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Anti-coal group pressures US insurers

Liberty Mutual anti-coal protest

A small group of people protested against Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. as part of a public campaign to pressure the company to commit to not insuring a controversial Australian coal mine project.

The Insure Our Future campaign first protested outside of the Boston-based mutual insurer’s headquarters on Friday while four people — dressed in costumes resembling popular mascots in the insurance industry — protested again against Liberty Mutual and other U.S. insurers outside of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Boston on Monday. 

The Insure Our Future campaign is part of the global Unfriend Coal campaign that has experienced some success in pressuring European insurers and reinsurers to restrain their coal underwriting and investment, and it launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. insurance industry to stop insuring and investing in coal and tar sands projects and companies last year.

As part of that U.S. campaign, the organization has reached out to Liberty Mutual about 10 times since last July, but the insurer has not responded, said Ross Hammond, San Francisco-based senior campaign adviser to the Sunrise Project, which aims to support a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The organization asked Liberty Mutual to publicly pledge not to insure the Adani coal mine in Australia.

“We are pushing Liberty Mutual pretty hard,” he said, noting that the campaign utilized the timing and location of RIMS to amp up pressure on the insurer.

The U.S. campaign has reached out to 22 property/casualty insurers in the United States and informed several that did not respond that they would be put on a “short list” to be publicly pressured to take action, Mr. Hammond said.

But the group is in “active discussion” with one unidentified major property/casualty insurer to take action consistent with the campaign’s goals, he said.

“These are environmentalists who are in Boston to attend RIMS, the commercial insurance industry’s largest annual event.  They have been conducting similar activities over the past year at other industry events around the country, urging insurance companies to not insure coal-related businesses and products. As a Boston-based insurer with a global footprint, it is understandable that they would demonstrate here,” a Liberty Mutual spokesman said in an email.

“We believe these are important issues, and we also believe that insurance products, at their core, are inherently socially responsible because insurance provides the resource to help individuals, businesses and communities grow and thrive and recover from unexpected loss," the statement continued. "We will remain particularly mindful of the concerns related to climate and fossil fuels in the evolution of our investment and underwriting policies.”





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