In just four years, a label developed by AXA in 2013 has revolutionized how insurance products are conceived and the relationship between the Group and its clients.
Since January 1, 2016, all new contracts offered by AXA in France must respect a standard called RSE (which stands for “Responsabilité Sociétale de l’Entreprise”, or Corporate Social Responsibility). This process is more than just a formality: throughout their conception, insurance products are examined according to 15 ethical standards, which range from taking into account disabilities to protecting private data and integrating prevention measures. On the “environment” measure, 10 points (out of a total of 100) can be attributed if the contract offers “green” incentive pricing, for example by preferring products and materials that are environmentally friendly when rebuilding after an accident or disaster. On the “trust” measure, an additional 10 points can be earned for posting a detailed explanation of a contract’s guarantees and exclusions in the online client space. Any new offer must clear a minimum of 60 points before it is launched.
The genesis of a methodological “big bang”
Catherine Chazal, RSE manager for AXA in France, participated in the creation of this framework. “It can take months for engineers to craft an offer,” she says. “Several conversations with the RSE teams are needed in order to fine-tune a proposal.” The reason behind this is a strong conviction at AXA – offering the best possible service is no longer enough; it must also have a positive impact on society and the environment.
This realization came in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and the public’s ensuing wariness with regards to large financial institutions. To better understand this phenomenon, AXA France decided to develop its annual opinion survey, the “AXA at your service” barometer. In 2013, three social issues entered into the top three preoccupations of French citizens: civic engagement, the environment and climate change. These came above taxes!
We understand that the time when clients were seen simply as payers is in the past. Today, we want to treat them as authentic partners.
In the following months, a “laboratory of responsible offers” was created by Céline Soubranne, the RSE director for AXA in France. Her goal: to define, in partnership with civil society, a base of societal and environmental norms applicable to the products offered. A focus group including representatives of different lines of work was created and various concerned parties were interviewed: consumer organizations, environmental NGOs, think tanks, etc.
The consultation method
Among the organizations surveyed was Novethic, an information and notation agency specialized in RSE and well-respected for its independence. Since its creation 15 years ago, this subsidiary of the Caisse des Dépots et Cosignations – a French public sector financial institution – is an expert in responsible investment. “AXA France, as an insurer, and AXA IM, as a management company, are among our regular contacts in our research activities,” says Dominique Blanc, the director of research at Novethic, who likes to define himself as AXA’s “sparring partner.” In the course of his discussions with AXA’s RSE team, this ethical finance expert has shared best practices he has identified, alerted to crucial themes, and warned against traps to avoid in order to keep a balance between economic pragmatism and moral requirements. “Finding a balance can be challenging,” Blanc says.
Following consultations with various external concerned parties, an ethical framework was formalized and then validated by the senior management of AXA in France. This framework, called the “Assurance Citoyenne” (or Citizen Insurance), is composed of four commitments and 15 criteria that all new products must meet.
This participatory method did not only serve to shape the theory behind the “Assurance Citoyenne”; in practice, the AXA in France teams are also increasingly turning toward civil society before building new offers. To do this, they use monassurancecitoyenne.com, a crowdsourcing site created by the company two years ago. More than 6,400 users have signed up and share their ideas for improving insurance services.
One question in particular comes up frequently: “Why not allow car insurance to be activated on a case-by-case basis, rather than through yearly payments?” This message was received loud and clear by AXA in France, who created “ma mobilité auto” (my car mobility) which gives clients five choices: 24-hour, weekend, weekly, monthly or annual coverage. This policy has been offered since the summer of 2016, and, of course, carries the “Assurance Citoyenne” label.
Today, half of AXA’s French revenue is generated by products labeled “Assurance Citoyenne”. Better yet, since last year, all redesigned offers have been subject to this standard, even though the procedure is not mandatory. For example, take Avizen Pro, an insurance solution for business leaders. A few months ago, its creators wrote a memo that clarified the contract’s main characteristics. This memo is now given to clients, and specifies all guarantees, but also cases where it is null, exclusions and cancellations. This transparency effort contributed to Avizen Pro receiving the “Assurance Citoyenne” label.
In November 2016, the firm EY was asked to audit AXA in France’s “Assurance Citoyenne”. The report’s authors concluded: “We appreciated the appropriate character of the framework and evaluation grid… in relation to their pertinence, reliability, comprehensiveness, neutrality, and intelligibility.” In other words, a strong standard has been established.
And this standard is set to grow. The label is on its way to extending throughout the AXA Group. With a presence in 64 countries, this project is a long-term undertaking.
At this stage, eight subsidiaries have volunteered to take part in a pilot, among them Belgium and Spain. In order to build a citizen labeling grid that can be used by different entities within the Group, criteria that reflects local culture and concerns had to be identified. For example, a study showed that concerns like the environment or “citizenship” did not rank the same in different countries. This label must integrate these preferences in order to better accompany clients in risk prevention. It is by listening to society that we can best prepare for the future.
AXA’s sustainable commitments, in 8 dates
1991: Launch of AXA Atout Coeur in France, a corporate volunteering program benefitting social causes. A few years later, this program went international. Today, it is present in 33 countries, with more than 56,000 volunteers in 2016.
2002: AXA launches its artistic sponsorship program to preserve and share cultural heritage with a wide public. Its first gift: two paintings by Rosso Fiorentino to the Louvre museum.
2003: Signature of the UN Global Compact, through which the Group pledged to respect human rights, international labor standards, and anti-corruption efforts.
2007: A scientific sponsorship program via the AXA Research Fund is born, with the deep conviction that science and academic excellence play a crucial role in responding to the new risks of our century. The Fund supports 531 projects in 34 countries.
2011: Beginning of a global partnership with the NGO Care on projects concerning adaptation to climate change.
2015: Launch of the “Assurance Citoyenne” in France.
2016: AXA withdraws from the tobacco industry.
2017: Establishment of a global parental leave policy. Employees of all the AXA Group’s entities are given 16 weeks maternity leave and 4 weeks paternity leave.
2017: AXA pledges to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2025.