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U.N., insurers release sustainability report


GENEVA, Switzerland—The Insurance Working Group of the Geneva-based United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative issued Wednesday its inaugural report which aims to raise awareness on global sustainability issues and the role insurers can play.

The 64-page report, titled "Insuring for Sustainability: Why and how the leaders are doing it," also addresses some of the "major challenges and opportunities" for the industry, according to the report's executive summary.

"While insurers are already involved in sustainability issues, three areas cry out for greater attention," according to the summary. "Providing microinsurance linked to microfinance; researching emerging risks and sharing such knowledge with stakeholders; developing insurance products and services for natural resources."

Established in 2006, the Insurance Working Group is made up of sixteen insurers, reinsurers and brokers from Australia, Bermuda, France, Germany, Greece , Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The companies on the IWG are "committed to advancing the principle of sustainability in their operations as an integral part of their corporate responsibility," according to a joint statement from co-chairs Catherine Boiteux-Pelletier, Group Head — Sustainable Development at AXA S.A. in Paris, and Pauline Gregg, Senior Manager — Sustainable Business Practices, Insurance Australia Group in Sydney.

"Climate change is the greatest environmental risk confronting the insurance industry, but it is not the only one. The threats posed by climate change along with other sustainability issues ranging from insurance for the poor, protection of natural resources, emerging risks such as nanotechnology, to health and lifelong income, must be addressed proactively," the co-chairs said.

"The IWG recognises that the insurance industry, being a lever of economic development coupled with its intrinsic expertise in risk management, has a critical role to play in addressing global challenges today and in the future," they continued. "In this vein, it is our belief that sustainable insurance is a vital tool in fulfilling the overarching goals of sustainable development."

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative is a global partnership between the U.N.'s Environment Programme and the private financial sector.