Insurers Told to Deliver World Heritage Protection

Environmental organisations from across the global have combined to create the first guide for the insurance industry to protect our world’s priceless and irreplaceable assets.

The guide was launched in Brazil at a major event hosted by the UN Environment’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).

“Protecting our World Heritage, Insuring a Sustainable Future,” builds on last year’s launch of the first insurance industry statement of commitment to protect World Heritage Sites.

The statement is supported by insurers, writing about $170 billion in gross premiums and managing $2.7 trillion in assets, as well as by insurance associations and key stakeholders around the world.

To develop the guide, the UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative (PSI) worked with its member insurers, WWF, UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

“The main aim is to provide practical guidance to insurers on how to prevent or reduce the risk of insuring and investing in companies or projects whose activities could damage World Heritage Sites, particularly in relation to sectors such as oil and gas, mining, and large-scale hydropower,” said the statement. “Other relevant sectors include logging, fishing, agriculture, plantations, and large-scale infrastructure such as pipelines, roads and mega-ports.”

“Protecting World Heritage Sites for present and future generations is not an option, but an obligation for all. Losing these treasures means losing sources of life, inspiration and human well-being, and losing the war against unsustainable development,” said Butch Bacani, who leads the PSI at UN Environment and who launched the guide in São Paulo. “This guide will help insurers protect our world’s most prized assets in their risk management, insurance and investment activities, while curbing carbon emissions, building disaster resilience, and ensuring healthy ecosystems. We call on insurers around the world to unite behind the science, show decisive leadership, and take ambitious action in insuring a sustainable future.”

“Natural World Heritage Sites include some of the world’s most amazing landscapes. A source of wonder and inspiration, they also provide critical habitats and vital services such as freshwater,” said Margaret Kuhlow, WWF Finance Practice Leader. “This practical guide will enable the insurance sector to make long-term investment decisions that reflect the value of natural World Heritage Sites and support the 11 million people who depend on them for their well-being. We look forward to continuing our work with UNESCO and PSI to support the industry in implementing this guidance.”

The PSI-WWF-UNESCO guide explains the risks that insurers face and outlines a set of basic and advanced recommendations that insurers can implement in their risk management, insurance and investment activities. The recommendations span key areas of action: 1) accessing data and understanding best practice; 2) raising awareness and supporting widespread action; 3) developing and implementing a World Heritage Sites risk approach; 4) protecting World Heritage Sites proactively; and 5) engaging clients and investee companies. The guide also provides insightful case studies, and a sample World Heritage Sites risk assessment checklist for insurers.

Critically, the principles of good risk management and sustainability embodied in the guide can also be used for various types of protected areas, from strict nature reserves, wilderness areas and national parks; to natural monuments and features, and protected landscapes and seascapes, as well as Ramsar sites, wetlands of international importance.

Speaking in Brazil leading insurers have been quick to back the initiative.

Laurent Jumelle, CEO, Caixa Seguradora in Brazil said: “By becoming part of a global group of insurance companies that support the agenda of world heritage protection, Caixa Seguradora reaffirms its commitment with environmental preservation whereas shaping its future through positive results on both preservation and management of environmental risks.”

Eckart Roth, Chief Risk Officer, Asian reinsurance group Peak Re & Member of the PSI Board added:“Protecting cultural heritage is a way to protect the communities around them, by building in economic resilience for these communities who derive their livelihoods linked to the heritage protected. Peak Re was built with the purpose to protect the emerging middle class through supporting the needs of their communities through reinsurance. We are pleased to be acting in support of this important cause.”

Jean-Paul Conoscente, CEO of SCOR Global P&C said: “As a founding signatory of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance, an early adopter of the first-ever insurance industry statement to protect World Heritage Sites, and amidst mounting pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, SCOR welcomes the release of the first collaborative industry guide to better understand, prevent and reduce risks that threaten the outstanding universal value of World Heritage Sites”.

“Insurance seeks to prevent loss and if it occurs to restore it. World Heritage Sites are unique treasures that once lost are gone forever,” added Tim Grafton, CEO, Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ). “Today many sites are threatened. This guide is a valuable contribution to help insurers protect these treasures for generations to come.”