Around the world, Swiss Re is committed to minimising our impact on the natural environment. Our mission is to protect our clients and society against future risks; helping the world rebuild, renew, and move forward.
We have followed the development of climate change for more than 20 years and participated in, or sponsored, hundreds of events and projects ranging from research and awareness building, to product development and managing our own carbon footprint.
For a reinsurer, climate change has a meaningful impact on our business because it may, in the long-term, lead to an increase in the frequency and/or severity of cyclones, floods, bushfires and storms. All risks we underwrite.
That's why we have:
- Advanced our knowledge and understanding of climate change risks, quantifying and integrating them into our risk management and underwriting frameworks where relevant;
- Continued to develop products and services to mitigate – or adapt to – climate risk;
- Raised awareness about climate change with clients, employees and the general public; and
- Tackled our own carbon footprint and ensured transparent, annual emissions reporting.
This makes me proud. I am proud to stand with a company that isn't just talking the talk but that is prepared to take a stand. We don't know when a big picture global issue is going to become very personal to us.
In 2016, we stopped investing in companies that generate more than 30% of revenue from thermal coal, and in July this year, we joined others across the industry by announcing our new thermal coal policy. The policy limits our support to those with more than 30% thermal coal exposure and supports the journey towards a low-carbon economy. The next phase: developing a carbon risk model. We believe that improving efficiency and developing low-carbon technologies, including insurance coverage and investments in renewable energy sources, are critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and securing future energy supplies.
In 2014, we were a founding partner of the Climate Group's RE100 initiative, with the goal of bringing together the most influential companies in the world in a shared commitment to use 100% renewable power by 2020. We were one of the first in our sector to switch to environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarks in our investment portfolio. Today, we apply ESG criteria to close to 100% of our investment portfolio. In August we shared first-hand insights on how ESG criteria have been implemented, and confirmed the initial finding that integrating them makes economic sense.
The Green Building Council of Australia certified us with the 6 Star Green Star interiors rating for our Sydney office, which is located within the Barangaroo carbon neutral precinct, and our Mumbai and Shanghai offices received certificates for their overall environmental quality, LEED Platinum and LEED Gold respectively.
We have also taken a bold decision to open solar power plants at our office locations, the most recent being our new office in Bangalore, India. The solar plant there is the size of 10 tennis courts and helps Swiss Re save 30% on its electricity bills. We are also reducing CO2 emissions by 500 metric tonnes a year – equal to nearly 13,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years. Solar plants have also been set up in Zurich, Rome, Folkestone and Armonk, New York.
Beyond corporate responsibility, we believe our employees have a responsibility too. Since its inception 10 years ago, our COyou2 programme has helped some 15,000 employees reduce their own carbon footprint by offering subsidies for a range of emission-cutting investments from household appliances to electric vehicles.
However, as policy and best practice around environmental sustainability evolves, we have to keep pace. As identified in our 2018 SONAR emerging risks report, environmental liability is not a new concept for the insurance industry and has existed for many years in more developed economies. But recently, China has begun to enforce new pollution legislation, making environmental pollution liability insurance compulsory for companies that pose high pollution risks in a country at risk from smog, haze and acid rain. And South Korea has also mandated environmental insurance for a range of industries.
From climate change to natural catastrophes, putting in place innovative, customised and sustainable practices now will ensure future resilience against the risks we face.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Resilience, Sustainable energy: Solar, Other
Location: Sydney NSW, Australia