As risk managers, risk carriers and investors, the insurance industry has a unique role in promoting economic, social and environmental sustainability—in other words, sustainable development.

UN Environment’s work with the insurance industry is carried out through its Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) Initiative. The PSI is a pioneering global framework to address environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities in the insurance business—and a global initiative to strengthen the insurance industry’s contribution to building resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities and economies.

Endorsed by the UN Secretary-General and insurance CEOs, the PSI was launched at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and quickly became the largest collaborative initiative between the UN and the insurance industry. Today, the PSI has a membership of 100 insurance and stakeholder organisations worldwide, including insurers representing more than 20% of world premium volume and USD 14 trillion in assets under management.

As a global framework, the PSI is part of the insurance industry criteria of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, FTSE4Good, and Brazilian Corporate Sustainability Index.

As a global initiative, the PSI has a wide range of collaborative projects and activities, including:

  • How environmental, social and governance issues—such as climate change, natural disasters, ecosystem degradation, human rights violations, health risks, financial exclusion, corruption, and lack of transparency and accountability—are being addressed in core insurance business strategies and operations
  • The insurance and investment challenges and opportunities with respect to sustainable infrastructure and cities, and the transition to a low-carbon economy
  • How the insurance industry can work together with governments, communities and clients to deliver local, national and international solutions that build inclusive and disaster-resilient economies
  • Insurance industry priorities to support the implementation of UN global policy frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

The PSI, together with UN Environment’s Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System and insurance regulators and supervisors from around the world, will launch the Sustainable Insurance Forum for Supervisors (SIF) in December 2016. The SIF is a practical arena to strengthen the ability of insurance regulators and supervisors to manage the sustainable development dimensions of their mandates through international cooperation.

The first-ever independent evaluation of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) has recognised the PSI as a game-changing global initiative and one of the landmark achievements of UNEP FI since it was founded in 1992.

Insurance activities fall under the umbrella of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance

  • Sustainable insurance underwriting
  • Sustainable and resilient cities, SMEs and infrastructure
  • Inclusive insurance
  • Sustainable Insurance Forum for Supervisors
  • Insurance Development Goals and UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Paris Agreement on Climate Change and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights


Butch Bacani
Programme Leader, UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative