From the Fort McMurray wildfires to the Quebec floods, Canadian insurance brokers have been thrust on to the front lines of catastrophes on an only too regular basis.
No wonder then that Gore Mutual’s Fast Forward conference on the future of brokers and insurance during a rapidly evolving era was opened by Canada’s most outspoken environmentalist, David Suzuki.
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“Mr. Trump has now said ‘We’re out of Paris (Climate Agreement)’. We’re not going to do what the rest of the world has committed to about climate change. My attitude is: fine. You want to pull the United States out of the planet? Good. Get the hell out of here and do your thing,” Suzuki said.
“But what you do has enormous consequences for the planet because everything’s connected. Your borders mean nothing in the natural world.”
Suzuki argued that human pollution’s effects on the Earth’s climate had pushed us to a breaking point where the consequences of climate change would double in the near future, adding that every scientist he’s spoken with agrees.
But what does the environment have to do with insurance?
According to CatIQ (Catastrophe Indices and Quantification), there were $3.6 billion insured losses from the Fort McMurray fires alone, the costliest event in Canadian insurance history.
Heidi Sevcik, the president and CEO of Gore Mutual pointed out that it’s the job of the insurance industry to identify risk and where it comes from, including in the environment.
“I think David Suzuki actually said the insurance industry was one of the first to call out the issues around climate change. So certainly the industry is at the forefront when talking about climate change,” Sevcik said.
“From the perspective of the industry, we’re trying to be more proactive with our customers in terms of prevention and teaching our customers what they can do to mitigate the risks.”
The insurance industry should look at perils as an opportunity to find solutions, argued Paul Jackson, Gore Mutual’s vice president of sales, marketing and distribution.
“One of our brokers, Chris Ball from Reliance Insurance in Vancouver, said ‘never waste a crisis’ and I think that’s one of the themes of today. We’re facing huge challenges globally in terms of the economy the environment, climate change,” Jackson said.
“For the insurance industry, I think it’s about product development. How can we adapt what we do and identify new risks and new challenges? Then come up with solutions to help the world to become a better and more sustainable place. I think David Suzuki’s comments this morning were a real sort of eye opener and a challenge to us - that we can be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.”
Gore Mutual promoted its community commitments through the Fast Forward conference and Sean Christie, chief information officer at the firm said the environment was on its list of commitments.
“We certainly have been trying to reduce our footprint as much as we can, our impact on the environment, both as a company and an industry,” Christie said. “We were the first paperless insurance company in Canada.”
The room was evidently touched by Suzuki’s speech - he received a standing ovation and left Anna McCrindell, the vice president of underwriting at Gore Mutual with thoughts for the future.
“His speech was so compelling that it absolutely made me think how we can help in this space,” McCrindell said. “As insurers it’s in our interest because we’re paying for water losses, flooding, it’s in our interest to help mitigate. It’s pushing local governments to no longer allow construction in areas that are potentially flood zones.”
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