Aviva hits back at campaigners

Engagement is more powerful than walking away, it suggests

Aviva hits back at campaigners

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

Aviva has hit back at environmental campaigners who said the insurer’s policy of engaging with the coal industry has had “no meaningful successes.”

The Unfriend Coal campaign released a report this week which criticised Aviva’s policy of driving change through engagement, and called out the insurer for having £920 million invested in companies developing new coal projects and operating in the tar sands industry – a move the group said is “at odds” with the firm’s support of the Paris Climate Agreement.

In response to the report, Aviva told Insurance Business that it believes engagement to have the most impact and does not consider divestment a “badge of honour.”

“We welcome this report from Unfriend Coal and we agree on a great deal. But we fundamentally believe that, as investors, we can play an active role in driving change and helping these companies move into low carbon and renewable energies. We know that engagement can be a more powerful tool for change than simply walking away,” said Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer for Aviva Investors.

The insurer said its commitment to sustainable investment and work on climate change goes back for more than two decades, highlighting its move to become the first carbon neutral insurer in 2006 and its investment of £1.27 billion in green bonds and low carbon infrastructure in 2017.

“As an asset manager we engage with companies and NGOs on environmental, social and corporate governance issues and have done so for over two decades,” Waygood said.

“We actively engage with the coal companies we invest in, encouraging them to meet the standards we expect in climate change. Where those expectations are not met, and where clients have given us the discretion, we will divest.

“We have already divested from two power companies and are in the process of divesting a further 15 companies from our portfolio. But we do not consider divestment as a badge of honour, but rather a failure of engagement.”



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