The first Sustainability Report of the Swiss Insurance Association (SIA) is published in the midst of a period marked by the coronavirus crisis. At the time this report went to press, it was still impossible to predict how long this crisis would last and what sort of long-term impact it would have on the economy and our society. Although many things will be different than they used to be, not everything will change. Sustainability, in its various facets, is and will remain a prerequisite for a stable economy, a safe society and an environment that is worth living in – even after the crisis.

Swiss private insurers are important employers, taxpayers and investors at a national and international level. They take on risks that business and retail customers are not willing, or indeed able, to bear, allowing these customers to adopt a forward-looking approach to how they use their resources for the good of the economy and society alike. As a key driving force of the Swiss economic engine, Swiss private insurers bear economic responsibility, as is evidenced, among other things, by their clear commitment to sustainability and its gradual implementation in the insurance business. This report makes the efforts made by the industry to date in terms of investments, operational ecology and underwriting visible and verifiable to the outside world. It also allows the industry to take stock of what it has achieved to date and helps to ensure that the sustainability debate is as fact-based as possible.

Sustainability is anything but a novel concept for the insurance industry. The inclusion of sustainability aspects in risk assessment, drafting of insurance policies and loss prevention has been a firm part of the insurance business from day one. Insurers with global operations in particular became aware of the risks associated with climate change early on, forcing them to address the impact on the environment, society and the insurance business. This prompted the SIA’s member companies to speak out in favour of compliance with the Paris Agreement as early as 2016, and to lend their support to the Federal Council’s associated CO2 reduction targets. Many also participated in the first voluntary climate impact analysis conducted by the federal government for pension fund and insurance portfolios in 2017, and used this analysis to determine their own position.

In particular, public attention is focused on the sustainability of investments. As major institutional investors with a long-term investment horizon, Swiss private insurers aim to play a leading role in the effort to strike a balance between sustainability and returns, allowing them to achieve an economically relevant impact. This is an area in which Switzerland’s private insurers enjoy a relatively comfortable starting position. As the insurance business is a long-term business by its very nature, it needs secure investments that can generate stable returns in the long run. As it is becoming increasingly apparent that sustainable investments meet these requirements well, there are no economic reasons against them. When selecting their investments, the SIA’s member companies are committed to taking into account the sustainability criteria under the ESG (environment, social and governance) umbrella.

The SIA intends to publish a Sustainability Report every year and to increase its informational value on an ongoing basis. The report is testimony to our conviction that individual responsibility and voluntary action will remain the best prerequisites to ensure the sustainability of the economic cycle in the future. Sustainability is in the best interests of our own business. It does not need to be additionally dictated to us – not even after the coronavirus crisis, which has shown us the true extent of the state's regulatory powers when faced with an emergency. As a result, we gladly recall the intention that the Federal Council expressed before the crisis, namely that it planned to focus its efforts relating to sustainability in the financial sector on subsidiarity and the market economy. Market economy and sustainability are not contradictory concepts – quite the contrary. They support each other when the overall conditions are right.
This is a path that we need to follow step by step.

Thomas Helbling, SIA CEO

Urs Arbter, SIA Deputy CEO