Alice Steenland AXA Group Head of Corporate Responsibility

“Better Lives, Better Growth”

Why invest in sustainability? Alice Steenland, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, tells us about AXA's strategy for better lives, all around the world.
May 22, 2017

Investing in sustainability and social innovation has made good business sense for a long time now. Back in 2013, a whopping 93% of global consumers already said they would like more of the products, services, and retailers they use to support social or environmental issues (Context 2013). When your customers (and employees - 90% of Millennials identify sustainability as a crucial consideration when making career moves (Lightspeed 2017)!) are asking for something, it is always smart to deliver.

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And AXA has done a pretty good job delivering so far: we are the world’s #1 “green” insurance brand (Interbrand), the #1 choice of responsible investors when they buy insurance sector securities (IPREO), the #1 insurer when it comes to managing and disclosing climate risk (AODP, CDP), and the list goes on…

So why did AXA choose to ramp up its ambition by launching its new 2020 Better Lives Partnership?

Well, part of it has to do with the context in which we are operating today -- this is not an easy time for insurers. A combination of historically low interest rates and the rise of new “Insurtech” entrants makes for a tough operating environment by all accounts. The latter are leveraging the fact that consumers’ expectations have changed: a simple, seamless digital interaction with a company they can trust is now a “must”. This is already a tall order for the insurance industry, where legacy systems and regulation increase complexity, and where scores in “trust” rankings versus other industries tend to be low.

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And in terms of winning “trust”, high marks for sustainability and corporate responsibility are no longer enough: a 2016 study from HAVAS Media and Accenture showed that “in every surveyed region, respondents’ expectations on business are almost identical to those of governments: globally, 86% expect governments to directly improve their quality of life; 85% expect the same of the companies from which they buy.”

This is why AXA’s new 2020 Ambition to move from a payer of bills to a partner for better lives resonates so well. It is both adapted to the current context and drawn from the oldest, most fundamental alignment of interests between insurance and its customers: the safer and healthier they are, the better off everyone is.

Concretely, partnering for better lives will mean offering more services to customers that have a direct, positive impact on their health, safety, and wellbeing. AXA’s 2020 Better Lives Partnership , which encapsulates the Group’s responsibility and sustainability ambitions, takes this one step further by highlighting how AXA will work to positively impact not only the individual lives of its customers, but also the society and the environment in which they – and we – all live:

  1. The environment: We want to reduce our footprint and use our business know-how to help the world face climate risk. This means sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy by 2025 and tripling our “green” investments. And because we won’t solve the big environmental issues alone, we are partnering with UN-Habitat to help cities become more resilient.
  2. Society at large: We are developing inclusive ways to extend protection and risk knowledge to society. On the protection front, that means making insurance affordable for 45 million emerging consumers. We are also partnering with NGOs to create better lives for 200,000 people; with CARE, we are helping improve living standards for thousands in poorer communities around the world; and with academics we share 200 million euros of research on risks with the public by 2018.
  3. Individual lives: We want to empower people to achieve positive health and safety outcomes. For instance, we want to help clients collectively become 50,000 years ‘younger’ through wellbeing programs. And in Mexico, we are partnering with UNICEF to give 6,000 mothers the means to tackle nutrition & health issues.

We believe that this commitment to better lives in the very broadest sense is not (only) inspirational, but makes perfect business sense for a company like AXA, in a long-term industry, and focused on sustainable growth. Discover the strategy with this video: