Our materiality assessment

To determine the most relevant Sustainability Topics for Swiss Re, we use our own risk expertise and insights from dialogue with our stakeholders. We focus our activities on our most material Sustainability Topics.

A key question for any company that seeks to advance sustainability is what this means in the context of its own business and industry: which topics are “material” to achieving this goal?

In order to identify these material Sustainability Topics, we use both our internal risk expertise and ongoing dialogue with our stakeholders.

Material insights from our internal risk expertise

As a leading re/insurer, we act as ultimate risk taker in society, which requires us to have a sound understanding of the risk landscape. This risk expertise embedded in our company and the deep understanding of re/insurance markets also give us a solid foundation to identify material sustainability issues. In many areas of our business, we have specific teams, functions and processes to identify and address issues relevant to sustainable development.

Business opportunities

Our core re/insurance business units such as our Public Sector Solutions global function, the Weather and Energy, Innovative Risk Solutions and Renewable Energy teams in our Corporate Solutions Business Unit, and the Property & Casualty (P&C) Solutions and Life & Health (L&H) Solutions teams in our Reinsurance Business Unit, among others, identify business opportunities arising from underinsured markets and risks, and seek to expand re/insurance protection through commercially viable solutions. Dialogue and partnerships with clients as well as analysis of opportunities related to the Sustainable Development Goals are important elements.

Sustainability risks in our core business

In our risk management, meanwhile, we have a process and the capabilities to identify risks we feel we should not re/insure, be it for environmental and human rights reasons, because they might lead to losses, or both. We conduct this analysis through our Sustainable Business Risk Framework and other tailor-made risk management tools.

Emerging risks

We also maintain a formal process for identifying emerging risks called SONAR (systematic observation of notions associated with risk). This enables us to spot, at an early stage, newly developing or changing risks that may have an impact on our business, including risks related to sustainability issues.

Material insights from dialogue with our stakeholders

Our role as ultimate risk taker in society means that we have an intrinsic interest in maintaining an active and ongoing dialogue with our key stakeholders. Generally speaking, this dialogue works in both directions: our partners expect us to share our risk expertise, thus helping them – and society at large – to form effective responses. In turn, we also benefit from this exchange because it helps us sharpen our understanding of key risks, including sustainability issues, and to set priorities.

Key stakeholders

With regard to such issues, we consider the following groups as our principal stakeholders:

  • Clients: cedents, brokers, corporate clients, government entities, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Financial community: investors/shareholders, rating agencies, shareholder associations, stock exchanges
  • Employees
  • Political and legal entities: multilateral organisations (UN), governments, regulators, standard-setting boards
  • Civil society: general public, NGOs, academia

Swiss Re Institute

Launched in March 2017, Swiss Re Institute plays a key role in our stakeholder dialogue. It incorporates successful Swiss Re brands, such as the sigma publication series and the Centre for Global Dialogue, our in-house conference venue in Rüschlikon near Zurich. The Institute further acts as a coordination point for research output from research-focused business lines within Swiss Re and from external partners. Our renowned expertise publications form another important element of our stakeholder dialogue.

Data from third parties

Complementing the insights we gain directly through dialogue with our stakeholders, we also evaluate and use data provided by specialised third-party organisations such as RepRisk, Sigwatch, MSCISustainalytics, Rystad Energy and Ecovadis, as well as the results of academic research.

How we identify Sustainability Topics

When identifying material Sustainability Topics, we draw both on our internal, embedded risk expertise and the insights we gain from our stakeholder dialogue. In addition, we take into account the views of various standard setters on materiality, eg: reporting requirements, materiality definitions by sustainability rating agencies, multilateral discussions such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), regulatory developments and relevant academic research.

The stages of our materiality assessment

When we developed our enhanced Group Sustainability Strategy in 2019, we reviewed the materiality of our Sustainability Topics. In doing so, we tapped into the key sources described above and took the following steps:

  • Benchmarking and gap analysis by the Group Sustainability Strategy project core team
  • Interviews and roundtable discussions with key internal decision-makers
  • Exchanges with our sustainability risk stakeholders (eg investor meetings, events at the Centre for Global Dialogue, project- and business-related interactions) and external experts (academia, NGOs, consulting firms)
  • Revised list of material topics finalised by Group Sustainability Risk unit, based on Group Sustainability Strategy and former list of material topics

Our material Sustainability Topics and 2030 Sustainability Ambitions

The following illustration shows the result of our materiality assessments: Our 2030 Sustainability Ambitions, which are closely linked to our core business and re/insurance solutions, are an integral part of our full set of Sustainability Topics. All our Sustainability Topics as well as related targets, key achievements and impacted SDGs are described in our Sustainability Report 2020.

Materiality review

In 2020, we conducted a high-level review of our Sustainability Topics. Our internal sustainability experts discussed the relevance of the current topics as well as potential gaps and new developments in dedicated expert meetings. One topic that emerged in 2020 – and may become a key topic for us in the future – is biodiversity and ecosystem services.

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