Storebrand Group is a leading company in the Nordic market for long-term savings and insurance. They manage more than NOK 880 bn ($ 92.7 billion USD) making them one of Norway’s largest asset managers. They are also in the pension & savings business, with 40K corporate and 2 million individual customers. They offer health, P&C and group life insurance with NOK 5.2 bn in portfolio premiums.
As a huge financial services company, it might beg the question “How on earth can Storebrand be one of the world’s most sustainable companies?”
It starts simply with the fact that 100% of Storebrand’s investments are subject to sustainability screening, that is they evaluate the economic, social and environmental aspects of all of their current and potential investments.
Storebrand is an “active investor” meaning they exert influence by challenging companies to be proactive about their sustainability practices and initiatives. They will in fact exclude companies from investments based on the “Storebrand Standard” which evaluates both internal and external data – removing unsuitable companies from Storebrand’s investment universe of over 4,000 companies.
This evaluative process caused Storebrand to divest earlier this year from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Rio Tinto and BASF citing their lobbying practices regarding climate change.
Conversely, they channel their investments towards “solution companies” that significantly contribute to sustainable development without causing substantial harm to the environment or society. Storebrand assigns a “sustainability score” as an investment decision tool – giving their portfolio managers a better understanding of any given company’s performance on ESG-based sustainability related data points.
In term of climate strategy – the company has committed their investment portfolio to have net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 at the latest. In 2019, Storebrand was one of the founding members of the United Nations-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. The members of the Alliance commit to transitioning their investment portfolios consistent with a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures, taking into account the best available scientific knowledge and regularly reporting on progress.
Storebrand also screens potential investments to avoid companies that have operations in global conflict areas that are exposed to a higher risk of involvement in Human Rights violations. An example of this is the screening of companies with operations in occupied Palestinian territories and occupied Western Sahara.
The company actively avoids doing business with companies potentially involved illegal money laundering. To this end Swedbank is currently on Storebrand’s Observation list, a status which represents ownership restrictions and the creation of a list of expectations in terms of remediating the money laundering issues Swedbank is facing – before full investment inclusion is to be consideration.
Finally, Storebrand is committed to addressing commodity-driven deforestation and recognizes the crucial role that tropical forests play in tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem services. Their Deforestation Policy is a call to companies to eliminate deforestation and they encourage higher standards and collaborate with other investors to help companies involved in palm oil, soy, timber and cattle products improve their business models.
Storebrand has established clear requirements for not only their own operations in terms of sustainability, but also for their business partners and suppliers, all based on the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals.
In 2008 Storebrand became Norway’s first completely “climate-neutral” financial group, and since 2009 their environmental management system has been certified by Eco-Lighthouse. They clear targets for reducing their carbon footprint, and goals for energy and water consumption and recycling.
The company maintains a sustainable supply chain. Subcontractors must demonstrate they follow the company’s minimum standards for human rights, labor rights and corruption prevention as well as climate and environmental considerations. They are required to follow the Initiative for Ethical Trade Guidelines or the social responsibility / corporate social responsibility (SA8000) standard.
As a result of managing the pensions and long-term savings for approximately 2 million people, the company has a significant degree of corporate responsibility. They focus on sharing their knowledge, educating and supporting businesses and projects that work to meet the UN’s sustainability goals.
Storebrand prioritizes their corporate citizenship activities in three areas:
1. Collaboration: Youth Entrepreneurship – working with Young Entrepreneurs (YE) to inspire young people to innovative thinking and sustainable value creation.
2. Sponsorships: “We cheer for you” competition, supporting environmental, social, educational, or health related projects and initiatives.
3. The Employee Volunteering Catalyst Mentor Program helps prevent students from dropping out of high school through inclusion in the local community, and one-on-one mentoring.
The 2020 Global Markets Media LTD 2020 ESG Investing Awards named Storebrand a finalist in the Best ESG Investment Fund: Equities category. The company also grabbed the #13 position on the Corporate Knights 2020 Global ranking of the world’s most sustainable companies.
Looking at the comprehensive approach that Storebrand is taking to make sustainability a core part of its business model, it clearly answers the question “What is a Norwegian financial services company doing on the top-20 most sustainable companies in the world list?” They’re also creating a sustainability roadmap for a large number of other financial services firms to follow.