We're the first major insurer worldwide to target Net Zero carbon by 2040.
Message from the CEO:
Being the UK’s largest insurer brings huge responsibilities. To our people, our customers, our shareholders and to all the communities in which we operate. But we also have a responsibility to ensure that what we do as a business has little, if any, impact on the environment.
Aviva has a strong and long track record in promoting sustainability, but such is the scope and scale of the environmental crisis facing all of us, we have to do more. Much more. Which is why today, we are announcing the most demanding carbon reduction plan of any major insurer in the world today.
For over 300 years, Aviva has been a company that faces up to the challenges ahead. And with a climate disaster looming, those challenges have never been more pressing or threatening than they are today. Which is why we are setting out this plan to become a carbon Net Zero company by 2040.
Our plan to reach that target covers not only the emissions we produce ourselves but also those contributed by our suppliers and, as far as possible, by those investments of our shareholders and customers. We have created distinct categories to manage and track progress which are detailed below.
We have always taken our responsibilities to society seriously, but the reality of the threat has mandated that this become a key strategic issue for us as a company, as it should be for all companies. Our ability to perform as a business is entirely dependent upon societies and economies being able to operate effectively and that will become increasingly impossible if climate change, and our role in accelerating it, is left unchecked.
We believe facing up to this challenge and getting ahead of it is the best thing we can do for all of our stakeholders and we must reduce the risks and seize the opportunities presented by a new kind of economy for everyone.
So today we are setting out a clear pathway of how we’ll use the influence of our investment and underwriting to support and drive the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Many pieces of the puzzle are still missing: the data is imperfect. Methodologies are incomplete. There is no consistent global set of standards.
But the urgency of the climate crisis means we can no longer wait for everything to be neatly laid out before we act. We may not know every step, but the direction is clear and we will do everything in our power to reach our goal.
Success will depend on new technologies and innovations. It will require new partnerships and ways of working. It will take science, technology, government, industry and society all pulling in the same direction. It will also take Aviva.
Amanda Blanc, Group CEO
Our Sustainability Ambition
Aviva is already a recognised leader on Environmental, Social and Governance issues. Today we’re going further.
Sustainability is a fundamental part of our strategy and integral to what we do as a business. We are focused on three core areas – being a climate champion, supporting a stronger Britain and running ourselves as a sustainable business. Our commitment is strengthened by clear governance, transparent reporting and by engaging our stakeholders.
The climate crisis is a threat to life on this planet.i Over the last century, we have been increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. This traps more heat and disrupts the ecosystem, leading to more extreme weather, floods, droughts and human suffering. The science is overwhelming: this is a climate emergency. It should be no surprise that it’s a key strategic issue for us as a company too. Taking action now reduces the risk to our customers, business and planet.
If we are going to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, it’s going to take bold actions and real leadership by every sector of the economy. Aviva has been leading the insurance industry for over 300 years, and we are determined to continue doing so today and tomorrow.
This is our plan to become a Net Zeroii company by 2040. It is the most demanding goal set by any insurance company in the world to date.
We are including the carbon emissions we produce ourselves and those contributed by our suppliers and investments, the Scope 1, 2 and 3 of our ‘carbon value chain’.
We already report on how we are reducing the carbon intensity of certain assets, such as corporate bonds and shares. Next year, we’re adding government bonds and directly owned real estate. As data and methodologies become available, we intend our climate policies to cover all major asset classes and both active and passive funds.
We will be applying them to both shareholder assets and customer assets where we have decision-making control. Where we don’t have this control – for example where it rests with trustees of pensions schemes – we will engage with the decision-makers to explain our approach.
We are setting Science-Based Targets aligned to a 1.5 degree pathway for our operations, supply chain and investments, and our climate goals will be delivered in a way that contributes to tackling the related challenges on biodiversity and nature.iii
Our goal is to drive change in the real economy. This is a huge challenge. No one has all the answers yet. But the risks of not doing enough are far greater than the risks of acting now.
- Net Zero for all three scopes by 2040
- Net Zero operations by 2030
- Net Zero supply chain by 2030
And our approach will be:
- Clear milestones for 2025 and 2030
- Science-Based Targets aligned to a 1.5 degree pathway
- Engagement with teeth to drive the transition
- Not investing in or insuring the highest carbon emitters
- Increasing sustainable investments
- Net Zero means only carbon removals count; not offsets, reductions or avoided emissions
- Taking steps today to plan our negative emissions
- We often use the shorthand of carbon, but our targets are for greenhouse gasses in general and measured in Carbon Dioxide equivalents (CO2e)
Starting with what we can best control, we have been carbon neutral in our own emissions since 2006. We were proud to be the first major insurer to do that. But today, we outline our plans to go much further and get to actual Net Zero operations by 2030. In carbon terms, that covers our full Scope 1 and 2, as well as a few parts of Scope 3 (like business travel).
To help get there we are committed that by 2025, we will use 100% renewable electricity for all our offices, and our new company car leases in the UK, Ireland and Canada will be delivered through plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles.
As a service business we don’t manufacture anything, and our own carbon emissions are relatively small. We have already cut them by over 76% since 2010, through innovations like our solar arrays at some of our major offices. We don’t just buy existing renewable capacity already on the grid. Where we can we are generating our own and even export the extra electricity for use by others.
As well as our own operations, we will be working with our suppliers to achieve Net Zero throughout our supply chain by 2030 as well.
Fact: In 2020, we generated nearly a GWh of solar electricity across all our sites and exported 150 MWhs of it onto the UK grid for other customers to use.
In 2019, we commissioned a first of its kind in the UK solar carport installation for our Norwich office. Following this success, in 2020 we installed a solar carport array at our Perth office. It’s one of the UK’s largest combined solar carports and energy storage facilities. The Perth ‘low-carbon hub’ features a 1.1MW solar carport, integrated with 1.8MWh of Tesla battery energy storage and 50 EV charging points, forming the cornerstone of Aviva’s ambitious drive to take the office off grid by providing 26% of the Perth office’s annual energy.
Reducing our operational emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions are categorised into three groups or 'Scopes' by the most widely used international accounting tool, the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company. Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain. (Source: Carbon Trust)
Becoming a fully Net Zero company by 2040 means focusing on our investments too. These are part of our Scope 3 emissions. It’s the investments we make for customers or shareholders that are the largest source of emissions in our carbon value chain. A financial services company not looking at its own Scope 3 is likely to be missing more than 90% of its carbon challenge.
Having an ambition twenty years into the future is important to set the destination, but it means nothing without more immediate targets and milestones to mark the way.
Therefore, today we are setting out the following plan and trajectory:
- By 2025, we plan to cut the carbon intensityii of our investments by 25%.
- And by 2030, we plan to cut the carbon intensity of our investments by 60%. That’s ahead of the Paris aligned target of 50% cuts by 2030.
We will also set additional targets and milestones for our investment portfolio in line with the Science-Based Targets methodology.
Investing responsibly is in the best interests of our customers and our shareholders. We intend to do so in a way that maximises the positive returns for them.
A recent study found that the majority of Europe-based sustainable funds have outperformed non-ESG funds over one, three, five and ten years.iv
In a survey of over a thousand institutional investors by Aviva Investors, 80% now believe the pursuit of achieving ESG objectives is no longer at the expense of financial returnsv. Last year the amount of savings flowing into ESG funds doubled to over $50bnvi
The fiduciary duty we have to clients and shareholders affects our decisions on climate; moving too fast or too slowly could cause detriment. But inaction is a bad strategy. Governments are hardening their targets and their policies. Those not taking steps will be left behind, potentially facing stranded assets.vii
Carbon intensity for investments
There are a number of ways companies are trying to make sense of carbon within Scope 3 investments. None of the metrics tell the full story of an investment portfolio’s climate impact. That is why Aviva for the past 3 years have measured our climate impact using a number of metrics including carbon emissions, global warming potential (which helps us understand how our investments contribute to future warming) and value at risk (which looks at the risk to our portfolios based on a number of scenarios of where the world could end up).
