Responsible investment means different things to different people. A clear understanding of Zurich’s corporate responsibility is the starting point for defining our approach to responsible investment. At Zurich, corporate responsibility is about how we conduct our business and is an integral part of the Group’s strategy. It is about sustainable value creation, one of our core values, as set out in the Zurich Basics, our code of conduct:
- Creating value for customers, shareholders, employees and society
- Proactively addressing ESG issues
- Focusing on long-term success over short-term gains
We aim to create sustainable value by focusing on what we do best and making use of our core skills in insurance, risk management and investment. Our corporate responsibility focuses on enhancing community flood resilience, investing our Group assets responsibly and working with our corporate customers to help them understand and manage their corporate responsibility risks. Responsible investment is thus about managing the overall portfolio of assets to create sustainable value or, in other words, to do well and do good. ‘Well’ means generating superior risk-adjusted returns for the direct benefit of Zurich’s policyholders and shareholders, and ‘good’ means generating positive impact for the benefit of society and the communities in which we live and work.
Responsible investment forms a key element of Zurich’s investment philosophy and comprises three elements:
1. ESG integration: Proactively integrating ESG factors into the investment process – across asset classes, and alongside traditional financial metrics and state-of-the-art risk management practices – supports us in ‘doing well’ and in achieving our mission to generate superior risk-adjusted long-term financial returns.
Successful ESG integration is based on:
- adequate training to help investment decision-makers understand the relevance of ESG factors
- access to data, research and analysis pertaining to ESG issues to inform investment decision-making
- formal integration of ESG factors into the security and asset selection process
- active ownership practices
2. Impact investing: Through impact investing, Zurich can help to fund efforts to address some of the pressing social or environmental issues of our time. Zurich is directly exposed to challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, and more. We have a direct interest in sustainable global economic growth and supporting communities in becoming more resilient to environmental and social challenges. Impact investments can help address these issues through their targeted, positive impact, and also offer a financial return commensurate with risks.
3. Advancing together: We believe that responsible investment will only truly have an impact if financial market participants are advancing together, making responsible investment mainstream. Only by acting collectively can ESG risk be priced efficiently, offer the right incentives to those seeking to raise capital in the market, and allow impact investments to provide capital on the scale needed to tackle the pressing social and environmental issues of our time. Supporting collaborative initiatives and working together with other industry participants to advance responsible investment practices thus forms an integral part of our approach.
Navigating the complexity of insurance investment management and practicing responsible investment at the same time can only be achieved by fully integrating these responsible investment practices into the overall investment approach and making them part and parcel of everyday investment decision-making. Strategies and policies alone are not sufficient. Responsible investment must become part of the organization's DNA - its culture. This will take time, leadership and 'learning by doing.' To accelerate and support this process, we are providing incentives to investment professionals to practice responsible investing by reflecting responsible investment in individual objectives across the investment management organization; we have incorporated responsible investment into Zurich's technical competency framework used to determine job profiles and training requirements; we have established a global group of 'responsible investment champions' representing individual teams; and we have built a small but dedicated responsible investment team that acts as a catalyst and engages with the rest of the organization on an ongoing basis.