impacted over 35,000 Can-adians who struggle to access or afford dental care.

Green Shield is already ahead of its ambitious target to invest $75 million and positively impact over one million Canadians by 2025, including a recent commitment to invest an additional $10 million, for a total of over $20 million over seven years, to boost access and coverage for oral health care for low-income, underserved communities across Canada.

“Social impact is our business,” says Salman.

“An integral part of that is creating and sustaining a culture that prioritizes our social mission, because our main measure of success is the amount we re-invest and the number of lives we positively impact. The better we perform and the more successful we are as a business, the more we can re-invest and the greater impact we can have on the health and wellbeing of Canadians.”

Green Shield understands that its employees are motivated by more than earnings and revenues. Nurturing this shared ambition and purpose has been an imperative for leadership, because what truly unites their employees is the opportunity to contribute to meaningful work and be a force for good. To contribute to something bigger than oneself. To do what’s right, not what’s easy. All in service of Better Health For All.

“You cannot be a successful social enterprise without understanding people. And you cannot understand people if you don’t engage, motivate, respond to and challenge your own team members,” says Salman. “Our culture is the sum of our people — in our head office, our regional offices, and our newly acquired businesses — working together to expand our social impact.”

Cultural evolution

To foster this connection to the organization’s values and social mission, employees are encouraged to actively support their local communities through in-house programs including an employee-giving platform where their donations and volunteer hours are matched by up to $2,000 respectively. A coveted annual corporate award directs an additional $2,500 toward the charity of choice for the employee who best personifies Green Shield’s culture of social impact.

Green Shield is equally committed to the growth and professional development of their employees. Green Shield’s training and support programs are designed to encourage personal and professional growth and optimize employee talents. Each year, employees are provided $2,000 toward educational and developmental opportunities of their choosing, among other resources and tools.

In addition, the company has created a dedicated multi-year individual development program to maximize the potential of employees who have been identified as emerging top talent.

And further, the organization has made firm commitments to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion internally, most notably with a goal of 50/50 gender balance and a minimum commitment of 30 per cent of its leadership team reflecting its diverse values. “We walk the talk when it comes to inclusion and diversity by taking concrete action, while understanding the job can never be fully satisfied. More must, and will, be done,” says Salman.

Green Shield is now focused on preserving the best elements of its culture (purposeful, collaborative, customer-obsessed) with newer competencies that will enable growth such as a commercial mindset, speed, and agility.  

“In the past two years, we have acquired multiple startups and have embedded their speed, agility and entrepreneurial spirit to our established culture to provide the best of both worlds: a startup mentality with the available resources of an established organization,” says Salman.

“Other companies say they are different. We really are. There is no other payer-provider in Canada, and no organization in our industry that measures success by social impact. Green Shield’s longstanding innovative spirit and deeply in-grained altruism, combined with newer muscles of speed, agility and entrepreneurism will enable us to grow our business and reimagine the future of care while remaining committed to our social mission of Better Health For All.”