Our Greenhouse Neutral Programme

Climate change has been Swiss Re’s most important sustainability issue for some 30 years. It is a key topic for a re/insurer because it leads to more extreme and more frequent weather events. Reflecting this, “Mitigating climate risk and advancing the energy transition” is one of the three ambitions of our enhanced Group Sustainability Strategy (see Group Sustainability Strategy).

The Greenhouse Neutral Programme has been the principal means to reduce the emissions from our own operations. It combines two commitments: firstly, to reduce our CO2 emissions per employee (full-time equivalent, FTE); secondly, to offset all the remaining emissions by purchasing high-quality emission reduction credits, thus making our company fully greenhouse neutral.

We originally launched the Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003 for a ten-year period. During that time, we gradually reduced our CO2 emissions by 49.3% per employee (FTE) and compensated all the remaining emissions.

Goals and scope

Seamlessly continuing from the programme’s first phase, we launched a second commitment cycle running from 2013 until 2020. However, after almost halving our CO2 emissions per employee in the previous ten years, the potential for further reductions has now been significantly smaller. Thus, our target until the end of 2020 is to keep our CO2 emissions per employee stable at the 2013 level. In view of our expansive business strategy, especially in high growth markets, we regard this as an ambitious goal.

CO2 emissions per employee (full-time equivalent, FTE), Swiss Re Group






Change in %
since 2018

Change in %
since 2013


Calculation based on a market-based approach taking into account the purchase of renewable energy instruments, with the exception of the UK, where the government requires companies to report an average grid factor (see table at the bottom for our reporting of emissions from electricity).


Commuting data are gathered bi-annually by means of a survey. The figures are rounded and fraught with considerable uncertainty.

Scope 1














Scope 2














Scope 3

Business travel

3 713

3 892

3 842




Copy paper





















Technical gases








1 250

1 000

1 000












6 294

5 786

5 627



Underlying environmental data, Swiss Re Group






Change in % since 2018

Change in % since 2013



1 931

1 190

1 023





4 533

3 405

2 917



Energy intensity


6 464

4 595

3 940










Business travel


13 492

14 310

14 228










Copy paper







Recycling paper







FSC label




























Indirect emissions from purchased electricity, Swiss Re Group

In line with the Scope 2 Guidance of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, we report the emissions associated with our electricity consumption according to both a location-based approach representing the CO2 intensity of the grids where we operate and a market-based method taking into account emission reductions from instruments such as Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Guarantees of Origin (GOs).







All Swiss electricity producers are required by law to declare the quality and quantity of the electricity produced. Swiss Re buys 100% green-labelled electricity (naturemade star).


In the US, we purchase green-e labelled Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for our total power consumption.


The UK government claims all green credentials of renewable electricity produced in the country. Even though over 80% of the electricity we consume in the UK comes with Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs), we report the same emission figures for location- and market-based approaches.


Our next biggest power consumption is India with 7% and Slovakia with 4% of the Group’s total consumption.


t CO2e

t CO2e









6 659





5 424

5 424

residual mix


Rest of the world4

10 223

1 880

RECs, GOs, residual mix



23 126

7 796



In the current cycle, the programme covers the following emission sources:

  • Heating (Scope 1)
  • Power consumption (Scope 2)
  • Business travel, copy paper use, waste generation, water use, technical gases and employee commuting (Scope 3)


Total reduction of CO2 emissions per employee since 2013

In 2019, our total CO2 emissions per employee (FTE) decreased by 2.7% and were thus 10.6% lower than in 2013. We achieved this overall reduction mainly by further cutting power consumption at our business locations and moving into more energy-efficient buildings, eg in New York and Zurich (Swiss Re Next).

Goals of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme until 2020:

  • Maintain the emissions reductions we achieved between 2003 and 2013 regarding power consumption, heating and business travel
  • Fully offset the remaining emissions
  • Continuously reduce energy intensity (power consumption and heating) by 2% per year (kWh/FTE)
  • Obtain 100% of power from renewable sources by the end of 2020

Using renewable power

Purchasing power from renewable rather than conventional sources has been a principal measure of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme. Concluding a gradual build-up that started in 2005, we are now using 100% renewable power at all of the Group’s locations where it is available in reliable and trustworthy quality (ie at a total of 30 locations in Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania). This means that approximately 92% of our total power consumption came from renewable sources at the end of 2019.

To assess the quality of the renewable power available in individual locations and select suitable sources, we use a Minimum Standard that clearly states how we define renewable power and what requirements it needs to meet.

We pursue the following impactful green power options, with decreasing preference:

  • Direct investments in our own solar plants (eg at Armonk, Swiss Re Next in Zurich)
  • Indirect investments via long-term virtual power purchase agreements from newly built plants
  • Sourcing of high-quality renewable energy certificates (eg naturemade star in Switzerland and NaturEnergie in Germany)

Reducing energy consumption

In parallel with our switch to using renewable power, we have made continuous efforts to lower the actual amount of energy consumed per employee (FTE) or, in other words, to reduce our energy intensity. Through many small measures to improve energy efficiency and by concentrating back-office tasks in fewer and more energy-efficient buildings, we managed to cut our energy intensity by a total of 46.5% between 2003 and 2013.


