Sustainable Business Risk Framework: Policies and Guidelines

Our Sustainable Business Risk Framework comprises two Umbrella Policies on human rights and environmental protection plus eight Sector-specific Guidelines. Applying ethical principles enshrined in international charters and declarations, the policies set out what we regard as the main concerns in the respective areas.

Through our Sustainable Business Risk Framework we address ethical concerns related to potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of our business transactions and the reputational risks they may entail. The main concerns we pay attention to are specified in a set of policies and guidelines.

Umbrella Policies and Sector-specific Guidelines

The Framework is based on the overarching principles of respecting human rights and protecting the environment. These principles are encapsulated in two Umbrella Policies that are valid for all our transactions:

Human rights

Key concerns covered by this policy:

  • Violations of absolute rights and freedoms expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights
  • Violations of labour rights as expressed in the eight Core Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Violations of rights of particular groups of people, such as indigenous peoples’ rights

Environmental protection

Key concerns covered by this policy:

  • Exclusion of support for projects located in UNESCO World Heritage Sites and/or protected areas, including High Conservation Value forests, High Carbon Stock forests, wetlands protected by the Ramsar Convention, IUCN listed protected areas and habitats for the species on the IUCN Red list
  • Repeated and/or ongoing, severe and unmitigated damage to the environment, for example through significant pollution that is not being adequately resolved
  • Large-scale projects without a credible environmental impact assessment
  • Lasting damage to the health of local communities through environmental pollution

 

In addition, Sector-specific Guidelines apply these overarching principles to eight sectors or issues in which we perceive major sustainability risks:

Animal testing

Key concerns in this area:

  • Unethical and inhumane treatment of animals
  • Using primates and/or endangered species in experiments that are not necessary for the development of life-saving drugs

SDG addressed by this policy: 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production)

Dams

Key concerns in this area:

  • Violations of absolute rights and freedoms expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights
  • Violations of labour rights as expressed in the eight Core Conventions of the ILO
  • Violations of the rights of local communities
  • Absence of credible environmental and social impact assessments for any new large-scale projects
  • Irreversible environmental damage beyond the necessary conversion of the area
  • Location in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and/or protected areas, including High Conservation Value forests, High Carbon Stocks forests, wetlands protected by the Ramsar Conversion, IUCN list of protected areas and habitats for the species on the IUCN Red List

SDGs addressed by this policy: 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

Defence sector

Key concerns in this area:

  • Production and distribution of particularly cruel weapons that inflict indiscriminate harm to humans and the environment
  • Export of weapons to conflict areas
  • The provision of certain services by private security companies

SDG addressed by this policy: 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

Forestry, pulp & paper, oil palm

Key concerns in this area:

  • Activities that violate local, national or international law or binding agreements regarding illegal logging (incl. illegal use of fires) 
  • Existing or new plantations and/or facilities processing timber or oil palm supplies that are not covered by any of the following sustainability certificates: FSC, PEFC, MTCs, RSPO

SDGs addressed by this policy: 1 (No Poverty), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

Mining

Key concerns in this area:

  • Violations of absolute rights and freedoms expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights
  • Violations of labour rights as expressed in the eight Core Conventions of the ILO
  • Violations of the rights of local communities
  • Absence of credible environmental and social impact assessments for any new large-scale projects
  • Irreversible environmental damage beyond the necessary conversion of the area
  • Location in a UNESCO World Heritage Sites and/or protected areas, including High Conservation Value forests, High Carbon Stock forests, wetlands protected by the Ramsar Convention, IUCN listed protected areas and habitats for the species on the IUCN Red list

SDGs addressed by this policy: 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

Oil and gas

Key concerns in this area:

  • Intensity threshold for companies’ lifecycle CO2 emissions and exclusion of support for some of the most inefficient oil and gas companies in a staggered approach (5% from 2021 onwards, 10% from 2023 onwards)
  • Violations of absolute rights and freedoms expressed in the International Bill of Human Rights
  • Violations of labour rights as expressed in the eight Core Conventions of the ILO
  • Violations of the rights of local communities
  • Significant adverse environmental or social impacts, particularly where critical natural habitats, vulnerable groups and/or critical cultural heritages are impacted

SDGs addressed by this policy: 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

 

Clear sustainability risk criteria

Each of the two umbrella policies and eight sector guidelines of our Sustainable Business Risk Framework contains criteria and qualitative standards which define precisely when a transaction may present a "sustainability risk". We regularly review all these policies and guidelines to ensure they stay abreast of relevant new risk developments and stakeholder expectations. Below you can download an overview of the main concerns we address through our policies and guidelines.

Applying ethical principles

Each of the Framework's Umbrealla Policies and Sector-specific Guidelines lists what we consider to be the key concerns in the respective area. In defining these concerns, we take guidance from internationally recognised ethical principles. Swiss Re is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, which derives its human rights principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its labour principles from the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, its environment principles from the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and its anti-corruption principles from the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Find out how we implement the policies and guidelines of our Sustainable Business Risk Framework through the Sustainable Business Risks (SBR) process as well as company and country exclusions.

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