Greenhouse Neutral Programme (2003-2020)

Through our pioneering Greenhouse Neutral Programme, we substantially reduced our own CO2 emissions between 2003 and 2019. Offsetting all the remaining emissions has made Swiss Re carbon-neutral for the whole period.

Tackling our own carbon footprint is an integral part of our efforts to tackle climate change. To meet this objective, we launched our Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003. The programme's first phase ended in 2013 and combined two original commitments: cutting our CO2 emissions by 15% per employee (full-time equivalent, FTE) and offsetting all the remaining emissions. To our knowledge, we were the first major financial services provider to have made such a commitment.

Key measures and achievements of phase 1 (2003-2013)

By the end of 2013, we had achieved a total reduction of CO2 emissions per employee (FTE) of 49% and had compensated all remaining emissions, amounting to 494 000 tonnes of CO2e. For this purpose, we bought and retired high-quality Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VERs) from projects that also have strong social benefits. Almost halving our operational emissions over a ten-year period was made possible through the following measures: switching to renewable energy at all locations where this is available in reliable quality; continuous improvements in energy efficiency; and, to a lesser degree, curbing business travel. The gain in energy efficiency (ie reduction of energy intensity) we achieved by the end of 2013 was 47% per FTE.

Phase 2 (2014-2020)

When the first phase of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme ended in 2013, we made a new, seven-year commitment until the end of 2020. After almost halving our CO2 emissions per employee between 2003 and 2013, the potential for further reductions was smaller, though. Our goal over the full seven-year cycle was to maintain the level of emissions reached at the end of 2013 – an ambitious goal in view of our expansion strategy in high-growth markets.

The final figures of the programme per end of 2020 have been distorted by the effect of the COVID-19 crisis. For example, our total CO2 emissions per employee (FTE) in 2020 were just 45% of the 2019 level, resulting in a overall decrease of 60% per FTE between 2013 and 2020. However, we had already achieved a 10% reduction of total CO2 emissions per FTE by the end of 2019, meeting and exceeding our zero-increase target.

Thus, by the end of 2020, we had reduced total CO2 emissions by 80% per employee (FTE) relative to the level of 2003 (54% between 2003 and 2019), mainly as a result of the following measures:

  • Achieving 100% of renewable energy sourcing across our locations
  • Moving into more energy-efficient buildings, eg in Zurich (Swiss Re Next), New York and Bangalore and Tokyo
  • Substantial upgrading of existing building technologies
  • Improved office utilisation due to the creation of more flexible and modern office environments

Extended emissions scope

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, the most widely used tool for emissions accounting and reporting, defines three scopes that can be used:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from own sources
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from purchasing electricity
  • Scope 3: Emissions from other activities along the value chain

During the first phase of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme, we reported on our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (heating and power consumption, respectively) as well as a major source of Scope 3 emissions (business travel).

For the second phase of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme, we have extended the scope of our emissions accounting and reporting: in addition to business travel, this includes use of copy paper, waste generation, water consumption, technical gases and employee commuting. With the exception of commuting, we have committed to compensating these emissions, as well. In 2020 and 2019, we bought and retired high-quality Voluntary Emission Reduction certificates (VERs) for a total of 27 250 and 76 340 tonnes of CO2e, respectively.

Key elements of phase 2

  • Maintain the emissions reductions we achieved between 2003 and 2013 regarding heating, power consumption and business travel.
  • Fully offset the remaining emissions from the three former sources and four new sources through emission reduction certificates.
  • Continuously reduce our energy intensity (heating and power consumption) by 2% per year (kWh/FTE).
  • Obtain 100% of power from renewable sources by the end of 2020.

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