UKGI boss emphasises that ‘climate change is no longer a distant threat’ and that it must be given ‘the attention it needs’


Adam Winslow, chief executive of general insurance for UK and Ireland, Aviva

Business leaders who are unaware of climate change risks and environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters are “a problem” because failing to tackle these issues “could be costly”, according to Adam Winslow, chief executive of general insurance for UK and Ireland at Aviva.

Dissecting the results of Aviva’s latest Risk Insights Report, published in November 2021, which surveyed 1,251 UK business leaders, Winslow noted that climate change failed to feature as a top 10 priority for senior leaders for the second year running.

He described this lack of awareness as “a problem” because “climate change is no longer a distant threat” and “business leaders need to take it seriously”.

He explained: “Climate change, including natural catastrophes and extreme weather, ranked 14th on [leaders’ list of priorities], with only 8% of businesses saying that it was a top risk to their business.

“When it comes to awareness about ESG matters, 40% of business leaders admitted to knowing hardly anything or nothing at all and 34% said they were reasonably or well informed.

“This is a problem. For one thing, we need business leaders on board to deliver drastic cuts in global emissions. And for businesses themselves, a failure to deal with climate risks could be costly.

“Many of the risks that do make it on to business leaders’ top 10 list this year - including the economy, business and supply chain interruptions and changes in legislation and regulation - are increasingly connected to climate change.”

A tangible risk

Winslow explained that Aviva is working to combat the detrimental ramifications of climate change.

For example, the insurer is calling for greater government and cross-industry support, to help all businesses better prepare for extreme weather events. It has also partnered with small business support network Enterprise Nation, to create a ‘Plan It with Purpose’ free educational hub.

This provides SMEs with advice on how to protect their businesses and reduce their environmental footprint.

Additionally, “we need expert voices”, Winslow said, “to help business leaders recognise the tangible link between environmental and economic risks and treat both with the same rigour and attention”.

This includes calling on “policymakers, researchers, industry leaders and those businesses that already consider climate change a significant threat” to speak out and share their experiences and knowledge.

Winslow continued: “Climate change is no longer a distant threat. Business leaders need to take it seriously – for their own sake, as well as for their employees, business partners, other stakeholders and the communities in which they are located.

“That means doing everything possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions and taking steps to measure and reduce the impacts of climate change on their workforces, operations, supply chains and business reputation – now and in the coming decades.

“None of us will be left untouched by the climate emergency. If business leaders want to guard against the risks that worry them the most, they must give climate change the attention it needs too.”