Insurers advised to consider risks as businesses adopt greener practices

What are the implications of moving towards a low-carbon future?

Insurers advised to consider risks as businesses adopt greener practices

Insurance News

By Jonalyn Cueto

As businesses increasingly adopt environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards, they are confronted with a host of new challenges and responsibilities. These involve not only adapting to regulatory changes and shifting stakeholder expectations but also rethinking their approach to insurance in the context of heightened physical and transitional climate risks.

For modern enterprises, sustainability is no longer just an ethical choice but a business imperative. Boards and directors find themselves needing to balance short-term financial goals with long-term sustainability goals. This shift is largely driven by impending legislation, regulatory changes, and a growing demand from shareholders and the public for greater accountability in environmental and social issues.

The role of governance is crucial here, serving as the linchpin in integrating ESG considerations into the strategic core of a business. Proper governance ensures oversight and accountability, aligning operational activities with broader sustainability goals.

Business insurance in the low-carbon transition

Changes in regulations often necessitate a reevaluation of business operations, affecting everything from supply chains to corporate policies. As noted in a blog by Arthur J. Gallagher, these changes can lead to increased insurance premiums, higher financing costs, and the need for specialized third-party services to meet new regulatory demands. For instance, adopting low-carbon technologies may introduce new types of risks that need to be managed and insured differently.

The story of Sara Lee in Australia shows the perils businesses face in their supply chains due to ESG factors. A strike at a supplier’s facility disrupted access to essential materials, such as cardboard packaging. This problem was compounded by subsequent transportation disruptions and severe flooding, forcing the company into administration. This example highlights the importance of robust supply chain management and the concept of “double materiality” — considering both the sustainability impact on a business and the business’s impact on sustainability.

As companies adopt greener practices, the nature of their business insurance needs to evolve. Transitioning to low-carbon operations involves not just new opportunities but new risks as well, necessitating adjustments in insurance coverage to address these emerging challenges. It is crucial for businesses to engage with insurers who understand the complexities of sustainability risks and can offer tailored insurance solutions. Understanding the risks associated with sustainability initiatives is key to managing them effectively.

Experts recommend that businesses maintain a focus on long-term strategic planning with clear, science-based climate goals. It is important to involve all levels of the organization in these strategies to avoid pitfalls like greenwashing. Moreover, governance structures should be reassessed to ensure they are robust enough to handle these new challenges, integrating climate and sustainability into regular board discussions and decision-making processes.

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