Corporate sustainability is an important issue for a reinsurer. Unsustainable trends threatening natural resources and social coherence may reinforce known risks or create new risks, raising the loss potential for the insurance industry. At the same time, new types of risk transfer products can help society mitigate or adapt to the risks associated with the sustainability challenges that it currently faces. This process creates new business opportunities. Swiss Re strives to address both sustainability-related risks and opportunities through combined efforts in risk assessment, product development, internal operations and stakeholder dialogue.
Swiss Re’s commitment to corporate sustainability is enshrined in the Companies’ Sustainability Mission Statement. The principle of sustainability has also been firmly embedded within the fabric of the company through its normative frameworks. It is one of four core values in the Group’s Principles and, through its detailed treatment in the Group Code of Conduct, forms an integral part of Swiss Re’s corporate governance regime. The governance of the topic has been defined from the Board of Directors to the operational level.
As a financial services provider, Swiss Re’s business activities do not have a major environmental impact. However, the Group considers it an important part of its corporate responsibility to uphold high environmental standards in its internal operations as well as its relations with suppliers. In particular, reducing its own carbon footprint is one of the four pillars of Swiss Re’s climate change strategy.
The goal of sustainable development will clearly remain unachievable if climate change continues unabated. For this reason, current climate trends play a central role in sustainable development and have been high on Swiss Re’s agenda for some time. In fact, Swiss Re was one of the first global companies to recognise the challenges posed by a changing climate.
Although it is never truly stable, the climate in which mankind has been able to progress so rapidly over the last 250 years may be set for significant change. Swiss Re first recognised this trend in the early 1990s. Exploring and explaining the risks associated with climate change have since become the flagship initiative of the Group’s corporate sustainability engagement. The topic exemplifies how both business, and society in general, is vulnerable to an unsustainable environmental trend. However, Swiss Re is convinced that climate change can be tackled and that this is best done by considering it as both a risk and opportunity.
The company’s almost 20 year engagement in the climate debate has developed into a four- pillar strategy: enhancing our understanding of the risk, developing relevant products and services, risk dialogue and tackling our own emissions .
Greenhouse neutral programme
In October 2003, the Swiss Re Group launched its ‘greenhouse neutral’ programme with the goal to reduce Swiss Re’s CO2 emissions by 15% per employee within ten years and to offset the remaining emissions through the purchase of certified emission reductions (CER) and high-quality verified emission reductions (VER). Based on the 2007 results, the decision was made to step up the goal to a 30% reduction in Swiss Re’s CO2 emissions per employee by October 2013. In January 2008, a total of 230 000 tons CO2e high-quality VER’s were retired for the first time. This amount off-set Swiss Re’s total emissions from October 2003 to end of September 2007. Swiss Re can therefore claim to be a greenhouse neutral company since October 2003. Any further emissions will be offset on an annual basis.
Reducing CO2 emissions
Swiss Re operates from more than 70 offices in over 25 countries. In most cases, Swiss Re is a tenant; it only owns office space in Armonk, Folkestone, Munich, Paris, Rome, Telford and Zurich. As a tenant, the opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions are limited. However, Swiss Re follows a strategy of continuously reducing its energy consumption and switching to renewable energy wherever possible. Since 2003, a wide range of measures have been implemented across the Group.
Group Purchasing Guidelines
Swiss Re’s Group Purchasing Guidelines aim to minimise potential negative impact of all products used in the Group’s daily operations. The guidelines are based on international standards and local best practices that have been used for several years in Zurich and Munich. They cover both suppliers and manufacturers, and contain environmental as well as social criteria. Technically, the guidelines are implemented in the form of supplier questionnaires that specify various requirements, for example with regard to materials, life-cycle impacts, labels and national legislation. Supplier assessments and samples are used as additional measures to ensure that the guidelines are being met.
ISO 14001 certification/recertification
ISO 14001 is the world’s most widely used quality standard for environmental management systems (EMS). Developed by the International Organisation for Standardization, it makes generic requirements of the structures and processes an organisation has in place to manage its environmental impacts, meet its stated objectives, and comply with environmental laws and regulations. Independent third-party certification checks whether all specified requirements laid down in the standard are being met.
Swiss Re’s policy is to seek certification for specific local departments dealing directly with environmental issues in owned buildings. Currently the Logistics Department and Swiss Re Guest Services in Zurich, the Logistics Department in Armonk, plus Swiss Re Italia in Rome have received ISO 14001 certification. The Logistics Departments in Manchester (USA) and Munich will apply for ISO 14001 certification during 2007/08.
Further details on Swiss Re’s initiatives to reduce its environmental footprint can be found in the annual Corporate Responsibility Report.