Zurich International CEO Peter Huber, and his colleagues at the company here on the Island, are passionate supporters of sustainability initiatives. In this interview he talks about some of their achievements, and how it contributes to Zurich Insurance Group’sglobal commitment to help people and the planet.
Q1: Peter, can you give us some examples to illustrate what Zurich International has achieved here on the Island regarding sustainability?
“The most significant is our office, Zurich House, which has BREEAMcertification which means it has been designed to meet high standards for sustainability and energy efficiency. I think it’s an excellent example of how new offices should be designed and built with sustainability in mind. We have also reduced waste by removing all single use plastics, set up collection points for reusable plastic items that can be recycled, and reduced printing by 80%.
“Zurich House uses renewable energy from a hydro-electric plant here on the Island, and we have found lots of ways to reduce electricity consumption – one example being to reduce the time that we use digital boards. The business is also currently looking into solar power options for the building.
“To encourage more people to cycle to work we have a fleet of eBikes for employees to use, thanks to a partnership with Cycle 360. Everyone who works at Zurich International is also given time out of the office to do voluntary work for local charities – Beach Buddies and the Isle of Man Woodland Trust are two of the charities we have supported in the past year.
Q2: How do those achievements link to what’s happening across Zurich International’s parent company, Zurich Insurance Group?
“I’m pleased to say that we have a particularly high level of support from colleagues here on the Island for Group wide sustainability initiatives, so we can all take pride in the fact that we are playing our part along with our 55,000 colleagues around the world in 215 countries.
“The Group is committed to making a positive impact in our role as insurer, investor, employer and in society in a rapidly changing world. We’re doing that via a sustainability commitment that has three transformational themes – changing climate, confidence in a digital society, and work sustainability. It has earned deserved recognition, including Zurich being rated as the number one company in the insurance sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) last year.
“The index evaluates the sustainability performance of thousands of companies. Achieving that status was only possible because employees across Zurich Insurance Group share a passion to meet the targets we have set, and they take personal responsibility for the role that they can play in making society more sustainable both through direct action and by encouraging others to do the same.
“And we’re committed to going even further. In Q1 this year Group announced that it was intensifying actions in support of global efforts to avert the threat of climate change by using every lever available – investments, operations, and products and services – to accelerate the transition to a net-zero2 emission economy.”
Q3: What are the most important lessons that you think we can all learn from events over the past year in regard to addressing climate change?
“The dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions during the global lockdowns showed what we can achieve for the environment. Here on the Island, and in communities around the world, we could feel that the air was cleaner and saw how flora and fauna flourished in urban environments.
“Statistics support this anecdotal evidence too. According to the International Energy Agency, when the world was in lockdown daily global carbon emissions dropped by 17% compared with daily global average in 2019. It proved beyond doubt that it is possible to make the dramatic global reductions necessary to address climate change.
“Of course, achieving reductions on that scale in the longer-term is still a major challenge that will require a concerted global effort over several decades – but it’s one that I feel we have good reason to approach with a confident, optimistic attitude.
Q4: Finally, why is Zurich International being a UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man Partner so important to the business, and to you personally as CEO?
“There’s no doubt that protecting the environment for current and future generations can only be achieved by communities working together. UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man provides a focal point which brings together the combined power of the public and private sectors to push forward the climate change campaign here on the Island.
“I’m personally very proud of the fact that Zurich International is not only a Partner that supports the initiative’s six-point pledge, but also a passionate advocate that actively encourages more businesses to get involved.
“The events of the past year have shown that it’s only by working together that the world can address global challenges – and Biosphere is an excellent example of how we can do that at a local level.”