ESG Exchange Q&A 1: How are insurers helping their staff and partners to be green?

ESG Exchange QA 1

As part of Post's ESG Exchange fortnight we spoke to Allianz, Axa, Bupa and RSA to find out how insurers are thinking beyond their own firms and helping staff, partners and their supply chain to adopt environmental, social and governance practises.

How are you helping and supporting brokers or other distribution partners reduce emissions/carbon footprint?

Carolyn Rich, head of brand marketing and social responsibility at Allianz

Carolyn Rich, head of brand marketing and social responsibility, Allianz: We’ve launched the Allianz Net Zero Accelerator precisely to help brokers measure and reduce their carbon footprint. In February, we shared practical advice at a webinar, following which we invited independent brokers to apply for the Accelerator scheme. Selected brokers will receive one-to-one support: they’ll spend half a day with an environmental, social and governance expert who will give them a plan to make their business greener and start their journey to net zero. Allianz will then offset the 2021 emissions tracked through the programme. We have pledged £100,000 to this fund, so we are really putting our money where our mouth is.

Richard Brophy

Richard Brophy, head of UK & International, social impact and ESG, RSAWe measure, monitor and manage the factors that influence our overall carbon footprint, including energy consumption, business travel and waste. By making the right choices about how we operate our business, and supporting our brokers and partners to do the same, we can reduce the environmental impact of our businesses and play our part in addressing sustainability challenges.

We are committed to reducing RSA’s contribution to climate change by collaborating, sharing best practice and promoting sustainable working practices among employees, brokers, partners and suppliers. Our brokers and partners increasingly expect their supply chain to align on shared values and strategies around ESG and do business with like-minded brands. Supporting our customers to achieve their goals and efforts to reduce waste and emissions and achieve energy efficiency, together with other ESG criteria, are often components of our partnerships.

Sally Pain

Sally Pain, chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer, Bupa Global & UKBupa has always focused on health and we know that our mental and physical health is connected to the health of our planet. We may not be able to undo the damage that has already been done, but we can help create a healthier future for all life on our planet. Like many companies, we’re starting at home by taking action to reduce our overall environmental footprint, including our supply chains and with our partners.

So far, 96% of our electricity come from renewable sources, and we’ve invested £23m in eco-friendly technology, such as solar panels, LED lighting and building energy management systems. Our Leeds, London and Manchester office buildings are energy-efficient, with an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating. We also offset our direct and business travel emissions as part of the UN’s Climate Neutral Now initiative.

We’ve also made significant investments in digital technology. By providing digital appointments and health assessments, customers can access healthcare from their own homes if they prefer, reducing carbon emissions from travel to our clinics. Our digital membership portal also greatly reduces the need for paper health cover information and reports to be sent out to customers.

Last year, Bupa committed to the Science Based Targets initiative joining companies worldwide in following science-led actions to reduce carbon emissions. We are proud to be one of the first large healthcare organisations to join the initiative.

Our UK Insurance business has also contributed to the Association of British Insurers climate change roadmap which commits us to reach net zero by 2025 for our directly controlled UK insurance operations (scopes 1 and 2). We’d encourage other insurers to follow suit.


Jon Walker, CEO, Axa Commercial, and chair of the Axa UK & Ireland Climate Change Risk Committee: We know brokers and distribution partners play a role in fighting climate change and we’re uniquely positioned as a global insurer to help businesses and our partners to understand the risks of climate change and the many benefits of taking action to slow it down. We leverage our climate support and education materials with our broker partners, to help them reduce their own emissions and educate their clients. We also provide thought leadership on emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, and through our risk management team we work with brokers and customers on growing trends such as innovative ‘green building’ design in the construction sector.

Additionally, Axa Ireland has launched Irelands’ first Carbon Free Car Insurance. Through this exciting multimillion-euro initiative Axa is offsetting carbon emissions for all our motor vehicle customers in Ireland for one year. This proposition helps our distribution partners build awareness among their customers.

How are you helping and supporting third-party businesses within your supply chain reduce their emission/carbon footprint?

Rich: We’re planning on extending aspects of the Allianz Net Zero Accelerator to suppliers this year, so they too will be able to reduce their carbon footprint.

This follows the sustainable procurement charter, which we unveiled last year, to provide ESG information, support and incentive. For tender assessments, we apply a minimum weighting of 10% to ESG factors, as a way of prioritising suppliers that have embedded sustainable and ethical practices within their organisation.

Brophy: As a responsible business we consider our impacts beyond our own operations. We monitor and manage the environmental and social impacts of our supply chain, collaborating and sharing best practice with our suppliers and partners.

Managing our supply chain responsibly means thinking about social and environmental issues as an integral part of purchasing decisions. By working closely with our partners, we can improve our collective impact. We’re committed to only working with supply chain partners that share our values and seek to have a positive social and environmental impact.

Our third-party contracts policy sets out the controls we have in place for our procurement processes and the conduct we expect from our partners. This includes checks on the policies and management practices of suppliers on human rights, environment and social issues. This is supported by our Supplier Code of Conduct, which draws on internationally recognised standards and helps ensure we partner with suppliers whose conduct meets our expectations.

