Life Insurers Making Strong ESG Progress

May 2, 2024
Life insurance carriers recognize the importance of ESG initiatives

While initially lagging behind other industries in their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives, life insurance carriers have since made positive strides. They now recognize the importance ascribed to these activities by the general public. According to a PwC survey, 76% of consumers say they will end a relationship with companies that have shown poor performance in this area. Insurers have taken note as the same survey reported that 36% of global insurers said “their customers are their top priority” when defining their ESG strategies, followed by regulators (26%) and shareholders (16%). Recent regulatory developments mandate insurers to meet certain requirements with a particular focus on climate issues.

ESG Regulatory Developments

Among the recent climate-related requirements issued by certain organizations are the following:

  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) issued an updated climate risk disclosure survey in April 2023. The survey questions were aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures framework, resulting in new disclosures for U.S. insurers. Carriers now have to consider climate change across multiple areas of their business and take action where needed.
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its new climate disclosure requirements proposal in March 2022 in response to investor demand for more information on what companies were doing to manage escalating climate risks and transition to lower carbon emissions. Now voluntary, these disclosures are likely to become mandatory with increased liabilities.

Insurance company CEOs are responding by saying that, currently, they are not capable of measuring greenhouse gas emissions. They are, however, indicating their higher commitment to helping mitigate climate risks.

Insurers Respond

The PwC survey revealed that insurers expect to develop and implement new environment-related capabilities with 56% of insurers having future goals to develop mature or leading environment-related strategies. To date, insurers have been strongest in the social area of ESG, actively and financially involved in both national and grassroots organizations whose social missions are important to their customers.

Insurers are also focusing on other ESG initiatives. For instance, the PwC survey noted that 57% of insurers have “future ambitions to develop mature or leading social capabilities,” although just 30% indicate they have these capabilities today. One area that insurers are demonstrating their social commitment is in meeting the needs of underserved populations. PwC’s survey reported that 49% of global insurance CEOs said they were “extremely or very concerned” with the impact of social inequality on their ability to sell products and services. Another consideration relates to an insurer’s ESG portfolio. The PwC survey noted that 85% of global insurers believe that ESG will have an impact on all of their business functions. For 26%, their ESG objectives are driven by their goal “to gain a better reputation as a firm,” and 11% said “to minimize risk.”