Since May 2022, UNIQA is one of the first nine members of the "Green Finance Alliance", an internationally pioneering initiative of the Austrian Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK). It was created for companies in the finance and insurance sector.
The members voluntarily commit to making their portfolios climate neutral step by step. For insurance companies this also applies to their underwriting activities. Thereby they are guided by the 1.5 degree climate target of the Paris Agreement. Business ecology is also part of this process. The Climate Protection Ministry, the Federal Environment Agency and an advisory board of independent climate experts accompany the members and evaluate their progress annually.
Challenges in international implementation
Although the Green Finance Alliance is an Austrian initiative, it concerns the entire UNIQA Group. The members undertake to implement appropriate measures in all countries where they have branches. UNIQA's goal is to be climate neutral in Austria by 2040 and Group-wide by 2050. Monitoring will be individualised accordingly because the focus in the countries varies greatly.
The greatest challenges lie in the rapid and consistent alignment of the investment portfolio to the Paris climate target path while achieving the necessary interim targets for 2025 and 2030. In the CEE region, the need for action around the reduction of "financed emissions" is a relevant part, especially due to the necessary phase-out of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. In the property insurance business (underwriting) a historically grown portfolio and need for insurance cover for fossil value chains ("insured emissions") must be transformed and convincing efforts must be made for this. It is also important to build up a broader data basis, which will make it possible to price risks in a more target-oriented manner.
Climate protection is not for lone warriors!
Andreas Rauter, Head of Sustainability, Ethics & Public Affairs, explains what membership of the Green Finance Alliance means for the UNIQA Group and how it supports the activities in the area of sustainable business.
Why is the Green Finance Alliance a special initiative in terms of climate protection and more than just another state regulation that is often ignored or watered down in practice?
Government regulation – whether at national or EU level – is often the "lowest common denominator" of many different interest groups. This unwieldiness and lack of focus is a major problem, especially in climate protection. In contrast, the Green Finance Alliance is not a governmental "coercive instrument". The companies have applied for membership voluntarily. They bring with them the will to act proactively in the interest of climate protection. The underlying catalogue of criteria contains concrete framework conditions that are flexible enough to be adapted to the respective needs of the companies, provided that they really want to align their business model accordingly. The state and financial companies are pulling in the same direction This is completely new internationally and absolutely promising.
What are the concrete benefits of UNIQA's membership in the Green Finance Alliance? The company has already adopted a comprehensive sustainability strategy since 2020.
Adopting a sustainability strategy is only the first step on a long road. We have to "fill it with life", move from theory to action. For an international company like UNIQA, the green transformation involves a wide range of measures. Creating more advisory competence and a wider variety of products in order to accompany the lives and business activities of our customers in mobility, building use, energy issues and nutrition with even better solutions. We have already achieved a lot in recent years, but we still have a long way to go.
Climate protection can only succeed if we work together. We need the solidarity of like-minded people and cooperation between the private sector and the state. This is exactly what the Green Finance Alliance offers. In exchange with other future-oriented financial companies and with the Climate Ministry, we work together and are constantly learning. Independent experts continuously adapt the catalogue of criteria to the latest scientific findings. We have the opportunity to participate in regular workshops and information sessions with international climate experts. We can therefore be sure that we are accompanied by "state of the art" support and that our measures really do make a difference.
As a consumer, you get the impression that everyone is "going sustainable". Many companies have to put up with accusations of greenwashing. Can the Green Finance Alliance counteract this?
In fact, consumers are increasingly critical about the sustainability of the companies they entrust their money to. This is a great development, but it also means for us as insurers that we have to "deliver". A green image is not enough. Our products and services have to stand up to critical scrutiny and really make a sustainable difference. Being a member of the Green Finance Alliance offers us the chance to be among the true pioneers in the industry. It will become a seal of approval for climate-responsible action. We disclose transparently year after year which measures we are implementing.
What projects and initiatives will UNIQA tackle or push in the coming years as a consequence of its membership?
In our membership agreement, we clearly committed to aligning our business model with the Paris 1.5 degree climate target. We are now tackling this consistently in operational management, in investment, and also in industrial business with the help of scientifically based methods. In concrete terms, this also means that after our coal phase-out at the beginning of 2019, we will complete the orderly withdrawal from oil (by 2030) and gas (by 2035) in investments and in the industrial business, introduce a certified environmental management system (by 2025) and proactively pursue a joint path with our customers towards a more sustainable form of living together and doing business.
In the following video, UNIQA CEO Andreas Brandstetter summarises why the Green Finance Alliance is an important milestone for UNIQA on the way to climate-neutral business:
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