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 as well as other negative impacts.

To reduce the CO2 emissions from our own operations, we launched our Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003, at the time a pioneering initiative. It has combined two principal commitments: firstly, to reduce our CO2 emissions per employee (full-time equivalent, FTE), and secondly, to compensate all the remaining emissions by purchasing high-quality carbon offsets, thus making our company fully greenhouse gas neutral.

After two full commitment cycles, we wrapped up the Greenhouse Neutral Programme at the end of 2020. From 2021 onwards it will be seamlessly succeeded by the CO2NetZero Programme, through which we will implement our commitment made in 2019 to achieve net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030.

Overall goals and scope

In the Greenhouse Neutral Programme’s first commitment cycle running from 2003 to 2013, we set increasingly ambitious targets for our operational CO2 emissions. Ultimately, we reduced them by a total of 49.3% per employee (FTE) and compensated all the remaining emissions.

After this substantial reduction, we set ourselves the target to keep CO2 emissions per employee stable at the 2013 level for the full second commitment cycle, ie until the end of 2020. In view of our expansive business strategy, especially in high growth markets, this was an ambitious goal.

For the programme’s second commitment cycle, we also expanded its scope. In addition to the three originally included emission sources of heating (Scope 1), power consumption (Scope 2) and business travel (Scope 3), we have reported emissions for copy paper use, waste generation, water use and technical gases (all Scope 3) and have fully compensated them. We also report our commuting emissions, based on biannual surveys.

We have implemented our Greenhouse Neutral Programme through a set of concrete measures (see below).

Directly linked to these measures, we have defined two further quantitative targets along the way, one for our energy intensity, the other for the share of renewable energy used across the Group.

Below is a summary of the programme’s principal targets and what we achieved between 2003 and 2020. Because of the distorting effect of the COVID-19 crisis, we also show the figures as of the end of 2019 where relevant:

Key targets and achievements of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme, 2003 to 2020




Reduce CO2 emissions per FTE by 45% by the end of 2013, relative to 2003. Then maintain the achieved emission reductions per FTE until the end of 2020

Reduction of 49% between 2003 and 2013

Further reduction of 10% between 2013 and 2019

Drop of 55% between 2019 and 2020, incl. a strong impact from COVID-19

Total reduction of 80% between 2003 and 2020 (54% between 2003 and 2019)

Continuously reduce energy intensity (power consumption and heating) by 2% per year

Cumulative reduction of 47% between 2003 and 2013

Further reduction of 42% between 2013 and 2019

Drop of 20% between 2019 and 2020, incl. strong impact from COVID-19

Total reduction of 75% between 2003 and 2020 (69% between 2003 and 2019)

Obtain 100% of power from renewable sources by the end of 2020 (RE100)

Share of power from renewable sources 100% at the end of 2020

Fully compensate the remaining CO2 emissions

Fully compensated the remaining CO2 emissions through whole programme

For the years 2014 – 2020, compensated a total of 494 000 tonnes of CO2e

Thus, we have achieved all the targets defined through the Greenhouse Neutral Programme, independent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tables below provide more detailed information on the development of CO2 emissions as well as the underlying environmental data between 2013 and 2020.

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic also becomes apparent from the data in these tables. For example, total CO2 emissions per FTE in 2020 were just 45% of the 2019 level, resulting in a total decrease of 59.6% per FTE between 2013 and 2020. However, we had already achieved a 10% reduction of total CO2 emissions per FTE by the end of 2019, thus meeting and exceeding our target.

Complementing the data shown here, we have included a comprehensive environmental data set for the whole Greenhouse Neutral Programme from 2013 to 2020 in an appendix. This, too, includes baseline comparisons for pre-COVID data (ie for the reporting year 2019) in addition to the current reporting year 2020.

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






Change in % since 2019

Change in % 2013 – 2019

Change in % 2013 – 2020

Scope 1








Scope 2








Scope 3

Business travel

3 724

3 849

1 626





Copy paper
























Technical gases









1 225
















5 852

5 266

2 363





The figures for 2013 and 2019 have been restated due to the sale of our ReAssure business in the UK and the adjustment of how we handle renewable electricity credentials. The appendix provides an overview of the restatement.


The figures for 2020 have been strongly impacted by COVID-19 and are not indicative of Swiss Re’s future environmental performance.

Underlying environmental data, Swiss Re Group






Change in % since 2019

Change in % 2013 – 2019

Change in % 2013 – 2020



2 038








4 715

2 926

2 314




Energy intensity


6 753

3 906

3 146












Business travel


13 581

14 271

6 020












Copy paper








Recycling paper








FSC label

































The figures for 2013 and 2019 have been restated due to the sale of our ReAssure business in the UK and the adjustment of how we handle renewable electricity credentials.


The figures for 2020 have been strongly impacted by COVID-19 and are not indicative of Swiss Re’s future environmental performance.

Below you can read summaries of the principal actions we have taken to implement the Greenhouse Neutral Programme

Using renewable power

Obtaining power from renewable rather than conventional sources has been a key measure of the programme. Starting a gradual build-up in 2005, we set a target to use 100% renewable power by 2020 at all of the Group’s locations where it is available in reliable and trustworthy quality.

Share of total power consumption from renewable sources in 2020


(92% in 2019)

We reached this target in 2020, all the time adhering to our minimum standard for green power sourcing. The standard states that we seek to maximise impact by bringing new renewable assets onto the grid, known as “additionality”. It builds on the three following sourcing methods, with decreasing preference:

  • Direct investments in our own solar plants (eg at Armonk, Swiss Re Next in Zurich, Bangalore and Folkestone)
  • 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)

To improve access to high-quality sources of renewable energy around the world, we helped launch the RE100 initiative as a founding member in 2014 (see below).

