Last month I had my final Board meeting as Chair of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI). I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of serving the Board and working with global sustainability leaders within the insurance industry and the UN. Enabling the PSI to continue to be an effective platform for private sector collaboration and thought leadership has been an important achievement of the Board and Secretariat over the years.

I am happy and proud to see that during the last few years we have further strengthened the capacity of the global insurance industry to work more effectively and align strategies and products with net-zero commitments, TCFD frameworks, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have also created ESG guidelines for various lines of insurance business and an innovative facility to deliver inclusive insurance solutions for MSMEs in the most climate-vulnerable economies. In the same period, the PSI’s global membership has increased by approximately 40 per cent. This fast-growing interest indicates that the industry wants more collaborative efforts to meet global sustainability challenges.

Fostering mechanisms to collaborate better is therefore key to solving global challenges. However, working with sustainability both individually and collaboratively can be motivating, challenging, but also frustrating. Motivating because we work to help solve current global issues, challenging because the world is endlessly filled with obstacles and dilemmas, and frustrating because change may not be happening fast enough. Too many systemic structures and functions maintain the status quo and hinder progress. Yet finding ways to accelerate sustainable change has been one of my missions as an executive and in my career in general. I have learnt that to become more sustainable, we need to work with change where we may face resistance.

Fortunately, there is an increasing amount of talented people pushing the sustainability agenda within large companies, regulators, and local and international organizations. This is also evident in my company, Storebrand, and in the companies represented in the PSI where individuals are driving change through collaboration. I believe that to really succeed as change agents within our entities we must demonstrate leadership and be:

  • Optimistic – to truly believe we can make a difference.
  • We need to be Stubborn and never give up.
  • Diplomatic – we must master the arts of soft power: building relationships, exchanging trades – and communicating veiled threats.
  • And lastly, we must be the Experts – to cultivate respect and attract attention, we must be the source of the facts, the data, the science, the trends.

Once we have become this optimistic, stubborn, and diplomatic expert, we can turn outward to the mission of changing our organizations, and hopefully society.

I would also like to highlight a few final points about being an expert and key lessons from my time at Storebrand where reporting and usage of ESG data has been a strategic asset. Many of us are responsible for ESG reporting and we may feel that the increasingly complex reporting is a growing burden and a headache. But if we think about it differently, we can use that data to set targets and influence entity strategy and management decisions. Below are some reflections on why data and reporting can help entities and industries change.

  • Granular ESG data is powerful. The more granular data, the more understanding we will have about risks and opportunities for the company and how the company affects society around us. Detailed data also helps reduce the risk of greenwashing and gives customers the power to scrutinize aggregated and wishy-washy ESG data.
  • Showcase ESG data whenever you can. Management meetings, Board meetings and internal town halls are important venues to showcase ESG data and key performance indicators.
  • Connect ESG data and management accountability. Channeling ownership of ESG data across management or middle-management functions may improve the general sustainability focus across the organization.
  • Celebrate progress often. Celebrating progress will keep the organization’s and teams’ spirit motivated to move one inch closer next time.
  • Do not let perfect get in the way of progress. Nothing is perfect. And within sustainability, the field is constantly evolving with new reporting challenges and dilemmas.