Com­mit­ted to sus­tain­abil­i­ty

Sustainability and climate action are increasingly dictating societal and business agendas. Swiss insurers are both a part of the debate around sustainable finance and key players in efforts to meet Switzerland’s sustainability targets. This includes managing sustainability risks, mitigating the effects of climate change, encouraging more sustainable investments and using resources responsibly.

The insurance industry again faced significant challenges in putting these areas into practice in business operations last year, as the third and fourth waves of the pandemic dominated day-to-day. Despite these difficult circumstances, the industry managed to continue to drive progress in the various areas of sustainability

The SIA sustainability strategy

Back at the start of 2020, the SIA placed sustainability at the centre of its 2020–2024 strategy. Over the course of last year, a number of its committees, not least the Sustainability Committee, developed measures to facilitate implementation of the strategy and support efforts to transition to a more sustainable way of doing business. Efforts to embed sustainability in operations continue to prioritise measures to protect the climate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.

‘Sustainability has not yet reached full maturity across the industry and needs to be stimulated.’

Prof. Dr. David N. Bresch, Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute for Environmental Decisions, Weather and Climate Risks Group, ETH Zurich

Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5˚C is one of Switzerland’s most important environmental sustainability goals. The SIA shares this vision.

The association became a supporter of the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (AOA) in 2021. The investors comprising this global network are seeking to transition their investment portfolios to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

Private insurers are concerned about major risks beyond natural hazards, which are covered by property insurance. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought home that risks with a low probability of occurrence but high potential losses are not just theoretical.

They can materialise overnight. That is why the SIA committees worked hard last year to address the risk catalogue published by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection in 2020. They formed a working group that analysed each risk and determined its significance for the insurance industry.

The group identified three threats that require immediate action: power shortages, cyberattacks and earthquakes. These key risks, which have both direct and indirect consequences for social and environmental sustainability, were followed up within the association and worked on as a matter of priority.

The SIA is engaging for the development of a futureproof, sustainable solution for retirement provision. For instance, we supported the raising of the retirement age for women to 65 under the reform of oldage and survivors’ insurance (OASI), which was adopted by the Swiss Parliament. This is essential for ensuring a more secure future for the Swiss pension system and a crucial step towards financial sustainability.

The world of work is changing fast. The digital transformation is one of the main drivers behind this, and external factors like the pandemic are accelerating the pace of change even further. Based on the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic so far, the SIA has worked with its members to identify action areas to prepare for the working world of the future. These include amendments to the legal framework, which can create the conditions for new working models to succeed.

‘If insurers evolve in socially, economically and environmentally sustainable ways, they will make a crucial difference for future generations.’

Antonio Hautle, Executive Director, Global Compact Network Switzerland & Liechtenstein

The topics and challenges mentioned illustrate the comprehensive scope of SIA’s work around sustainability. Interviews with stakeholders in the year under review confirm that conversations about sustainability need to include social and crossgenerational factors in addition to financial and environmental considerations.

Stakeholder dialogue

The drive to have a more comprehensive materiality assessment arose during work on the Sustainability Report 2020. The insurance industry is engaging with the social, economic and environmental topics that are highly relevant for the sustainable management of individual insurance companies and the entire industry.

The systematic stakeholder analysis, which we conducted for the first time in the year under review, helped us to identify which topics needed to be addressed in management and reporting to further develop the SIA sustainability strategy.

‘Sustainability is no longer a ground-breaking concept; it has become mainstream.’

Adèle Thorens Goumaz, Member of the Council of States, Green Party of Switzerland

In preparation for the stakeholder interviews, the sustainability goals outlined in the association’s 2020–2024 strategy were combined with external factors, evaluated and reviewed. These external factors included the relevant regulations, the economic environment and industry-related topics, such as how to deal with the impact of climate change and what NGOs expect from the insurance industry. We took into account standards from initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and the UN Global Compacts , together with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI).

The topics that were compiled were then grouped into nine statements, which were used as a springboard for discussions in the stakeholder dialogue. Stakeholders were asked to reflect on these statements and share their personal assessment of them.


Stakeholder Dialogue Hypotheses


  1. The insurance industry has a keen interest in sustainability, as environmental risks have direct consequences for its core business.
  2. Sustainability in the insurance industry needs to encompass factors beyond just the environment and climate change..
  3. It is incumbent upon politicians, business and citizens of all ages to work together for sustainability, exercising personal responsibility and individual choice.
  4. Insurers can play a major role in the social, environmental and technological transformation through their expertise in risk assessment and management.
  5. The insurance industry’s role in promoting sustainability strengthens Switzerland’s reputation as a business location.
  6. The insurance industry can play a key role in meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.
  7. The insurance industry’s business model is intrinsically sustainable as it is founded on the principle of solidarity, which is reflected in insurance and retirement provision and is a core component of social sustainability.
  8. Switzerland and its insurance industry have the opportunity to lead the way on sustainability issues and bolster their reputation.
  9. Solutions to sustainability challenges create a need for transformative action and will shift the parameters within which society and the insurance industry operate.


We carefully analysed the stakeholder interviews and identified relevant, recurring views. Seven key areas emerged from the stakeholder dialogue. These are (in no particular order):


  • Accountability:
    Commitment from the insurance industry to take preventive action and exercise greater care when it comes to conserving resources and handling risks to business, society and the environment.
  • Solidarity principle:
    Promotion of a fair and cooperative society and self-determined participation in all relevant aspects of the insurance business.
  • Transformation:
    Stakeholders expect the insurance industry to support making its environmental impact net-positive and in so doing promote a carbon-neutral future economy.
  • Integrating sustainability considerations into risk management and the insurance business:
    Integrating sustainability standards into insurance products and into underwriting, risk management and loss adjustment processes.
  • Embedding sustainability into investing:
    Commitment to have sustainability criteria made an integral part of insurers’ investment decisions.
  • Data protection and privacy:
    Respecting the right to privacy and data protection, in order to uphold and promote the fundamental rights and values of policyholders, employees and business partners.
  • Attractive jobs: Developing training and employment policies within the insurance industry so that it offers fair and attractive working conditions and helps (future) employees work in an actively sustainable way

About the Stakeholder Dialogue

To analyse and assess sustainability topics that could be relevant for the industry from different angles, so as to gain a full picture of expectations of the insurance industry and how it impacts society, the economy and the environment.

March–June 2021

Representatives from a variety of groups were interviewed: Swiss public authorities, research and academic institutions, policymakers, member companies, Finma, associations and initiatives, civil society, the media and institutional investors.

20 one-hour discussions

Interviewees were asked to comment, expand on and evaluate the nine statements.