Global insurer AXA Group has announced that it will ditch its assets connected to the tobacco industry, worth more than $2.7 billion.
The insurer noted that the role of insurers, particularly in the health market, is changing and the decision reflects “the positive role insurance can play in society,” as “insurers are part of the solution when it comes to health prevention,” to protect clients.
The news follows protests staged at the recent AGM of QBE
, which saw protesters take on the insurer for their investment in fossil fuels
, which saw QBE
Group CEO, John Neal
, encouraging those involved to continue their protests.
Deputy CEO and incoming CEO of AXA, Thomas Buberl, said that as insurers become more health conscious, it “makes no sense,” for AXA to remain involved with investments in the tobacco industry and Buberl called on other insurers to follow suit.
“With this divestment from tobacco, we are doing our share to support the efforts of governments around the world,” Buberl said.
“This decision has a cost for us, but the case for divestment is clear: the human cost of tobacco is tragic; its economic cost is huge. As a major investor and a leading health insurer, the AXA Group wants to be part of the solution, and our hope is that others in our industry will do the same.”
It is estimated that tobacco-related illnesses are responsible for 6 million deaths a year, a toll which could rise to as high as 8 million by 2030 with the developing world the hardest hit, according to the World Health organisation.
Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), hailed the AXA move as a “milestone step in the right direction.”
“UICC and its partners across the non-communicable disease community have worked diligently over the last few years to engage all parts of society in recognising the disastrous social and economic effects the tobacco industry wreaks on us all,” Adams said.
“We need companies like AXA to signal that investing in an industry which kills its customers is simply the wrong thing to do; and this announcement to divest 1.8 billion euros ($2.7 billion) is a milestone step in the right direction.
‘The Tobacco Free Portfolios initiative, led by Dr Bronwyn King, will continue to encourage other companies to follow AXA’s outstanding lead.”