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Sustainability

Addressing climate change, reducing our environmental footprint, securing the future of work and inspiring confidence in a digital society.

Heads and tails: Why climate risk is more than a coin flip
Sep 26, 2022

Zurich Resilience Solutions and South Pole emphasize the need for resilience and responsibility at Climate Week NYC event.

A rooftop session in the middle of Climate Week NYC presented both sides of the climate coin — resilience and responsibility — led by two companies at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change.

Zurich Resilience Solutions, part of Zurich Insurance Group, and South Pole, a leading climate solutions provider and carbon project developer, hosted the September 21 event in midtown Manhattan at the Monarch Rooftop lounge with about 200 guests in attendance.

The event featured a keynote presentation by Andrew Winston, a globally recognized expert and author on megatrends and how to build companies that thrive by serving the world.

Winston’s speech was followed by a panel discussion with Stephan Hillert, Global Head of Climate & Sustainability Solutions for Zurich Resilience Solutions; and George Favaloro, Head of Climate Solutions, North America for South Pole; and moderated by Gim Huay Neo, Managing Director, Centre for Nature and Climate, World Economic Forum.

The panelists emphasized the need for risk managers — as well as all key decision makers — to ensure they are developing resilience to climate risk, but also responsibly managing how their businesses impact the planet and, ultimately, understand how these two priorities intersect.

Hillert said the insurance industry is bearing witness to climate change every day through the impact on its customers, adding that 2021 was the second-worst year in terms of losses caused by natural catastrophes.

“Now is the time for action,” he said. “And the time for action is not only one side of the coin, meaning ‘What’s our impact on climate?’, but also we need to join forces to be stronger in terms of preparation — ‘What’s the impact of climate on your day-to-day business?’”

Favaloro added that climate risks go beyond the physical damage to businesses and communities. Climate change is having an impact on supply chains, consumer demands and corporate reputations.

“You cannot be seen as a laggard in your industry,” he said. “(It’s) important for your consumer brand, but also for your employee brand.”

An audience member asked the panel how consumers can hold companies accountable to sustainability commitments.

Favaloro responded that the path to responsibly handling climate change risk is very clear: Measure your carbon footprint, set a target, develop a plan to meet that target, then report your progress.

“Companies that do that are showing great transparency, great accountability, and you can really look at what they’re doing and judge how committed they are,” he said.

Hillert added that such transparency and accountability can give companies a competitive advantage to attracting talent. “Purpose-driven jobs are on the rise,” he said.

Hillert concluded that discussions about climate resilience and carbon reduction are not just for corporate sustainability departments and risk managers. “This is a topic across all the organization and the communities where the organizations actually operate,” he said. “So, you need to bring together everyone to fight against climate change.”

Winston, co-author of “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take,” said that climate change discussions used to simply be about risk, but now are about systemic risk. Most companies, he said, have reported asset damage or losses because of extreme weather.

He questions those who want to put the brakes on tackling climate change because doing so will “destroy the economy.”

“It’s increasingly ludicrous,” Winston said. “It is ludicrous, because the cost we’re talking about at the systems level are like the loss of entire cities. I don’t know what the ROI is on saving cities.”

Climate Week NYC is the biggest global climate event of its kind. The week-long event brings together influential leaders in climate action from business, government and the climate community, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly and the City of New York. The annual event is organized by Climate Group.

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