However, to help set clearer targets, the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Allianceviii allows three metrics to be used to set targets for shares in companies and corporate bonds. These are total carbon emissions, carbon intensity by enterprise value and carbon intensity by revenue.
At Aviva, we are using carbon intensity by revenue for our main target because:
- It can be applied to credit and equity for all companies and sectors.
- It is the best available proxy for assessing carbon price risk.
- It links the carbon emissions of a company to its operational activities (through revenues).
- It can be used regardless of the size of the assets under consideration.
- It is a recommended metric by the Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).
It is based on actual rather than projected emissions, so while backwards looking, it is an objective measure of a company’s record to date. It is also a tried and tested metric, as Aviva have been disclosing it for the last three years.
We know Scope 3 is messy and filled with double counting. This is a fast-moving area. We will continue to work with industry and governments to improve these methodologies and integrate biodiversity and nature issues too.
Throughout all the complex messiness of the metrics, we will keep our eye on the prize: driving the real economy to cut carbon and minimise damage to the planet.
How we will do this
Being an active owner
Aviva Investors has been rated one of the best investors in the world for using its influence with companies to drive action on climate change, for example, in ShareAction’s Voting Matters Report.
In 2020 we undertook 2,328 engagements with 1,740 individual companies and voted on 72,025 resolutions at 6,457 shareholder meetings on ESG matters. We voted in favour of 82% of shareholder resolutions on climate change.
This is nothing new: the first time that climate change appeared in our voting approach was 2001. It is a material issue for investors and, as such, we are driven by our fiduciary duty to our customers, clients and shareholders.
Aviva Investors’ strategic approachix has three pillars:
- Responsibility built-in through integration
- Powering change through active ownership
- Shaping our future through market reform
In January, we announced our new ‘climate engagement escalation programme’x, starting with 30 systemically important carbon emitters in the oil and gas, metals and mining, and utilities sectors. We are making specific asks, including to deliver Net Zero Scope 3 emissions and establish robust transition roadmaps. We are setting out timelines between 12 and 36 months. If we don’t see serious engagement from the companies to meet the climate challenge, we will put them on our stoplist and divest any assets we hold. And we will work through the alliances of other asset owners and investors to increase the pressure.
We will also go beyond big emitters and engage with all companies in all sectors. Every company can play their part in reducing their carbon emissions, whether you’re a clothing retailer, a health care firm or a cement producer. We are asking all firms to set Science-Based Targets and align their business models to a low carbon future.
Divestment is not our first choice. Many of the companies that will move our economy from a high carbon to low carbon world already exist today. It is far better they face into the challenge and bring about the change, than just go bankrupt. But the option of divestment gives engagement its teeth.
It not just about what we don’t invest in, our customers also want to know where we can put money to speed the transition and help them benefit from the changes that are coming.xi
We are bringing more funds to customers this year, giving people power to choose whether they use their savings to drive the transition to a low carbon economy, minimise their investment in polluting industries or help positive impact on the planet. And for those who want us to make it even easier for them, we are making our default options Net Zero as well. We are aiming for our pension customers in the UK to choose to put more than 20% of new savings into sustainable impact funds or Net Zero aligned funds by the end of 2022.
Increasing green investments
- Over the past five years Aviva Investors has invested £500 million every year in low-carbon and renewable energy infrastructure including solar, wind and energy centres. This takes total energy generation capacity to 730 megawatts in the UK and Europe, enough to power one million homes.xii
- By the end of 2022, we expect to invest £10bn of assets from our auto enrolment default funds and other policyholder funds into low carbon strategies (of which £5bn has already been announced).
- By 2025, we will invest £6bn in green assets, including £1.5bn of policyholder money into climate transition funds.
- By 2025, Aviva Investors will invest £2.5bn in low carbon and renewable energy infrastructure and deliver £1bn of carbon transition loans.xiii
However, the majority of our investments will be focused on driving the transition of assets from higher carbon to low or zero carbon impact.
We have already set out plans for how we reach Net Zero by 2040 for our ‘real assets’, the buildings and infrastructure we invest inxiv. Unlike our investments in companies, where we have to influence their management to act, we are the decision makers for property we own and reducing their carbon impacts now.