RE100 and EP100

Established in 2014 by the Climate Group, the RE100 initiative has united the world’s most influential companies in a shared commitment to using 100% renewable power by no later than 2050. To achieve this, the RE100 initiative has encouraged policymakers and regulators at national and sub-national level to make renewable energy more available. RE100 grew substantially again in 2020 and now includes more than 280 of the world’s largest companies. As a co-founder of the initiative, we reached our own RE100 target as early as 2020. www.theRE100.org

In 2016, we also signed up to the Climate Group’s EP100 initiative. 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. www.theclimategroup.org/project/ep100/

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 or, in other words, to reduce our energy intensity (measured as kWh/FTE). 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.

For the second phase of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme from 2013 until 2020, our target was to continuously reduce our energy intensity by 2% per year. At the end of 2020, the total reduction reached since 2013 was 53.4%. This figure was distorted by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we had already achieved a reduction of 42.2% by the end of 2019.

We mainly achieved these savings by decommissioning existing office buildings and moving into more energy-efficient ones. For example, at our Zurich headquarters we achieved a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification for the newly constructed Swiss Re Next building. Our most recent move took place in 2019 in Tokyo, where our new office building possesses an energy-efficient CASBEE shell and has been fitted out according to LEED Gold standards.

In addition, substantial upgrading of existing building technologies has brought further efficiency gains (eg the whole heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at our Americas headquarters in Armonk).

Finally, we have managed to improve office utilisation by creating more flexible and modern office environments that offer our employees optimal working conditions while using space and resources more effectively.

Our commitment to improving energy efficiency (kWh/FTE) continues beyond 2020. We aspire to achieve a 2% efficiency gain per year against the 2018 baseline. This translates into a target of 13% for 2025 and 22% for 2030.

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 now easily constitutes Swiss Re’s largest emissions source. In recent years, 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 enhanced these facilities with state-of-the-art technology that creates a real-time, life-size virtual meeting experience in normal meeting rooms. By the end of 2020, we had a total of 158 standard video conference facilities worldwide and 54 enhanced facilities.

Recently, we also introduced an interoperability solution which allows us to connect our video conferencing facilities with workplace-based collaboration software. This has provided our employees with fully digitised workplace equipment including video conferencing from home, which has been highly beneficial in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We continuously monitor all travel budgets and collect travel data centrally. Furthermore, in 2014 we introduced an internal carbon price on air travel, based on the “polluter pays” principle. It has allocated 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 average amount of kilometres travelled per employee and the associated CO2 emissions increased slightly for a number of years before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly driven by our continued expansion in high growth markets. (In 2019, the figure was 14 271 km/FTE, 5% higher than in 2013.)

In view of this trend and in line with our commitment to achieving net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030, we have introduced an ambitious triple-digit internal carbon price and set a 30% reduction target for air travel, relative to the level of 2018 (see “Introducing our triple-digit Carbon Steering Levy” for details).

Finally, we promote low-carbon options for our employees’ daily commutes through mobility concepts at major office locations. Typically, they involve car sharing via our intranet, subscriptions for public bike rental services, public transportation subsidies, last-mile shuttle services, shower facilities with lockers, etc.

Paper, water and waste

In the second commitment cycle of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme, we have also calculated and compensated our CO2 emissions from the Scope 3 sources of copy paper, waste generation and water use. The overview of our emissions sources above shows, however, that these are less material for our business than other environmental impacts, which is why we have not set quantitative reduction goals for them.

Some of the measures we have taken to reduce paper, water and waste include: reusable dishes and cutlery at major locations, “pull printing” (which eliminates uncollected printouts and has helped us reduce emissions from paper use by more than 80% since 2013), cloud-based collaboration and document management platforms.

Offsetting our remaining CO2 emissions

Along with achieving a significant reduction of the emissions from our own operations, the second commitment of our Greenhouse Neutral Programme has been to compensate all remaining CO2 emissions for the full period between 2003 and 2020. When we launched our Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003, this was a pioneering concept.

We initially invested in the Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF) run by the World Bank, the first fund designed not only to generate emission reductions, but also community benefits through the projects it finances: access to clean water, improved health conditions, creation of jobs, empowering women and more.

Later, when mature markets had developed with labels and standards to guarantee the quality of offsets in terms of accountability, social and environmental safeguards, etc, we started to purchase our offsets from these markets. We have exclusively supported Gold Standard-certified projects, which means they have come with the same level of co-benefits as the CDCF projects we had supported before.

Tonnes of CO2e
compensated in 2020

27 250

(70 303 in 2019)

For the period between 2014 and 2020, we bought and retired carbon offsets for a total of 494 000 tonnes of CO2e emissions. In 2019, we also purchased a first batch of third-party verified carbon removal certificates to test that upcoming market. For 2020, we bought carbon offsets for a total of 27 250 tonnes of CO2e, a significant drop from the previous year (70 303 tonnes of CO2e) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet our commitment to net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030, we will now gradually switch from conventional carbon offsetting to carbon removal (see “Achieving net-zero emissions in our operations by 2030”).

External verification of our CO2 and environmental data

Ever since we first launched our Greenhouse Neutral Programme in 2003, we have disclosed our CO2 emissions and their relative performance over time, expanding our reporting scope from 2013. 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 environmental data are published, PricewaterhouseCoopers checks them to verify our calculations. Their complete assurance report for the whole Sustainability Report is included in Independent Assurance Report on the Swiss Re Sustainability Report 2020.