Canadian Underwriter

How ESG offers a competitive advantage

April 22, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

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Prioritizing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues is part of a company’s long-term competitive success, and panellists in a recent webinar shared examples of why.  

For example, companies that focus on ESG — and social responsibility in particular — find themselves making better profits.  

“From a business standpoint, it actually does have influence on your profits,” says Jenny Yuen, vice president of national partnerships & chief community officer at Kids Help Phone during the Insurance Institute of Canada’s CIP Virtual Symposium.  

Yuen explains how organizations that give back to their communities can bring strength to their business. “There’s a bigger ripple-effect benefit to the organization, to your company overall, and your business objectives,” she says.

Yuen says Kids Help Phone often consults with partners in many sectors, including insurance. “We have partners that measure…how effective we are in delivering on impact,” she explains. “Some have actually shared that there’s increased [customer] consideration for their brand in partnering with us.”  

One of their partners, who sponsors sports properties, reported higher customer interest after partnering with Kids Help Phone.  

“Our partnership with them ranks higher in terms of increased consideration with their customer base, higher than a sports partnership, because [customers] can actually see what’s happening in the community through our community partnership,” Yuen says.  

Kids Help Phone carefully considers their prospective partners, to ensure both companies’ resources are fully utilized. “Maybe your values aren’t fully aligned in terms of the impact that we want to make, or there’s a specific deliverable that that company wants to make, and it’s not one that we fulfill,” Yuen says of businesses that aren’t compatible with their work.  

Along with engaging the community, companies will also see the benefit in promoting diversity among their teams, says another panellist.  

Dionne Bowers, vice chair and co-founder of the Canadian Association for Black Insurance Professionals (CABIP), explains how companies can strengthen their organization through partnerships that promote diversity.  

“We have a reach that can speak to the lived experience of a Black insurance professional and we’re more than happy to lend that expertise to individuals and or businesses who want to know and grow.” 

Just over half (51%) of P&C survey respondents say their leadership reflects some diversity, while 16% indicated there was no diversity within their firm’s leadership team, according to a recent Canadian Underwriter survey, conducted with the support of Sovereign Insurance.  

As a newly established organization, Bowers says CABIP was formed to address the social concerns that many organizations have. “Partnering with CABIP provides organizations with an additional resource to help navigate specifically their diversity, equity and inclusion journey, and tap into a community that they may not have had access to prior to our formation.” 

Panellists acknowledged that diversity of thought makes for better business.  

“Diversity of all types needs to be increased, because the evidence is compelling. The more diversity there is around the table, the better-quality decisions get made. That’s the business driver,” says Paul Fletcher, chief corporate affairs officer at Aviva Canada. 

Canadian Underwriter’s survey found nearly all respondents (98%) believe benefits accrue from working in diverse and inclusive environments. Top reasons cited include a positive workplace culture (63%), while 51% said it brings more diverse perspectives. Forty-one per cent say it helps the firm understand and serve its clients. 

As the president and CEO of a small firm, Bruce Palmer of Pro-Demnity Insurance Company says he sees the advantage of partnering with organizations on ESG issues.  

Palmer says his firm brought in a speaker with the Centre for Truth and Reconciliation on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to help drive action within the firm.  

“It’s about leverage and influence,” he says. “Thirty [employees] can only do so much, but if we can actually tap into an organization that has reaches far beyond us, I think that helps us. It also really helps us with experience and impact. We only have so much experience.”  


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