Total reduction of energy intensity per employee since 2013

For the current phase of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme from 2013 until 2020, our goal is to continuously reduce our energy intensity by 2% per year. At the end of 2019, the total reduction we had reached since 2013 was 39.0%. We partly achieved this by decommissioning existing office buildings and moving into more energy-efficient ones.

We have also continued our efforts to create more flexible and modern office environments that offer our employees optimal working conditions while, at the same time, using space and resources more effectively. The spread of digital communication and devices makes it possible to work seamlessly across different locations and devices, creating the foundation for a more flexible and informal workplace setup that encourages teamwork. At Swiss Re Next in Zurich, for example, this open-workplace concept is a key feature. Although further reducing our environmental footprint is not the primary driver of these efforts, their potential to lower the energy intensity of our locations is nevertheless substantial.

RE100 and EP100

At the end of 2019, approximately 92% of the power we purchased across the Group came from renewable energy sources. We are committed to raising this figure to 100%, which is why we helped establish the Climate Group’s RE100 initiative in 2014 as a founding member.

The goal of this initiative is to unite the world’s most influential companies in a shared commitment to use 100% renewable power by 2020. To achieve this, the RE100 group approaches policymakers and regulators at national and sub-national level to make renewable energy more available. RE100 grew substantially again in 2019 and now includes more than 220 of the world’s largest companies. www.theRE100.org

Going beyond these collective efforts, we have recently started to build solar power plants at our own offices.

In 2016, we also signed up to the EP100 initiative, launched by the Climate Group and the EE Global Alliance. This is a shared commitment by leading global companies to double their energy productivity or, in other words, to get more economic output from each unit of energy.

Minimising business travel

As a result of the substantial cuts we have achieved in CO2 emissions from power consumption and heating since 2003, business travel easily constitutes Swiss Re’s largest emission source today. Since the business trips our employees take are ultimately driven by client needs, they are difficult to influence. However, we have taken several measures to reduce the need for business travel and to curb unnecessary business trips.

For a start, we have built up a dense network of video conferencing equipment across the Group. Recently, we replaced these facilities with state-of-the-art technology, which creates a real-time, life-size virtual meeting experience in specially designed rooms. By the end of 2019, we had a total of 155 video conference facilities worldwide. In total, we hosted 97 743 video calls in 2019, amounting to 71 884 hours.

We continuously monitor all travel budgets and collect travel data centrally. Furthermore, we introduced an internal carbon price on air travel in 2014, which uses the “polluter pays” principle. It allocates the costs of the Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) we need to buy to offset our CO2 emissions to the Group’s Global Functions in proportion to their respective share of air travel; previously they had been borne centrally by Group Finance.

Despite these measures, the amount of kilometres travelled per employee and the associated emissions increased for a number of years, mainly driven by our continued expansion in high growth markets. After falling by 6.0% in 2018, the average total distance travelled by each of our employees remained roughly the same in 2019, at 14 228 km/FTE.

As part of our commitment to net-zero emissions, we will replace the existing internal carbon price on air travel through a stringent carbon steering levy (see Committing to reach net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030).

Paper, water and waste

We also calculate and compensate the CO2 emissions from further sources along our supply chain (Scope 3), ie copy paper, waste generation and water use. The overview of our emissions sources above shows, however, that these are less relevant in our business than other environmental impacts, which is why we have not set quantitative reduction goals for them.

Furthermore, it is difficult for us to influence water use and waste generation at locations where we rent office space. In the office buildings we own ourselves, however, we ensure that appliances meet high standards of water efficiency.

As paper use is more responsive to managerial action, we have taken a number of measures to reduce the average amount used by our employees in recent years. New IT solutions such as “pull printing” (which eliminates uncollected printouts), web-based collaboration and document management platforms have led to a significant decrease of paper use in all our locations. Average paper use per employee fell strongly by 19.7% in 2019, resulting in a total reduction of 66.9% since 2013.

Offsetting our remaining CO2 emissions

76 340

Tonnes of CO2e compensated in 2019, thereof 100 tonnes through carbon removal certificates

The second commitment of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme is to compensate all CO2 emissions we cannot yet avoid. For the seven emission sources covered by it, we bought and retired Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) as well as a first batch of third-party verified carbon removal certificates for a total of 76 340 tonnes of CO2e in 2019. To meet our commitment to net-zero emissions, we will gradually need to switch from conventional carbon offsetting to carbon removal (see Committing to reach net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030 and Compensating our CO2 emissions: moving from carbon offsets to carbon removal).

External verification of our CO2 reporting

Ever since we first launched our Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003, we have disclosed our CO2 emissions, their principal sources and relative performance over time. The method we use to calculate our emissions is based on the guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the most widely used emissions accounting standard.

Before our emission figures are published, PricewaterhouseCoopers checks them to verify our calculations. Their complete assurance report for the whole Sustainability Report is included in Independent Limited Assurance Report on the Swiss Re Sustainability Reporting for the financial year 2019.