Delivering Business Value Through Smart CR

By Zelda Bentham, Group Head of Environment & Climate Change, AVIVA

Delivering Business Value Through Smart CR

Speaking at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ event in London, Zelda Bentham, Group Head of Environment & Climate Change, shares how Aviva derives business value by taking an integrated and business driven approach to delivering environmental and social impacts at scale.

At Aviva, we continually seek to maximise the long term value delivered by every element of the business, and our Corporate Responsibility (CR) programmes and investments are no different. Whether it’s work to future-proof the business against the effects of climate change, or delivering measurable social, environmental and community impacts, it’s essential we can demonstrate how this activity delivers measurable business value.

We are helped by the fact Aviva’s senior board acknowledge that action on climate change is fundamental to the long-term sustainability of our business, as climate change could make many risks uninsurable in the future. As a responsible investor, we also recognise the critical role we have to play in reducing emissions and delivering positive social and environmental impacts through our actions and investments.

We implement a robust CR strategy to deliver positive contributions to society and to communities and seek to minimise our environmental impacts as part of our commitment to help tackle climate change. We maintain a leading position in transparently reporting across a number of leading global indices, including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, CDP and the FTSE4Good.

Within our CR programme, we have a carbon management strategy; taking responsibility for our environmental impacts and seeking internal efficiencies wherever possible. That includes investments in low-carbon technologies, internal energy & consumption efficiencies, and a target to reduce our emissions by 20% between 2010-2020 with a minimum reduction of 5% a year. By the end of 2014 we far exceeded this target with a 32% reduction from 2010.

Yet internal actions and efficiencies can only take us so far and some carbon emissions are simply unavoidable; meaning we need to seek external emission reductions too, to continue our commitment of of carbon neutrality. That’s where smart carbon offsetting comes in.

Through our partnership with ClimateCare, we’re able to maximise the business value of our carbon offsetting activity, by making it part of an integrated Climate+Care programme. Here’s how.

Taking an integrated Climate+Care approach means delivering both positive impacts for the “Climate”, by reducing carbon emissions, and delivering measurable “Care” or social impacts ; whether that’s creating economic opportunities, empowering women, improving health or enabling access to education for example. Such impacts, delivered through our programme with ClimateCare underpin our overall business commitment to contribute effectively to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), build resilience and free people from fear of uncertainty, whilst all the while cutting emissions and playing a valuable role as part of our carbon management programme. The key lies in delivering multiple outcomes from single, smart interventions, coupled with robust measurement of the impacts delivered.

With this in mind, we took a lead in reporting the full value of our Climate+Care programme; looking at the social and environmental impacts delivered and the value to our business. Working with ClimareCare’s experts, we’ve successfully measured the carbon reductions and the social value of our programme using the recognised LBG framework; it was the first ever application of the framework in this way, which has created a measurement blueprint for others to follow.

Now we’re able to quantify the social value, we can report this back to the business demonstrating that the wider value delivered by our Climate+Care programme compares favourably to our other community investments. In addition, independent reputation analysis shows that our Climate+Care programme directly contributes to Aviva’s positive reputation too.

Every business has its own challenges and targets. However in our experience, not only can a smart carbon offset programme cut emissions. If this budget is used wisely to fund integrated action, it can deliver an array of environmental and social impacts aligned with core business priorities and deliver measurable business value; bolstering reputation, enabling smart CR spend, engaging colleagues and demonstrating that we can be a good ancestor. It’s a message born of experience and one I felt compelled to share, in the hope it can inspire others and help them make the business case for action within their own organisations.

Zelda is Aviva’s Head of Environment & Climate Change and has worked in Aviva and its legacy companies for the last 25 years. She developed Aviva’s climate change and environment strategy and represents Aviva on various UN Environment Programme Groups. In 2006, Aviva became the first carbon neutral insurance group on a worldwide basis.

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