Re/insurer of the year: Zurich

Zurich Insurance Group can claim to be a frontrunner in the area of sustainable investment.

As a founding member, Zurich served as Steering Committee member of the Green and Social Bond Principles for the first six years after its creation and remains an active member of its executive committee.

Danielle BrasselIt is a founding member of the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, and has committed to having a net-zero emissions investment portfolio by 2050. In 2021, it set interim targets for 2025 on its net-zero commitment for the first three asset classes.

Also last year, Zurich extended its responsible investment strategy into unit-linked products, with the launch of its Zurich Carbon Neutral World Equity Fund. It combines a low-carbon investment strategy with carbon offsetting, as an option for its life insurance customers.

Zurich estimated that the greenhouse gas emissions from companies in the fund are just 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars invested, compared with 68 tonnes for a conventional investment strategy.

Zurich delineates its 10-year-old responsible investment strategy into three aspects:

  • Assessing ESG factors when analysing individual investments and investment managers, alongside financial analysis.
  • Investing for measurable, positive environmental or social impacts; and
  • Working with a broad group of stakeholders to promote responsible investment.

As of the end of 2021, Zurich's impact portfolio helped avoid 4.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, the majority coming from Zurich's investments in green bonds. The total amount of impact investments increased by 22% to $7 billion – of which $5.8 billion was invested in green, social and sustainability bonds.

Danielle Brassel, responsible investment analyst at Zurich, told Environmental Finance: "A major achievement in the last year was setting out our interim 2025 Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance emissions reduction targets. It made us start to measure the financed emissions in our investment portfolio; to set reduction targets you need to know your starting point!

"The second big achievement was to report upon those targets already at the end of 2021."

Brassel added that areas Zurich is studying include "innovative" investment opportunities include nature-based solutions, and carbon credits.