Sustainability considerations are part of all our procurement activities, including supplier selection, contracts and our ongoing dialogue with suppliers to ensure we make procurement choices with clear environmental and social benefits. Above all, we seek to partner with suppliers that uphold our high standards of conduct, providing safe working conditions, treating workers with dignity and respect, acting fairly and ethically and using environmentally responsible practices.

Pain: One of the important ways we will meet the above targets, is by working closely with our suppliers and business partners to eliminate carbon emissions from our supply chain. While we are early in our journey, we are speaking to our key suppliers about how we can work together to reduce emissions.

For example, we work with a large network of hospital partners and we’re looking for them to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero as soon as possible. We’ve recently signed the Independent Healthcare Providers Network pledge, which commits providers to delivering net zero across Scope 1 and 2 by 2035, and Scope 3 by 2045, and are encouraged that so far over 40 hospital providers have also signed up to this commitment. These are steps that needs to be taken across the industry and we encourage all hospital providers to take action.

Walker: Our property and procurement functions are driving a joint strategy focused on working with our supply chain to ensure innovative solutions are implemented to drive carbon efficiencies in both our business and the wider marketplace.

One example of this is where we have worked closely with our supply chain when we have undertaken office refurbishments. We have been working with suppliers to implement more sustainable changes such as installing LED lighting and sustainable flooring as well as sourcing materials with high recycled content. Our external design companies now work with us to meet these standards.

Similarly, we are working with our top 100 suppliers to understand their sustainability credentials. With the use of scorecards, we are examining criteria such as commitment to renewable energy and carbon emissions data collection. With these, we will develop action plans to further improve operations and collaboration between the businesses.

Additionally, work with our facilities management suppliers has enabled us to reduce energy consumption across all our offices by 35% over eight years. We have also diverted zero waste from landfill and amended waste collections from a scheduled collection to collecting only when the bins are full. This reduces the number of transport journeys to our office sites by the provider and limiting their carbon impact. We have also transitioned our mail onto digital platforms, reducing the volume of paper and delivery journeys needed.

We are still in the early stages of this journey, now working closer with our supplier to address their emissions as well as our own. Over the next year we will look to improve our measurement of carbon emissions from the supply chain and develop programmes of work to support their journey towards net zero.  

How are you helping staff reduce their personal emissions/carbon footprint through initiatives and incentives?

Rich: Our UK operations have been carbon neutral since 2012 and we now source 100% of our energy from renewable sources. When moving sites, we recycle office furniture and equipment, and we opt for buildings that are certified sustainable, such as our Manchester office. Many of our offices have solar panels and charging points for electric cars. To save paper, we’ve reduced the number of office printers by 75% and switched to electronic communications wherever possible, as well as using environmentally friendly stationery. To cut travel emissions, on top of Cycle to Work, we’ve embraced flexible working and set online as the default meeting format. And our offices have high-efficiency toilets to save water.

This is not just a top-down exercise. One of our most active employee groups is the Sustainability network, where people share a wealth of advice from recycling tips to vegan recipes or easy plastic swaps. We also run four sustainability weeks every year, which focus communication and activity around different themes such as reducing waste or emissions. It gives employees information and tips on how to be more sustainable at work and at home and gets everyone engaged in this important topic.

Colleagues can also use their volunteering days to support many causes, including climate-related ones. This February, employees are planting 1,000 trees in the Surrey Hills as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy.

Brophy: Before the pandemic, we had already made great strides in becoming a more sustainable business, in particular when it came to our offices. Dishwashers were installed in a number of offices to support a reduction in single use cups and cutlery, and we also offered branded water bottles to our people to encourage more sustainable habits.

More recently we have already installed new electric vehicle charging bays in our Chelmsford and Horsham offices. During 2022, we expect to install EV charging bays in many other offices including Glasgow, Sunderland, Halifax, Birmingham, Liverpool. And we are working on a new Essential Car User scheme to provide lower emission vehicles to those employees who need to travel on company business.

We’ve also been looking at more ways to support our local communities by donating items we no longer need to people who need them. In Halifax, we’ve donated 189 pieces of furniture (ranging from fridges to desks and tables) to local charities using our Collect Eco partner and similar initiatives are underway in other our sites.  As we’ve transitioned to new technologies and platforms, we’ve taken time to find new homes for our older equipment. To date, we’ve donated 1875 laptops to 36 different causes, including community support services, schools, youth charities, and housing and homelessness charities, benefitting over 7000 people per week across those causes. Part of our commitment to sustainability is considering what could be reused and recycled, so will keep looking at ways we can donate items we no longer need to benefit our local communities.

Pain: We all need to look at the role we can play in achieving a sustainable future, and we’re working hard to highlight the link between human and planet health with our people.

Recent research from Bupa found that 63% of Gen Z feels the burden of climate change on its shoulders and one in three (31%) would turn down roles in companies with poor ESG credentials. It’s, therefore, more important than ever that employers engage their employees in ESG initiatives and support their wellbeing. 

At Bupa we’re supporting our employees to make more sustainable choices and enable low carbon ways of working such as minimising travel and using less paper. We’re also educating operational teams on greener ways of working, for example choosing more sustainable insultation, heating, water and waste management systems, and using digital systems over paper. We are also creating eco-challenges to encourage our teams to get involved with activities that are good for them, as well as good for the planet and their communities. To help other employers who want to support their employee’s wellbeing as part of their ESG goals, our wellbeing experts have created a five-point guide with suggestions on how to encourage sustainable habits and get employees involved in ESG initiatives.

Last year we ran our first ever Bupa eco-Disruptive programme, an eight-month global talent and innovation challenge engaging employees across the UK, Australia and Spain. Bupa squads partnered with 18 eco start-ups to develop solutions that positively impact the health of the planet and the health of people. The programme worked to engage as many people across our global workforce as possible, encouraging people to think about the links between climate and health and what they can do to make a difference. Bupa is now investing in the winner, Circoolar, a company turning plastic bottles into fabric to make sustainable uniforms for healthcare professionals that are made in an ethical way.

With mental ill-health costing UK businesses £45bn a year, our research suggests that engaging employees with sustainability commitments will support their physical and mental health, and provide growing value to businesses. Employers also can help to facilitate action by encouraging employees to engage with ESG activities at work, offering volunteering days and involvement in company or community sustainability initiatives. At Bupa we have a volunteering policy that enables people to help make a better world by supporting their local community. Encouraging employees to volunteer for local community climate action initiatives, such as rewilding, tree planting and litter picking improves the world around us, and also really helps people to feel supported with their mental wellbeing and that they are making a difference in their communities.

Walker: As we have shifted to a more hybrid way of working, we encourage our people to ‘travel with purpose’. This means being conscious of how, when, and why travel is needed. By reducing the need for transport, we can lessen our carbon footprint, especially in already built-up cities such as London. We also have a Cycle to Work scheme which promotes more sustainable and healthier means of transport, at a discounted cost to our people. This year we are also launching an holistic Employee Benefits Sustainability offering, which will include even more opportunities and encouragement for our people to make a more sustainable choice.

Additionally, Axa has launched Axa Climate Academy – a digital school designed to help Axa employees worldwide better understand the impacts of climate change and how it affects the way we work, our clients and our planet. When first launched, to celebrate participation, Axa committed to planting a tree for each employee who completed the course. This was done via WeForest, a Belgium based non-profit organisation, which works with communities, local partners, and NGOs to develop scalable reforestation projects mostly in tropical regions. In the UK and Ireland, we aim to have 100% of employees trained by 2023.

We also work closely with a number of community organisations and charities, such as WWF, which give us the opportunity to use our business as a force for good.

What are you doing specifically as a business to promote repair over replacement in property and motor lines?

Rich: Our sustainable claims ethos prioritises repair over replacement. For example, in property, we work with several partners, like Evander and Plastic Surgeon, which are experts in repairing various surfaces. Whereas in motor, to support the adoption of green parts, we’ve launched a digital platform that helps body shops procure these parts. While we were the first insurer to use it, the mygreenparts platform developed with our salvage partner Synetiq, can integrate with other body shop management systems, allowing for wider adoption.

To cut plastic waste, our engineering inspection services have changed their method of tagging equipment: instead of attaching cable ties to machinery, they use more environmentally friendly equipment. We predict this will save almost two tonnes of plastic waste every year.

Brophy: As part of our commitment to reducing our environmental impact, we encourage a ‘repair over replace’ philosophy and work hard to deliver sustainable claims solutions for our customers. By incentivising suppliers to repair over replace parts, we generate environmental benefits including: reduced raw materials; reduced parts manufacturing; reduced global shipping and reduced local warehousing and logistics.  

In instances where repair is not possible, we look to use recycled replacements. Examples of repair and replace include: use of smart repair techniques to repair damaged or scratched kitchen worktops, doors, furniture or bathroom basins rather than removal and replacement and use of stain removal and re-dye techniques in carpet and flooring claims to match in, rather than replace whole carpets.  

Walker: We are continuously looking for ways to bring more green and sustainable products to the market where we can. This is supported by advanced analytics to access claims decisions, ensuring greater accuracy of output and limiting the need for reworks.

For example, where property claims lead to replacing electrical appliances and equipment, we look for the most sustainable option. Policies often cover replacements on a new-for-old basis meaning that customers can select products which have better energy ratings and are, therefore, a more sustainable and carbon-friendly swap.

Additionally, when it comes to building repairs, we prefer to repair rather than replace. This is not just because it is more environmentally friendly, but because repairing damaged items or surfaces in situ reduces collateral damage and the need for more replacement, which of course causes greater disruption for our customers. A good example of this is where we will always try to repair a damaged item of sanitary ware, rather than rip it out to replace where there will usually be more resulting damage to surrounding tiles and decorations.

In the motor claims space, we encourage the use of green parts when repairs and replacements are required. With this method, environmental impact is reduced by not having to produce the materials that go into making a new part.

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Post’s ESG Exchange

This article is part of Post’s ESG Exchange from 7 to 18 March featuring free to access  webinars, blogs and interviews focusing on ESG.

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