The transition to zero carbon is gathering pace
The progress in recent years shows us what is possible. Not only have we cut our own operational emissions by over 76% since 2010, we have also cut the carbon intensity of our shareholder investments in credit and equities by 20% over the last two years.
There is a revolution happening in many climate-friendly technologies. They are falling in price faster than predicted. Solar power and batteries for electric cars have fallen nearly 90% in price. These falling costs are being driven by private investment and government policy.
The expected cost of transition for society is falling too. It may even come at no net cost to our economies at all. The UK Treasury’s 2020 interim report on reaching Net Zero states:
Overall, in the context of the rest of the world decarbonising, the net impact of the [low carbon] transition on growth to 2050 is likely to be small compared to total growth over that period, and it could be slightly positive or slightly negative.
Further and faster
Take the UK: In 2007, the Government proposed a 60% emissions reduction goal by 2050. In 2008, legislation was agreed raising that goal to 80% by 2050. In the last two years, the Government committed to a 100% reduction by 2050. Its own advisers say it will now need to reach nearly 80% by 2035, a target the Government thought was impossible just over a decade ago.
This pressure for governments and companies to hit Net Zero by 2050 or sooner is growing and public policy decisions will reward or require action, increasingly penalising or banning high carbon options. Regulators are recognising their role and sharpening the penalty to financial services companies who are not getting a grip on the scale of the change needed.
Compared to the financial crisis and the pandemic, the risks from climate change are even bigger and more complex to manage. And acting now gives us the best opportunity to manage those risks.
What our Net Zero portfolio could look like in 2040
We need to start planning this future now, even if we will not have all the answers today.
First, we will use all these tools to drive down the carbon intensity of our portfolios:
- Active ownership: using our voice and vote to pressure companies and directors
- Divesting where necessary
- Tilting investments towards cleaner sectors and the best companies within sectors
- Increasing the amount of our shareholder and customer investments going into sustainable impact and net-zero aligned funds and assets.
Alongside our efforts, we see a growing trend of societal and regulatory pressure on corporates to cut their emissions. There will also be government action to decarbonise national electricity grids, electrify transport and tackle the difficult challenges of heat and agriculture. No sector will come through this transition unchanged.
By 2040, we will have some investments that are Net Zero. They will be neutral, neither adding nor removing carbon from our balance sheet. For example:
- Net Zero companies (equities and credit/bonds) –companies like Vodafone, Sainsbury's, Unilever, Amazon, Apple and many others are already pledged to be Net Zero by 2040 or sooner. This number will grow in the years ahead.
- Sustainable bonds and gilts– many countries are now issuing sustainable or green bonds, with the UK Government the latest to commit to introducing them later in 2021.
- Net Zero countries – some countries intend to be Net Zero in 2040 or sooner, for example Finland in 2035 and Austria in 2040. The pressure for other countries to bring forward their target date is growing (parts of the UK are already targeting 2045 like the Scottish Government or 2040 for Humberside’s ‘Zero Carbon Humber’ industrial clusterxv).
- Net Zero buildings and infrastructure – with high energy efficiency and powered by renewable energy.
However, even after cutting the emissions of our portfolio, we anticipate some investments will still be emitting carbon, likely to be those hardest sectors to decarbonise like aviation, steel or cement; or investments that may have a temporary carbon emission (e.g. building hospitals and schools).
To achieve Net Zero, we will also have other assets with negative emissions, such as:
- Net negative companies – there are already a growing number of companies who are committed to becoming net negative by 2030, for example Microsoft or Astra Zeneca.
- Negative emissions technologies – these are emerging innovations, like Bio-Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS) infrastructure or direct air capture. For example, a consortium of energy companies plan to build a major Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) infrastructure network in the UK between 2026 and 2030.xvi
- Nature-based solutions – these trap carbon from the air. They include forests, peat, mangroves, sea grass, soil and many others.
Taking action today
There is a scientific consensus that the world will not reach Net Zero without carbon removal, which will require a growth in negative emissions interventions.
