The financial services industry has an opportunity to take a stand on climate change and firms that fail to act now will become increasingly irrelevant to both clients and employees, Zurich’s brand chief has said.
Conny Kalcher said climate change was an escalating risk, the impact of which was already felt by insurers across the globe, but added there were still opportunities to take action and mitigate the problem.
Zurich is a self-professed climate advocate with aspirations to be “one of the most responsible and impactful companies in the world", Kalcher said.
The firm has implemented seven green initiatives, which it expects will lead to a reduction of its own carbon emission by 40,000 tonnes per year by 2025.
The company has committed to cutting air travel by 70 per cent and is working to get its local offices to mirror its Zurich HQ, which has solar panels on the roof, is cooled by water from lake Zurich, and feeds its employees with food sourced locally. It also has a food waste programme whereby staff can buy food which would otherwise go to waste.
Kalcher said Zurich’s promoter score has shown an upwards trend across brokers, advisers and direct customers since it has become more active on issues such as climate change - meaning brokers are more likely to recommend the insurer.
“We see in some of the comments we get that this is important to our customers, we also see when we go out to talk to customers in general…it is very, very clear that this is a topic that’s of growing interest to our customers.
“It becomes more and more a matter of choice for customers whether the companies they support play a role in the sustainability and climate agenda.
“[For firms that don’t change their model] the risk is that they are less relevant for their customers going forward."
But Kalcher said it should not be about “pushing messages at people” but more about talking to them about what they are interested in.
Kalcher acknowledged insurers can struggle for engagement, especially from younger people, partly as a result of the abstract nature of the products insurers sell.
Instead, Zurich has attempted to act as a platform for others looking to get the message out instead.
One partnership is with photographer Sebastião Salgado, whose current Science Museum exhibition Amazonia is sponsored by the company.
Salgado's Amazonia exhibition
Salgado’s message “reaches much further than what we can do on our own,” said Kalcher.
Zurich began its involvement with Salgado after a strategic meeting in Madrid a couple of years ago where he was invited as an inspirational speaker.
The photographer runs Instituto Terra in Brazil, a reforestation project with which Zurich subsequently encouraged customers and employees to become involved.