Even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, sustainability remains one of the cornerstones of our long-term corporate governance policy. Today on World Environment Day, we highlight the daily contribution we make to the protection of the environment and the climate, and why this is the key to long-term corporate success.
The environment is everything that surrounds a person. It’s everything that impacts them and their living conditions, more specifically: nature, from the biosphere right to the atmosphere. Environmental protection is therefore deemed as all measures aimed at preserving the environment on a sustainable basis e.g. climate, species and water conservation.
For Baloise, the environment is one of six resources we use to generate value and over which we have a considerable impact. For instance, we avoid greenhouse gases that are harmful to the climate and protect our atmosphere on a sustained basis by constructing our office buildings in line with sustainability standards. We have had our own environmental policy in place since as far back as 1999. Here it was important to integrate sustainability throughout the company as a whole right from the outset. Our value-added model launched in 2019 reflects this holistic view. In order to enact positive change in our actions, we follow the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN SDGs). To achieve this, corresponding value-added processes were allocated to the goals over which Baloise has the greatest influence. In our operations we have a particular impact on UN SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy), 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), 12 (Responsible consumption and production) and 13 (Climate action) when it comes to the environment as a resource.
The long-term protection of the environment must not be forgotten, especially during the coronavirus crisis. There are great hopes that 2020 will at least be good for the climate: more and more flights have been grounded, cars left in garages and factories are producing less. All of this is contributing to a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels and thus emissions of harmful gases. To meet the United Nation’s maximum global warming target of around 1.5°C, global emissions of greenhouse gases must fall by approximately 45 per cent by 2030 and by 100 per cent by 2050. The easing of measures and the associated gradual return to normality is already showing that the drop in emissions during the coronavirus crisis is likely to be short-lived: The virus will ease and governments, companies and people will start to make up for lost time in order to minimise the economic effects of the pandemic.
Bearing in mind that the greenhouse gas CO2 takes around 1,000 years to break down naturally (retention time), only a long-term reduction of greenhouse gases can protect the climate. The coronavirus crisis is posing problems for other parts of the environment too: The United Nations are reporting that the volume of non-recyclable waste has risen significantly across the world. An increase in illegal forest clearances and fishing has also been reported given that environmentalists can no longer take action on-site.
The coronavirus crisis will not protect our environment on a sustained basis; the protection and respectful treatment of the environment as a resource will require a long-term approach.
Our environmental policy combines the responsible use of resources, energy efficiency and CO2 reduction in our business with a responsible investment policy that focuses on climate-friendly industries.
As an insurance company, we do not manufacture goods. Our greatest energy requirements at our sites come in the form of electrical power and heating energy consumption. As we spend a lot of our time at work and also travel for business purposes, we as a company are committed to reducing our CO2 emissions on an ongoing basis, doing everything in our power to optimise our material life cycles.
Our direct CO2 emissions have fallen continually by 74.4 per cent since 2000, with just 2.46 tonnes of CO2 emitted per employee in 2019. This is also due to the fact that Baloise maintains a focus on energy efficiency in its IT infrastructure and its buildings. This reduction is documented in our life cycle assessment (Article in German only). Per capita emissions are to be cut to 1 to 1.5 tonnes of CO2 by 2050 in order to help defuse the climate crisis. Doing so will involve focusing on raising awareness and providing background information and tips on a range of issues relating to sustainable development, some of which can also be applied to our home lives.
- The introduction of a bicycle leasing service for employees in Belgium and Germany
- The option for customers and employees in Basel and Zurich, Switzerland, to charge their electric cars with solar power free of charge
- A new in-house electric vehicle fleet including an electric charging station for Baloise Bank Soba (Switzerland) employees
- The provision of electric bicycles for our claims inspectors in Switzerland
- Promoting the use of public transport through discounts on ticket purchases
- Electric cars freely available to employees in Luxembourg during working hours
- Distribution of reusable bottles for all employees in Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium and “Bring your own cup to the cafeteria” initiatives in Germany
- “Zero paper ambition” by 2022 in Luxembourg (applies to both employees and customers)
- Centralised waste containers for proper waste separation
- In cooperation with our partner Organic Unpacked Natural Ingredients (OUNI), operator of the first unpackaged store in Luxembourg, employees in Luxembourg were given specific training in environmentally-friendly practices
- Beehives on roofs in Belgium and in Luxembourg too from 2022
- Thanks to the switch to green electricity in our company buildings in Germany, 100 per cent of our company buildings are connected to a sustainable power supply.
- Baloise Park in Basel (Switzerland): The construction of the three buildings in Baloise Park was based on the Sustainable Construction Standard Switzerland (SNBS) and thereby considerably exceeds legal requirements regarding energy efficiency. The Head Office already uses 100 per cent district heating. A new waste separation concept in the new build increases the recycling rate and improves the return of valuable materials to the production cycle.
- Wooden in Leudelange (Luxembourg): The new office building Wooden in Leudelange, Luxembourg, will be the first in the country to be made entirely of wood. The wood comes exclusively from sustainably managed forests in Greater Luxembourg. It is equipped with photovoltaic modules and is aiming for the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) Excellent environmental certification. The focus here is on residents, namely through ten concepts that enable a holistic approach to well-being in and around the building: air, water, food, light, physical activity, temperature, noise, materials, spirit and community. Construction started in 2020. In addition, Baloise relies on consistent waste separation at the Luxembourg site to return valuable materials to the production cycle. Until then, 100 per cent of the energy at the Luxembourg site already comes from nova naturstroum (green electricity).
- The Link, Antwerpen (Belgium): Baloise in Belgium is investing in a prototype for the office life of the future. In March 2019 it purchased the sustainable building The Link, making it the largest office proprietor in Antwerp. The office building has been awarded the sustainability certificate BREEAM Excellent. The building is almost completely energy-neutral, and the energy used within the buildings is obtained entirely from renewable energies.
- Renovations and relocation in Germany: optimising the use of resources is one of our stated objectives. A variety of measures such as high-efficiency pumps for heating and ventilation, intelligent control systems for heating and cooling, adapted lighting control in lifts and the replacement of obsolete and defective lighting with more efficient LED lighting all help to steadily reduce energy consumption. The office building in Bad Homburg was certified as an ÖKOPROFIT business back in 2010. The basis for this was the continuous reduction of resource consumption within the company, specifically water and energy, supported in part by the installation of a photovoltaic system. The site in Bremen has been relocated to a more efficient building (EUROPA-CENTER Airportstadt in Bremen) which has enabled sustainable energy and cost savings. Among other things, these savings are made possible owing to the smaller site and better space efficiency. This will see all company buildings in Germany run on green electricity from June 2020 onwards.
Climate protection is equally important to us when it comes to investments and the procurement of products and services too.
The Responsible Investment (RI) Policy for insurance assets was adopted in 2019. The RI policy governs the integration of environmental, social and corporate governance criteria in investment decisions when it comes to new funds and the existing funds policy has already been adapted to this. In January 2020, the RI Policy was extended to all products managed in-house by Baloise Asset Management for third-party customers. Targeted investments can indirectly contribute to climate protection, for example. To express our commitment, Baloise signed the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2018 (Principles of Responsible Investment PRI).
Baloise is one of the largest real estate owners in Switzerland. As a responsible investor, sustainable real estate investments and long-term returns are intricately connected for us. We seek certification for all new-build projects and approach renovations on a case by case basis. This involves systematically recording and analysing the properties’ key consumption figures (energy and water consumption). The energy efficiency of each property is determined using the Cantonal Energy Certificate for Buildings (GEAK) and specific improvement measures are derived on the basis of this.
We observe the same principles in the procurement and use of office equipment and materials, these come in the form of procurement principles subjecting third-party services to sustainability criteria.
- Car insurance FRI:DAY: In Germany, FRIDAY +ECO car insurance (additional cover) offers a means of offsetting the harmful emissions caused by driving elsewhere. For instance, working together with renowned climate protection organisation MyClimate allowed us to save 302 tonnes of CO2 between October 2018 and March 2019.
- In May we extended our partnership agreement with the natur&emwelt foundation, which manages 1,500 hectares of nature reserves in Luxembourg and the rewilding and reforesting of these areas, for another three years.
- As a member of the Basel region’s climate platform we support climate protection and sustainable development in the region around our Head Office in Basel.
- Mobly in Belgium offers the option of insurance cover not restricted to any particular vehicle, thus contributing to the achievement of the three zeros (zero emissions, zero accidents, zero ownership).
- The option for customers in Basel and Zurich, Switzerland, to charge their electric cars with solar power free of charge.
- As part of the “Zero paper ambition” initiative, customers in Luxembourg are now provided with all documents in digital form. The portal is set to be introduced in June 2020.
In future, we aim to set ourselves ambitious goals for the protection of the environment and to continue to expand our activities. That’s because it’s clear to us that only by taking into account all the resources in our value-added model can we generate long-term value.