Writing by Becky

Do insurance companies care about corporate social responsibility?

Prompted by a fellow-copywriter, I look at the insurance industry to see if they have an interest in corporate social responsibility. Do insurance companies want to be responsible environmentally, socially, and in their corporate governance? And can this help the smaller agents?

I recently chatted with Lara, a fellow copywriter, about purpose-led businesses. She has a client who is an independent insurance agent, and she asked how they’d go about being socially responsible as a small business. It’s not like they’re the big insurance companies that have the funds and power to encourage owners of houses, vehicles and toys to choose the environmentally friendly option, if one exists. And their sustainability impact is limited inside their own office. Sure, her client needs to make sure they have a clear purpose. They may need to better describe how they support their employees and communities, and how they place ethics way above profits.

But looking at their industry itself, do insurance companies care about being a sustainable or purpose-led businesses?

My first search came up with reasons why insurance companies should care about climate change. Their fancy algorithms help them know the risk for each area. Since climate is changing, these formulas aren’t as great at protecting them financially as they once were. Hurricanes in 2017 reduced even Berkshire Hathaway’s profits significantly (this is Warren Buffet’s company). And while I get the connection between risk and climate change, that’s not quite what we were curious about.

After another search with different terms, I found out some insurance companies are definitely interested in corporate social responsibility, or CSR.

  • Generali dedicated a decently-sized portion of their site to CSR. Like others mentioned next, they focus on valuing people as well as responsible and ethical investing and underwriting. Check out Generali’s Materiality Matrix for more specifics. They also provide data and performance reports. Unfortunately for Lara’s client, they are based in Italy, though they do have some presence in the Americas.
  • In September 2017, Scor announced additional efforts at CSR. They talk in more detail about their governance, corporate citizenship, ethics, and HR. As a reinsurance company, they handle catastrophic risks like floods, fires, and plane crashes. They do have US offices – but none are in the Rockies or on the West Coast, where Lara’s client is based.
  • Also in September 2017, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index rated Australia’s Allianz as a number one insurer. According to Allianz Australia’s Diversity and Sustainability Manager, Charis Martin-Ross, “Sustainability at Allianz Australia is more than just an environmental agenda; it also encompasses social inclusion and safety initiatives such as providing employment to refugees, using technology to improve workplace safety and supporting organisations like the Australian Paralympic Committee.”

Based on this non-exhaustive search, some insurance companies do care about their social responsibilities. They see reasons for existing outside of their financial statements and their boardrooms. And while most of the companies I highlighted here are based outside the US, that doesn’t mean insurance companies in the US aren’t socially responsible.

A common problem with purpose-led businesses is that they forget to tell people about why and how they do business.

As Lara’s client talks to the big insurance companies which are underwriting their policies, this independent agent can find out if the insuring company has defined a purpose or created sustainable development goals. Offering their conscientious clients the option of being insured by a company which factors in all stakeholders, not just shareholders, could be one way this agent can support CSR.

The concept of corporate social responsibility is becoming better understood. As more and more agents and end-clients ask about the sustainable development goals and environmental perspective of an underwriting company, these insurance companies will be more open about their purpose and their corporate social responsibility. This broader impact can improve the entire insurance industry’s approach to responsible business practices.

Want me to check out an industry and let you know if they have sustainable development goals? Drop me a line or leave a comment here.

 

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