Specific targets should be different, however, due to transformation capability

BrokerFest 2023: Different sized businesses in the UK insurance industry must align their “ambition and values” despite the need for different targets when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG), said Aviva’s sustainability lead Simon Burckitt.

Burckitt spoke as part of Insurance Times’ Brokerfest panel entitled The insurance industry on the road to sustainability held last week (23 February 2023) and chaired by editor Katie Scott.

He was joined by James Alexander, environmental practice leader and senior vice president at global broker Lockton Companies.

According to Burckitt, there is a definite “split” between larger and smaller companies in terms of ESG progress in the UK insurance industry.

The gap in firms’ sustainable development stems from capability, as larger companies have a “capacity of people” to address ESG commitments.

In comparison, Burckitt explained that smaller brokers have less capital and “lots of other things to worry about”.

Aviva’s Risk insights report 2023, published in January this year, highlighted that the top three most pressing risks for UK businesses were:

  • Economic concerns (56%) – up from 37% in 2021.
  • Skilled workforce shortage (31%) – up from 28% in 2021.
  • Impacts of Brexit (23%) – down from 25% in 2021.

Aviva captured the views of 1,251 business leaders from small to large corporates across nine industry sectors between 31 August and 5 August 2022. 

‘Skeletons in cupboards’

To make a lasting, industry-wide impact in ESG, Burckitt said that larger insurers like Aviva were “not going to solve this on their own”.

Market participants therefore need to share common goals – like achieving net zero by 2050, for example.

“It’s the thought of having acted in that space as opposed to [applying] a specific target number,” he said.

Alexander, meanwhile, added that addressing ESG required firms to address “skeletons in cupboards from historic activity”.

Change therefore needs to be examined with “two sets of glasses”, he said: “One looking backwards at what has been done in the past as a company and [another looking at] how they are going to report, manage and deal with their future”.

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