Many nature-based solutions take time to absorb carbon from the air, so we have to start now. We are therefore today committing £100m by 2030 as a first step. We are exploring the best interventions to remove carbon while providing other social and economic benefits to our communities, such as flood protection and resilience. This must be done in a way that makes a positive contribution to the nature and biodiversity crisis. We’ll be saying more about these plans in the months ahead.
We’re not waiting until 2040, there is more we can do today
There are things we will stop investing in or insuring right away. There are things we want to do for our customers immediately. And we want to help governments figure out the policies we all need to avoid catastrophic climate change and encourage a sustainable future.
We believe the highest emission fuels are not part of a Net Zero future. We will therefore stop investing in or insuring coal (power generation or mining).
We are already members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, but we want to go further faster. We’ve been taking action on coal over the last few years and by the end of 2022, we will have divested all companies making more than 5% of their revenue from thermal coal unless they have signed up to Science-Based Targets. We will divest the equities, put the bonds into run-off and put the companies on our stoplist. Because we support companies making the transition to low carbon, we will only continue to invest in ring-fenced, non-fossil fuel project finance bonds.
Sectoral Pathways to Net Zero Emissions report
“There is no alternative to a phase-out of coal power and coal-based heat generation in OECD Europe or OECD North America by 2030. The delayed phase-out of coal will put the Paris Climate Agreement beyond reach.”
Prepared for U.N.Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, Institute for Sustainable Futures 2020
Underwriting: our insurance business
Insurance to enable the transition
We are providing insurance products that help our customers with the transition to a new economy. Two years ago, we exited the London Market for insurance of standalone operational fossil fuel power generation and replaced this with a renewable energy insurance offering.
Through this product we currently insure some of the largest wind & solar farms in the world, including in the USA and Africa.
By the end of 2021, we will have stopped insuring companies making more than 5% of their revenue from thermal coal or unconventional fossil fuels. We will make an exception for those companies serious about their transition out of high carbon fuels and who have committed to clear Science-Based Targets aligned to the Paris Agreement target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.
We are working with other interested insurers and civil society partners to develop the methodology for Net Zero underwriting. This will be an important and significant move for the global insurance industry. We look forward to playing a leading role and being able to announce more on this in the coming months’.
With immediate effect, Aviva is not insuring:
- Construction of coal fired power stations/coal mines
- Companies where more than 20% of revenues are generated from thermal coal mining
- Companies where more than 20% of power generation is from coal
- Companies which hold at least 20% of their reserves in unconventional fossil fuels
From the end of 2021, we will tighten these thresholds to just 5%.
We are committed to supporting businesses transitioning away from coal and unconventional fossil fuels, as such we’ll continue to provide construction/operational coverages for their standalone Renewable Energy assets and provide management liability and employee benefits insurance.
We intend to make it easy for customers to make climate friendly choices and support people as the economy changes:
- Pensions and savings – offering a variety of Sustainable Impact Funds, Climate Transition Funds and Net Zero aligned funds.
- Aviva’s default funds will be aligned to Net Zero – making it easy for auto-enrolled pension savers to align their savings to the low carbon transition taking place.
- Electric Vehicles (EV) – the share of electric vehicles we insure is growing and we have bespoke EV policies in markets like Canada.
- Home insurance – In the UK, solar panels on residential roofs attract no additional premium for Aviva customers. In Canada, we offer endorsements to cover domestic solar panels and wind turbinesxvii and we were also the first insurer to offer comprehensive water coverage on property policies.xviii
- Build Back Better - When paying out claims, we also have the opportunity to reduce environmental impact through repair and restoration where possible. In the UK and Canada, where appropriate we work with customers to help them become more resilient (e.g. offering coverage to install devices to reduce future risk after a claim, and to ‘build back better’).
A single company or even a group of companies cannot make the world Net Zero. This is going to take action from governments too. We are campaigning for systems level change so that not just our investment but the whole financial system works towards a sustainable future.
Governments must support the transition by making it pay to do the right thing, stopping subsidies for fossil fuels and shifting this support to low carbon energy through pricing carbon. Markets need clear and loud price signals. Governments must set dates to phase out unsustainable things like coal power stations. And governments need to act to make sure it is a ‘just transition’ where people are supported through the significant change to the economy and our lives.
