Our commitment to reducing our own footprint
Total reduction in CO2 emissions per employee since 2003
As a provider of financial services, Swiss Re does not cause large environmental impacts through its own operations. Nonetheless, minimising our direct environmental footprint is an important part of our commitment to be a responsible company. Our main environmental priorities are to reduce our CO2 emissions and energy consumption. We calculate our emissions based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used emissions accounting standard.
In environmental terms, 2013 has been a watershed year. We reached the end of our initial ten-year Greenhouse Neutral Programme, commenced in 2003, which originally sought to reduce CO2 emissions per employee by 15% within ten years and to offset our emissions. This target was already met in 2007. By the end of 2013, we had successfully reduced CO2 emissions by 56.5% per employee, principally by making continuous improvements in energy efficiency and switching to renewable power at many of our locations. We have now reached our goal of using 100% renewable power in all offices where it is reliably available. We have continued our efforts to curb unnecessary business travel without jeopardising our business objectives by encouraging full use of our worldwide video collaboration network. Growth of the business and expansion into new markets — along with new responsibilities created through the realignment of Swiss Re’s holding company into three Business Units — had contributed to an increase in business travel-related CO2 emissions per employee in 2011 and 2012. Against expectations, the figure did not rise in 2013, but remained stable, with a reduction of approximately 1%.
Since 2003 we have compensated these and all remaining CO2 emissions by purchasing Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VERs). In 2013 we retired VERs representing 55 800 tonnes of CO2 emissions. This amount includes additional voluntary commitments to offset the emissions caused by events such as Swiss Re’s Annual General Meeting of shareholders and those held at the Centre for Global Dialogue.
We are keen to ensure that the VERs we buy are of a high environmental standard. To achieve this, we have developed a set of criteria to select the projects that generate certificates; for instance, we give priority to projects which come with strong social side-effects and benefit the poorest regions.
Swiss Re has over 60 offices in more than 20 countries; we also own and construct buildings, primarily in Switzerland, as part of the real estate component of our investment portfolio. In all these, we apply stringent building standards, including the use of environmentally sound, durable materials, low energy consumption and low maintenance and running costs. Our construction and renovation projects in Switzerland conform to the MINERGIE® standard of energy efficiency and superior user comfort, using where applicable its most stringent level, MINERGIE-P-ECO®, which incorporates the use of passive heat sources for ultra-low energy consumption.
In 2013, work continued on Swiss Re Next, our new Zurich headquarters. A full environmental briefing on the project, including biweekly reports of its construction-related emissions, is available at http://next.swissre.com/en/.
We invite our employees to engage with Swiss Re’s commitment to the environment through the global COyou2 Programme, which subsidises private emission-cutting investments with the goal to reduce employees’ own carbon footprint. Investments range from energy-efficient home infrastructure and appliances to more sustainable transport options such as bicycles. Subsidies cover 50% of eligible investments, up to a locally predefined total subsidy allowance. Since the launch of this innovative programme in 2007, more than 9 000 subsidies have been paid out to our employees throughout the world. Due to this resounding success, Swiss Re decided to renew the programme for another seven years, starting in January 2014 and closing in line with the next phase of the climate strategy in 2020.