RenaissanceRe’s dedicated ESG resource, Harriet James, provides The ESG Insurer with her insight into formulating an ESG approach for a major reinsurer.

Harriet James RenRe

What are the first steps you take when establishing an ESG strategy for a major reinsurer?

A natural first step for us in our ESG strategy was to catalogue everything we were already doing that falls under ESG pillars. Like many reinsurers, we had long been involved in activities – such as disaster risk reduction and climate resilience – that could fall under an ESG designation, but which hadn’t yet been defined as such.

Once we had this inventory, it provided us with the foundation to leverage what we already do in a more strategic way, clearly define what ESG means to us as an organisation and reinforce our commitment to sustainability and good corporate citizenship.

I worked closely with our senior leadership team to create a framework to identify three key priorities for our ESG strategy where we can apply our core business strengths to make a meaningful impact on society. The first is through promoting climate resilience and sharing our skills and expertise to help the world better manage climate risk. The second is to work to close the protection gap through partnering with others to develop sustainable risk mitigation solutions for the most vulnerable. And thirdly we are focused on inducing positive societal change and shaping a positive environment for our people and communities.

What kinds of ESG-related initiatives are you working on at RenRe?

We use our three key priorities to help determine where we prioritise our activities and which initiatives we focus on. This allows us to find new ways to apply our energy and expertise to make an impact in our communities and for our fellow citizens.

In my role, I am engaged in a vast array of different initiatives across the business, ranging from sustainable investments to community giving and socially focused underwriting solutions. It is always exciting to see the range of interesting activities and innovative organisations in the ESG space.

“ESG and sustainability risks impact everyone in different ways, and it is important to continually engage with all stakeholders to determine what ESG means to them.”

One home-grown ESG-related initiative is RenRe’s series of Risk Mitigation Leadership Forums. We have been running these forums since 2008, which bring together academics, scientists, conservationists and public and private sector representatives to advance risk mitigation efforts and awareness. We have been committed to this initiative for many years, which demonstrates the value of collaboration and brings together many different partners in the same room with the aim of creating solutions that improve community preparedness and resilience and bring about positive change in how we all prepare for, and respond to, natural catastrophes.

How do you determine which stakeholders have input?

RenRe has long sought to create value and innovation for our partners and having strategic ESG discussions allows us to add to our value proposition to each of our stakeholders. ESG and sustainability risks impact everyone in different ways, and it is important to continually engage with all stakeholders to determine what ESG means to them, whether it be clients seeking climate risk insights, regulators seeking additional disclosures, investors seeking more information about sustainable practices or employees looking to engage on issues important to them, RenRe values the unique interests and input of all our stakeholders.

I think ESG is a compelling and tangible way we enhance our stakeholder service, as it really demonstrates how we’re acting on our long-term commitment to protect communities and enable prosperity.

What has the response been like from team members? How do you ensure that the strategy is inclusive for all?

We’ve had a great response from team members – from new joiners to board members, ESG is really core to our culture and is something that binds us together as a global organisation. For several years we have seen a growing interest in sustainability among our employees, and formalising our ESG strategy last year was a really positive step in enhancing our communications to share what we’ve been working on.

It is important to us that our employees are directly involved and engage in our ESG activities. Within our corporate social responsibility strategy, which sits under our third pillar of inducing positive societal change, 75 percent of our giving is led by employees. The strategy is supported by senior management but executed at a local level. This locally led giving philosophy allows us to support the causes that our employees care about and that are most relevant in each of our locations around the world.

“For several years we have seen a growing interest in sustainability among our employees, and formalising our ESG strategy last year was a really positive step in enhancing our communications to share what we’ve been working on.”

How do you go about assessing whether an investment or partnership is appropriate?

An integral step when formulating our ESG strategy was defining our focus areas early in the process. This means that we have clarity on where we believe we can make a meaningful impact, which allows us to steer our decision-making and assess new opportunities within an ESG context.

A recent example was deciding to be a seed investor in BlackRock’s Carbon Transition Readiness ETF in April of this year. When we considered this opportunity in the context of our ESG strategy, it was very clearly aligned – it allows us to proactively advance climate resilience while making an attractive investment. We’re really excited to be part of this kind of stewardship movement to encourage and enable positive ESG behaviours across all sectors.

“We are actively looking to build on our three ESG pillars and add new ways to enhance our stakeholder service while ensuring RenRe is a more sustainable and resilient reinsurer.”

What are your ambitions for the development of the strategy over the next five years?

ESG is a core component of our corporate strategy and demonstrates our commitment to acting with integrity, driving employee engagement and maintaining the trust of our clients, brokers and investors. We are actively looking to build on our three ESG pillars and add new ways to enhance our stakeholder service while ensuring RenRe is a more sustainable and resilient reinsurer.

In terms of further ESG initiatives, one of the core strengths RenRe possesses is our entrepreneurial and collaborative culture, and we are seeking opportunities to join forces with others to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society. Our engagement in the Insurance Development Forum is a great example of the value of collaborating with others to make a meaningful impact, and we’re eager to continue to encourage and engage in these collaborative efforts to further enhance our ESG strategy.

What would be your three tips for someone tasked with formulating an ESG strategy?

My first tip would be to focus on the strengths of your individual business and how they can be leveraged to make a positive impact.

Secondly, don’t be put off track by the ever-evolving ESG landscape – stay focused on the strengths of your business and what you are looking to achieve.

And thirdly, enjoy the process. It has been an absolute pleasure to witness the increased interest in this area over the past few years, and the positive impact it is having both on our business and society as a whole.