Governments are starting to press companies to adopt better climate disclosure (through the TCFD approach), but disclosure isn’t enough. What counts is action. We want governments to go further and mandate companies to disclose action plans which align their business strategies to science-based climate goals, including short- and medium-term milestones. Only then will governments better mobilise the trillions of pounds in capital markets to flow into the right sustainable investments.
This November, the world will come together for the delayed Climate Conference in Glasgow (COP26). We are leading a coalition of businesses, NGOs and others from civil society calling for a new way to make finance flow towards the sustainable investments the planet needs. [Read more about our call for a Climate Finance Platform here].
As a company, we have a long track record in helping shape public policy in this area, including helping to found the World Benchmark Alliance, and we use our membership of trade associations to insist they support the climate transition too.
We pledge to continue arguing the case for an economic recovery driven by cutting carbon and creating new jobs, infrastructure and opportunities in a Net Zero economy.
We were one of the first companies to disclose key climate risks through the TCFD-approach. In 2021, we intend to increase the scrutiny on us by being the first insurer to put our TCFD summary to a vote at our Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in 2021.
We are changing the way the company is managed to integrate climate risk into our risk frameworks and create a dedicated sustainability lead on our leadership team.
We believe the reward of our most senior team – including the CEOs of all our core businesses – should be linked to making reductions in the carbon intensity of our assets. We will be saying more about this in the coming months.
We will continue to improve our reporting on our carbon emissions and climate-related risks. We will update this strategy as we make progress and as the methodologies and data improve. We commit to reporting on our progress every year.
We will not be marking our own homework. We are submitting our targets for validation by the Science-Based Target Initiative (no financial services company has had its targets fully validated by SBTi to date). We will be increasing the external assurance of our commitments. We will also continue to report according to the TCFD and Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance methodologies
We are also doing scenario analysis to understand the possible futures we face and participating in the Bank of England’s climate scenario exercise in summer 2021. The results of our scenario analysis are already striking: uncontrolled climate change is far worse for our business and customers than taking action now.
Will getting to Net Zero be easy?
No, it will be incredibly hard. No one has ever decarbonised an entire economy before. But the impacts of uncontrolled climate change are far more daunting than making this transition.
It will happen if enough people, companies and governments not only make commitments, but deliver them. Each company that sets a goal like we have today adds to the momentum and increases the chance we all succeed.
There are plenty of challenges: the data is imperfect and entirely missing for parts of private markets. Carbon accounting definitions are filled with double counting. Methodologies are incomplete, for example not yet covering sovereigns or underwriting. And there is no consistent global set of standards.
But this is no reason not to act. Instead it underlines the urgency of the situation, and the need for all of us to do more. As the UK’s leading insurer, Aviva has a responsibility to act on behalf of our people, our customers, our shareholders both today and in generations yet to come. We are committed to playing our part in full.
Aviva is a leading member of key alliances on climate:
- UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance
- UNFCCC Race to Zero
- UN Global Compact
- UN Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance
- Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative
- UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance
- UN Principles for Responsible Investment
- Powering Past Coal Alliance
- Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosure
- Science-Based Targets Initiative
Our Climate Goals
- Net zero company by 2040
- Cut carbon intensity of our assets by 25% by 2025 and 60% by 2030
- Operations and supply chain net zero by 2030
- 20% new customer flows invested in sustainable impact or net zero-aligned funds
- New ‘Climate engagement escalation programme’ in 2021
- Revamp existing 'stewardship' funds to be market leading low fossil-fuel funds, with the ambition of making them fossil-fuel free funds
- Invest £100mn in nature-based carbon removals by 2030
- Divest coal (at 5% revenue threshold) unless companies commits to Science-Based Targets
- Stop insuring Coal (mining & power generation) and unconventional fossil fuels (at 5% revenue threshold) by end 2021
- Align to the Science-Based Targets (SBTi) methodology (1.5 degrees) for investments, operations, and supply chain; have our targets validated
- Put TCFD short form report to vote at 2021 AGM